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Remember to Always Wash Your Hands After Handling Your Pet Reptile

By Species, By Topic, Exotic, Infectious Diseases

Salmonella is a bacteria that can make humans very sick. You might heard about salmonella through FDA (Food & Drug Administration) warnings.  For example, we can contract the salmonella bacteria from handling raw or undercooked chicken, but did you know that reptiles and amphibians can also be a natural source of salmonella?

Even healthy reptiles that have received a “thumbs up” from your veterinarian can carry the salmonella bacteria. The Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians (ARAV) advises that reptiles should be considered non-clinical carriers of Salmonella, which simply means that the bacteria lives on their skin without making them sick. Decades ago, small turtles were banned from sales in pet stores due to the risk of young children touching turtles carrying the salmonella bacteria.  More recently, pet bearded dragons were identified as a source of outbreaks of salmonella in humans.

Reptiles can still make wonderful pets and not every reptile will infect owners with salmonella; however, reptile owners should take the appropriate precautions to reduce the chance of salmonella transmission. One of the most important precautions, is to wash hands with soap and warm water after handling a pet reptile or after touching anything in their living environment. ARAV provides valuable information about pet reptiles on their website, which includes a list of precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk of salmonella.

Even soap-friendly owners might want to make sure their pet isn’t carrying an invisible threat. Your veterinarian can take a culture of your reptiles digestive system and test for salmonella; however, results can be inaccurate, especially if the reptile is not actively “shedding” the salmonella organism.  Even if your pet reptile tests negative for salmonella, it is still very important to keep scrubbing your hands after handling them. ARAV reports that salmonella can not be eliminated from the intestinal tract of reptiles with antibiotics.

CEDARCREST veterinarians assume that your pet reptile is a carrier of salmonella, even though it appears to be healthy. If there are children in the household or someone who has a weak immune system, extra precautions should be taken. Young children are higher risk for a salmonella infection because their immune systems are still developing and they are more likely to put potentially contaminated hands in their mouths. If there are small children in a household with a pet reptile, the safest rule is “look but don’t touch!”  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also has a brochure that is full of valuable information about this topic.  Remember, the simplest and easiest precaution for preventing salmonella is to thoroughly wash your hands with an antimicrobial soap and warm water!

CEDARCREST Animal Clinic provides medical and surgical care for every stage of your pet's life including preventive wellness care exams and vaccines, spays/neuters, and a variety of specialized care for your dog, cat, avian, or exotic. We are home to the only veterinarian practitioner in Virginia to be double Boarded in Avian and Canine/Feline care and provide care for birds, small mammals, and reptiles of all sorts! Plus, we are home to Virginia's most exclusive dog boarding resort that includes heated floors, an expansive play area, and even webcams so you can watch your pet while you're away. We're located in Fishersville, Virginia, and serve Augusta County and surrounding areas including Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Charlottesville. 

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