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What Cures Are Available for Axolotls?

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 5 Oct 2014 | comments*Discuss
 
Axolotl Disease Red Leg Septicaemia

Q.

A real hurdle for a number of axolotl keepers seems to be how to treat them. There are a few different types of illness out there but no apparent guidelines on the types of medicine to administer.

Fish have a number of treatments readily available but where are the cures for the poor old axolotls?? Red Leg seems to be the most common, could details of the cure be available? Starting from what to do at the early stages progressing to the more severe

(Miss Nad Davies, 22 December 2008)

A.

Right from the outset, I feel there are three major headline-points that need to be made, which I’ll try to elaborate on later.

  • Although there are undoubtedly some diseases that do affect them from time to time, axolotls kept under good conditions are generally fairly healthy animals.
  • A number of commonly available fish medications can be toxic to axolotls and other species of amphibians – so unless you really know what you’re doing be very, very careful before you try to treat your own animals.
  • Getting some professional veterinary advice is always the best course of action with any illness in exotic pets – and axolotls are no exception.
Environmental Stress is one of the major influences which predisposes axolotls to disease – and when illness does develop, it is often as a result of some environmental factor within the animal’s tank not being quite as it should. Axolotls tend to tolerate excessive water movement rather poorly, but at the same time, they are equally intolerant of poor water quality, so a balance needs to be struck between achieving adequate filtration without producing too strong a current.

One solution is to avoid filtration altogether and use frequent water changes, but this too can prove problematic, since sudden temperature changes and chlorinated water can themselves prove significant stressors.

Red Leg and Other Bacterial Conditions

As you quite rightly say, red leg – a form of bacterial septicaemia – is one of the most common diseases to affect these amphibians, caused by the bacterium Aeromonas hydrophila and its relatives. A number of other bacteria have also been known to cause problems for axolotls including Acinetobacter, Alcaligenes, Mima and Pseudomonas.

There are some documented cases in the veterinary and scientific literature of the successful use of antibiotics – generally aminoglycosides, such as amikacin or gentamicin – to treat red leg and similar illnesses in axolotls.

Treatment

Obviously the diagnosis, dispensing and injection of any antibiotic treatment is something which belongs in the expert hands of a fully-trained vet – so what should the owner do with an axolotl that looks unwell?

If the animal is in a community tank, isolate it as swiftly as you can; alternatively, if it lives alone, a thorough, careful water change is probably a good idea. Some axolotl owners swear by keeping their pets a few degrees cooler – being careful to lower the temperature gently, to avoid shock – as an aid to recovery.

However, as you correctly point out, there aren’t many off-the-shelf cures for the “poor old axolotl” – so probably the single most important thing any owner can do is get some professional advice as soon as possible. In the long run, unless you’re an expert in amphibian diseases, it’s almost certain to work out far better for the animal than trying to diagnose and treat it yourself.

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Hi I have a question about an axolotl. An axolotl was brought into the Aquatics shop where I work, he was a large black axolotl covered in fungus so we quarantined him and treated him for the fungus. After he was better it was decided to move him back into his tank in the shop. A large fine mesh net was used to capture him and transfer him to his tank but upon letting him free into his tank it was noted that a white bulge was trailing from his chest area between his two front legs. After a while, blood appeared and it was deduced his chest had split open. I would appreciate any information you have on what could have caused this as it was put down to a possible endoparasite. There was no problem when using the net to place him into his quarantined tank so it's a really confusing issue. Thank you LiZ
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