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A Warning: Use Caution With Butterworms

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  • A Warning: Use Caution With Butterworms

    These injuries are as a result of feeding butterworms to my baby geckos. I will start off with clearing up any speculation - no there is no possible other cause, it was without a doubt the butterworms.

    I hand fed the worms myself, I saw it happen with my own eyes, and there is nothing in their enclosure that could wound them in such a manner. I do not use unusual chemicals near the reptiles and the baby cresties do not have any heat source.

    I am posting this because I feel others, especially crested keepers, should be aware of the potential danger. No other crested should have to suffer as mine are suffering.

    With that out of the way, I'll explain.

    I ordered a bunch of butterworms online and decided to feed the smaller ones to my babies cresties in an effort to get some really nice protein and extra nutrition into their growing bodies. I first crushed the head of the worm so that it couldn't bite them and then fed the worms to them via tweezers. As the geckos ate and bit the worms, they arched and got a clear fluid onto the geckos' faces (and in the gargoyle's case, one arm as the gargoyle shook his head from side to side). I didn't think anything of it, cleaned everything up, and put them back in their enclosures. The next day I noticed a wine-colored "stain" where the juice had touched them. Other than the color, it looked normal so I thought nothing of it. I simply thought it was just that - a stain from the juices of the butterworms that I had missed. The geckos behaved normally, continued to feed, and looked normal other than the discoloration.

    Then they shed. The shed came off normally, but revealed a severe caustic burn on the animals. The skin felt tacky and took on the appearance in the photos. I called my vet and she recommended I put a salve I had gotten from her and that I do a Litmus paper test. I also sent her photos of the geckos.

    I was positive the test would come back as abnormal, because of the lesions on the geckos' faces. But, I did the test, both a base and an acid test, and both came back as a neutral ph. On April 8th 2010 I took the geckos into the vet for her to examine closely in person and told her of the results. We're both stumped. Both my vet and my sister (who is perusing a degree in bio-technology) theorize it could have been an unusual chemical reaction between the butterworms and the skin of these geckos. Without more research, we're unsure of where to go from here. My vet has posted the photos on a DMV forum she frequents, to inform others also and to see if she can get any further information. Without intentionally burning more geckos to study the reaction and take samples, we're not sure of how to further research this incident - and neither my vet nor I consider this an option.

    I have fed butters for years to other reptiles, chameleons in particular, but also my AFT with never any incident. It seems the rhacs have more delicate skin, as the baby crested, the one that seems to have the most delicate skin, suffered the most severe injuries. The gargoyle, which seem to have tougher skin than cresties, was not as badly burned.

    In total, four baby crested geckos, two baby gargoyle geckos, and two sub-adult crested geckos were "burned". The babies are the absolute worst, with my two sub-adults suffering only one very small burn each.

    In closing, as I said, I just wanted to get this out, and to warn others in the Rhac keeping community - feed your animals with caution.

    I'll update this with any new relevant information as I come across it.

    Edit: The residue you see in these photos is actually the salve I've been using, I wasn't able to wipe it all off for these photos.

  • #2
    Oh my gods! How scary for you, and how horrible for them. Who would have thought that a treat that many feed to their reptiles would do something like this. Was this your first time trying butter worms with the Rhacs? I'd be interested to see if anyone else has had a similar case with any of theirs.

    Good luck on getting your little ones healed. I hope they make a quick and thorough recovery!
    ~ Funny Farm Geckos (UNDER CONSTRUCTION) | ~
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    1.0.0 - Human (Mr. Hubbs McDowner)


    • #3
      Oh Styxers. So hard for me to see those pictures, even though I've seen them before. I just feel so bad for those babies and you too - you take amazing care of your animals and I know this is just killing you.

      Thanks for posting though, I think this is definitely something people need to be aware of. And who knows, maybe some ideas will pop up and we can get this thing figured out for good. I'm glad you have such a persistant vet too, she's been really wonderful.

      Have they improved *at all* since you've started with salve, etc?

      And oh my sweet Hida. Give her a kiss for me.
      .. Familiar Exotics .. and related Blog ..

      *** 7.16.10 Cresties *** 4.5 Gargs *** 1.0 Ibera Greek Tortoise *** 0.1 Rubber Boa *** Mourning Geckos *** 2.1.3 E. agricolae *** L. williamsi *** 1.1 C. sarasinorum ***


      • #4
        Sorry this happened to you and your little ones. Thank you for posting this as we have fed are gargs these in the past once before and were thinking of getting some at the next reptile show, but will no longer. I hope all your little ones get better, keep us updated.
        Andi - Gray Sky Exotics


        • #5
          That's rather shocking Thanks for the warning. I hope your babies recover fast!
          1.1.0 E. agricolae


          • #6
            Kitishane, yes, this was my first time feeding butters to any rhac.

            Julie, I feel really bad for them too. Another reason for me posting this is indeed if anyone has ideas on how to help heal them faster. Hida went to the vet with me and gaped at her. The vet complimented her on her nice set of chompers. No improvement. Hida and the gargs look the same, the baby cresties look like they might be starting to slough the damaged tissue.

            Hannibal & Grublet, thanks for your well wishes. I know these little guys need it.


            • #7
              I'm so sorry Styx...but thank you for sharing. Their poor little faces are so raw
              Charming Chewies: Specializing in Grand Terre and Pine Isle locales of chahoua.


              • #8
                wow! That is brutal Poor little ones, and poor you. I'm really curious as to what may have caused this though! I've fed butters to a couple of my Cresteds, my Chewie and a handful of my Gargs and even my Madagascar Giant Day Geckos, who have extremely sensitive skin and I have never had anything like this happen! I wonder if it was what the butters were being fed previously?

                Very scary. Thank you for posting, and I hope your little ones make a speedy recovery and aren't in too much pain =(
       - Health, Colour, Structure Visit us today! (:
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                • #9
                  I am just floored by this post and the photos. Incredible.
                  Is it possible to test the worm "juice" itself?

                  I want to say poor little kids, but wow, poor you too. Just really don't know what to say except I am so sorry they and you had to go through this.
                  Would be really important for this to go on every forum.
                  Will be interesting to see how they heal from this and any further information that comes of it.
                  Good luck


                  • #10
                    Aw Styx.. that is terrible. I remember you telling me about this, but ouch..

                    I really hope for a swift recovery with the little ones.. Best of luck, crossing my fingers, etc!


                    • #11
                      Oh wow, sorry to hear Styx and thanks for the heads up!
                      Johnny C

                      Way to many to list


                      • #12
                        Holy POOPS! I wouldbe curious to know what source these butterworms came from, whether a bait shop, or a worm farm that specializes in reptile feeders?
                        That is absolutely horrible, those poor little geckos!
                        Thank you for posting this, it is definitely "food for thought". I have fed butters to my African Fat tails and my Tokays, but never to any rhacs or phelsuma. I have never seen or experienced anything like this either. I am very curious to know what it was.
                        Do you have any worms form the same source that you or your vet could send off to a lab for analysis?
                        Help! Crested Geckos! 0.1.Leachie, 2.1.1 Gargs, 1.0 Chahoua, 2.1. Blue Tongue Skinks, 1.1. White Lined Geckos, 1.3. African Fat Tails, 2.2.0 Tokay Geckos, 1.0. Giant Day Gecko, 2 tarantulas


                        • #13
                          O.O Oh crap! I was just looking into ordering some butter worms for my 'bug juice'.

                          If anyone has any of these worms around I would be interested in seeing a PH test done on them.
                          Sarah & Jake
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                          • #14
                            I don't have a local source of butterworms, but I do have access to a professional-grade PH tester. I could probably do some tests but not right away.


                            • #15
                              StickyFeet, that is possible. I have no idea what they were fed, but I don't feed them in my care.

                              dragonlvr, it is. But what tests would I preform?

                              Saille, worm farm that specializes in reptile feeders, as far as I know (as that's what the website specializes in that I purchased them from). Sure, I still have some worms left, but I'm not sure what I would be asking for as far as lab work goes?

                              Lunar Gecko, the litmus paper test is a ph test and it came back neutral. Which is why I'm just so... stumped and not sure what other possible avenues I could explore as far as getting to the bottom of exactly what happened.