Cryptosporidia in Kingsnakes

Does any one have any experience with cryptosporidiosis? My boy Lt. Dan, male albino cali kingsnake, had a vet visit today and it was not good. He started regurgitating his food. He is almost translucent and I thought I saw a dark colored lump in his body. Vet appointment was made. The vet believes, upon physical examination, that he has cryptosporidiosis. My girl and I very upset. I had a PCR test done looking for cryptosporidia, but we wont have the results back until early next week. He has lost 30% of his body weight in the last 2 months. He is so small, but he is still acting like his ferocious self. He got set up in a quarantine tank in another room this evening and we will wait and see. Vet said there is a small amount of
research looking at a medication called Paromomycin but results for treatment have not been
consistent with some snakes continuing to decline despite treatment. We are 100% going to try everything we can to save our boy, spotty success rates be damned, but if that doesn’t work for his the next step is to have him euthanized.

Does any one here have any experience with this at all? @mblaney do you have anything to add, maybe?
This is the 4th reptile we got from the one specific shop in my area and the 3rd one to have had some medical issue. I will never buy another scaley friend from anywhere other than MorphMarket . I’m sure stuff like this happens when buying and selling through the site, but everyone I have purchased from here is helpful and supportive and available and awesome.

Super grateful for this site and this community, especially when things go bad. I don’t have herp friends around me to talk to about stuff. It’s awesome to have somewhere to go where we all share a common interest.

Thanks guys.


I’m so sorry this is happening to you and you and Lt Dan! :broken_heart:

I’m in the middle of moving and my veterinary texts (along with the rest of my stuff) haven’t arrived yet, so I don’t have much insight to offer. This is the page about Cryptosporidium in reptiles on Veterinary Partner, which is a dependable source of information. I’ve not dealt with Crypto in my own collection thus far. (knock on wood :door: :fist_left:!)


@mblaney Thank you for taking the time to reply while you’re moving. I will check out the link later tonight. I am super concerned about the rest of my animals. They all seem to be thriving, but Lt. Dan was too until he wasn’t =/

There is a small, highly unlikely, chance that it could come back negative and it is some other viral or bacterial infection that can be more easily treated. If not that then fingers crossed for the hail mary mystery medication. I’m trying to stay hopeful, but it’s a real day ruin-er.


I don’t know anything about Cryptosporidium in reptiles, but I do know about it in humans. I’ve been in water and wastewater treatment for nearly 30 years. Cryptosporidium are organisms found in untreated drinking water, almost exclusively. I highly suggest that you contact the seller and have them check their drinking water. And if you are not on a municipal drinking water system I’d have yours checked as well. Cryptosporidium isn’t something to play around with. If your drinking water has the oocysts, you need to stop using it, immediately. If you can detect where it comes from, contact the health department.


I am admittedly extremely rusty but I don’t think those two are the same thing/have the same hosts. Crypto in reptiles is generally spread from collection to collection; check out the link in my previous post. I seriously doubt it has anything to do with the store’s water sources.


Doesn’t Crypto in pet reptiles spread from the introduction of a wild caught specimen into the collection? Like maybe you catch a wild snake and then let it go then at home don’t wash hands and touch your snake? Isn’t it also like 2 separate kinds? One that effects lizards only and one that only effects snakes but lizards can carry both? Or am I thinking of something completely different…

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@t_h_wyman do you have any knowledge on this?


Crypto is a big problem and is highly communicable between animals in a collection because the endocycts are incredibly resilient to chemical cleaning.

I do not have first-hand experience with the disease so my advice will be limited but I would certainly suspect the shop as being a reservoir since it is unlikely that they are practicing quarantine or strict hygiene practices.

For a lot more info on crypto I highly recommend seeking out Dr. Zac Loughman’s podcast appearances on The Herpetoculture Podcast and The Reptile Gumbo Podcast and Morelia Python Radio. You can also find him on FB or IG (his handle on IG is @drcrawdad) and he is a very approachable guy.


I’m sure you are absolutely correct, after I did more research on it. The old water guy in me gets out when I read Cryptosporidium.


Is there a way to prevent this from happening?

There are a few important things to understand about Cryptosporidiosis:

  1. There are several species of Cryptosporidium, and many are very particular about their host. With that being said, the species that affects snakes is called C. serpentis – therefore, other species known to affect any other animal will not affect snakes, even if said species is present inside of the snake.

  2. C. serpentis is transmitted through the fecal-oral route, meaning infection occurs when a snake ingests the feces of another infected snake. If you (unknowingly) handle an infected snake and it defecates on you or even slithers on you after coming into physical contact with its feces, you could easily transmit it to other snakes. Snakes can also contract C. serpentis by consuming infected snakes. Cryptosporidium is very resilient and can be carried outside of their host for a long time. It is extremely contagious and can wipe out one’s slithery family very quickly.

  3. C. serpentis is incredibly difficult to kill and therefore it is also difficult to disinfect against. As a parasitic protozoan, it will be unscathed by antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, povidone-iodine, etc. – not even bleach is effective. The only known effective disinfectants are hydrogen peroxide and ammonia. When I tend to multiple snakes at once, I wear nitrile gloves and use hydrogen peroxide in between snakes as a precaution. If you are disinfecting enclosures or anything else that came into contact with a potentially infected snake, soak for 20 minutes in 3% hydrogen peroxide.

  4. C. serpentis can lay dormant inside its host for an indefinite period of time. This means an infected snake could appear to be thriving under your care for “x” amount of years, and suddenly they fall incredibly ill and begin exhibiting the signs and symptoms of Cryptosporidiosis. That is what makes this particular disease so frightening; everything seems fine until one day it isn’t.

  5. C. serpentis is resilient against the cold and can survive in freezer conditions for an indefinite period of time, which is why I always advise against feeding reptilian prey to reptiles that do not require it. If one acquires a dead snake that was unknowingly infected with C. serpentis, that snake could still pose a significant risk of infecting other snakes even after being frozen for months prior to being fed off.

  6. I take several different measures to help protect my animals against C. serpentis, but with its resiliency, communicability, and indefinite dormancy, total prevention is difficult to guarantee. Acquire your animals from trusted breeders, incorporate hydrogen peroxide as a disinfecting agent, have strict quarantine procedures, and test any animal that you suspect may have Cryptosporidiosis. Testing must be done several times over the course of at least 6 months because they are testing for the presence of oocysts (essentially eggs) in the feces, which are only shed periodically and may not be present all the time.

I hope this helped answer your questions regarding Cryptosporidiosis. While I (thankfully) do not have first-hand experience with C. serpentis, I have done extensive research on it as I am incredibly meticulous about disease prevention. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask and I will respond as soon as I can.


@creaturesofnightshade thank you very much for the in depth reply. We have Lt. Dan quarantined on a separate floor of my house. I tossed his tub yesterday along with everything in it. Tossed the snake hooks and feeding tongs I currently have and will be ordering all new tools. I plan to incorporate hydrogen peroxide into my cleaning processes where ever possible. When I spot clean tanks I used dog poop bags to hand pick the feces and surrounding bedding out of the tank. I use a fresh bag on every tank or tub. Dan wasn’t handled very much. He was super bitey and very flighty. I think the chances of containment are decent, but that could just be wishful thinking.

I want to get the rest of my snakes tested, but I don’t want to know that one day they will just get super sick. This whole thing sucks. I know I will end up doing the right thing and getting everyone checked out, I just really don’t want to know. I have to get through Lt. Dan’s problems right now. I can’t deal with any more bad news.


This is Dan, by the way. He’s such a pretty boy.


I know exactly how you feel. I had a scare with C. serpentis last year and I was a mess until I was able to confirm that is was not my worst nightmare – it was a bacterial infection that I was able to easily remedy with antibiotics. I am hoping that Dan falls under similar circumstances. There are several diseases that can cause regurgitation, weight-loss and malaise, and many of them are treatable. I wish you the best, and if you need any emotional support, we are here for you.

Thank you so much. I will take anything that is treatable. I just don’t want to lose another animal. It’s been a rough year for that for us. We already lost our beardie to old age at the beginning of the year. Another snake we purchased from the same shop as Lt. Dan just failed to thrive with us. He wouldn’t eat wouldn’t keep what I could get in him down. Being peak pandemic I couldn’t get him into any vet near us. We lost him at the beginning of summer. We purchased a tortoise from that same shop that had a terrible RI. She is doing much better now, luckily. I just recently got a baby hognose that wasn’t eating and was displaying behavior that looked like a neurological issue. She is eating now and gaining weight, still monitoring her strange behavior though. It’s been a rough year in the hobby for my girl and I. Now I potentially have a parasite in my collection that could take out the other 13 animals in my reptile lair. Too much nonsense this year.

A small caveat here

C. serpentis is absolutely the majority culprit but there are some other reptile Crypto species that have been shown able to cross the gap and cause infection. They are rare, but they are out there.
And a second here

UV is effective at killing the endocysts. So you can place the tubs/cages from an infected animal in direct sun for a day as an addition to peroxide cleaning for extra measure


I threw it in the trash. Better to not have to worry about it at all. If it were one of my expensive tanks, or if it ends up being one in the future I will keep that in mind. Thanks!

I was more making my statement to the broader community as a whole than you specifically. I certainly agree that if you can trash it and replace then that is the best option


I was thinking that UV would kill the oocysts. We use UV in water plants for that very reason.

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This is true – C. varanii is predominantly found in lizards, but it has also been found in snakes on rare occasions. Thank you for the correction, it is important to keep all potential causes in mind.

Great suggestion, UV is wonderful all around!