IMPORTANT: These pages on health are meant to be general guides, not hard and fast rules. They were not written by vets and are NO SUBSTITUTE for veterinary care. If you suspect something is wrong with your iguana, PLEASE see a qualified veterinarian!
Reptiles and Salmonella
As a reptile keeper, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll get salmonella?” Reptiles have long been associated with salmonella, and many people have come to believe that owning a reptile automatically means you will become ill from salmonella poisoning. While it is true that reptiles do carry salmonella, it is by no means a given that you will experience this yourself as long as you follow some common sense guidelines.
The fear of salmonella and reptiles first came to prominence in the late 60s and early 70s when small aquatic turtles were popular pets. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted several surveys to determine the frequency of salmonellosis among turtle owners. There was a clear link at the time between turtle ownership and salmonella. Around this time, a ban was passed limiting the sale of turtles under the size of 4 inches.
All reptiles carry salmonella. It is found in their digestive tracts and is virtually impossible to eradicate. This does not, however, mean that if you own a reptile you will get salmonellosis. You cannot get salmonella just by holding or touching a reptile. Salmonella travels to humans through a fecal-oral transmission route. If a human touches something contaminated with fecal matter and then touches their mouth, or food that they then eat, they can become infected. Using common sense, however, you can prevent this from happening.
To avoid salmonella, cleanliness is the most important preventative. If you handle your reptile, be sure to wash well with warm soapy water afterwards. Cages and cage furnishings should be kept clean and disinfected. Using a mild bleach/water solution to wash down the cage and furnishings helps keep salmonella and other bacteria or viruses from spreading. Just be sure to remove your reptile before cleaning the cage, and rinse and dry the cage well before returning them to it.
Do not bring reptile
food and water bowls or other items into your kitchen or food prep area.
These items can also be cleaned and disinfected with a bleach/water solution.
Another option for disinfecting is a veterinary disinfectant called Nolvasan
(chlorhexidine diacetate). It is excellent at cleaning and disinfecting,
yet is not as harsh as bleach nor does it have the potential for toxic
fumes if there is a failure to rinse properly. In fact, many vets use
a diluted solution of it for wound and mouth washes for injured animals!
Most reptile keepers
will never have an outbreak of salmonellosis as long as they follow these
common sense procedures. Statistically, you are more likely to get salmonella
from poorly cooked food or improperly cleaned food prep areas than you
are from reptiles. Reptiles are also not the only source of salmonella.
Raw meats, eggs, even unwashed vegetables (including those that have been
peeled) can carry salmonella!
• Always wash
your hands with hot, soapy water after handling reptiles, reptile cages
and equipment, and the stool of reptiles.
can be fun and rewarding. By following the common sense guidelines above,
you can keep yourself and your reptile healthy and happy for a long time.
Wash up after handling your reptile, keep your reptile and its enclosure
clean, and you can easily avoid salmonella.
© 2002 - PurpleDragon Website Design