*Note – this is written from the perspective of bearded dragons as being the main species affected by YFD. However, there are other documented cases of iguanas, crocodiles, and other species contracted this condition.
In my experience, yellow fungus disease is an aggressive, highly infectious, and flesh-eating fungal disease that has a high fatality rate. Baby beardies appear to have less chance of recovery than their juvenile and adult counterparts as they have not built up enough strength in their bodies and immune systems yet. I have found that symptoms of YFD can affect an entire clutch within the same week, although each individual may display symptoms at different rates during that first week.
When I purchased Flo from a well-known pet store in the USA in 2008, I noticed that several of his cage-mates appeared lethargic. I did not know about YFD at this time. However, when I phoned the store back and explained what was happening to Flo, I was told it affected the entire clutch and that many of them were undergoing treatment. Further, after my vet discovered that it was YFD (even though I already knew it after some brief research), she noted that many pet stores were bringing in entire clutches that had the disease within that same month. Because of this, I believe that conditions at large-scale breeders at this time may have been a reason why so many pet store beardies contracted this disease.
Without the presence of symptoms, it would be very difficult to know whether or not your bearded dragon has yellow fungus.
- Yellow, patchy spots on the skin (these will start to appear all over the body if left untreated)
- Loss of appetite
- Necrotic or swollen appendages (such as a black-colored and swollen toe)
- Blister-like spots on the body (this is when the skin where the yellow, patchy spots are turn to dead skin and become moist and from thick and dry with adhered dead skin to moist and blister-like in appearance.)
- Blister-like spots begin to slough off or become necrotic
Unfortunately I did not have the foresight to take pictures of Flo’s yellow patches and blisters. I did, however, get pictures of some of his necrosis.
If your bearded dragon ever exhibits any symptoms of YFD, take him or her to the vet immediately. As mentioned above, this is a highly contagious and aggressive condition that often results in fatality. It can be treated in a vet’s care with oral medicine such as itraconazole (this medicine can cause liver toxicity so be cautious while using it) and applying topical antifungals to blisters and necrotic or swollen spots. Furthermore, given that your beardie will likely be lethargic and have loss of appetite by this time, you will need to feed Oxbow Critical Care/Carnivore Care as prescribed by your vet.
Be sure that your vet has the proper experience with bearded dragons to diagnose YFD. Antibiotics are known to exacerbate the condition. In my experience with my bearded dragon, Flo, the vet thought that he had an infection despite my suggestions that it was YFD. She prescribed an oral antibiotic and admitted when she realized, later, that it was YFD that it actually worsened Flo’s condition.
(By Ash on behalf of Reptile-Parrots Forum and Chris and Ash’s Explorations of Exotic Species and Average House Cats wordpress blog )