Reptile and Amphibian Care Protecting Yourself from Salmonella

Keeping reptiles and amphibians as pets is a popular hobby for people who love animals. However, they have been known to carry the deadly bacteria Salmonella. Adequate precautions must be taken to protect yourself and your family from potential infection.

Keeping reptiles and amphibians as pets is a popular hobby for people who love animals. They take up a small amount of space compared to many other pets, and can fare quite well alone all day when their caretakers are at work. There are down sides to keeping herps, however, and those should always be considered prior to your decision to bring one home. One serious issue is that many reptiles and amphibians have been known to carry the deadly bacteria, Salmonella. Adequate precautions must be taken to protect yourself and your family from potential infection.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are several different strains of Salmonella, which can be contracted in multiple ways. One of those ways is handling reptiles. The best means of prevention for pet owners is to practice meticulous hand washing habits. You should always wash your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water after handling your pet herps, and never clean their enclosures in a bathroom or kitchen that humans use. As with many other diseases, those most vulnerable are young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.

Veterinarian Margaret Wissman advises that the first step in protecting yourself against contracting Salmonella from your pets is to purchase domestic, captive-bred animals. According to Dr. Wissman, these animals are generally kept in cleaner and healthier environments, and have not undergone the debilitating stress of being wild caught and transported for long periods of time in overcrowded conditions.

Salmonella can be difficult to diagnose, as even though it usually travels through the digestive tract, it is not always eliminated in the feces. This often results in a negative fecal culture, even when the animal is carrying the bacteria. Salmonella is not easy to eradicate in herps either. According to Dr. Wissman, simply treating with antibiotics can result in an animal that remains a carrier, and can still shed the bacteria in times of stress. Her best advice is to treat each animal as if it does carry the bacterium, whether you know it does or not, and always use necessary precautions when handling them and maintaining their enclosures. These precautions including wearing gloves and face masks when cleaning the cages and supplies, using a veterinary-approved disinfectant, and never soaking your animals in tubs, showers or sinks used by humans.

Most people recover from Salmonella, many times without even realizing they had it. However, the organism can be quite dangerous, and can even cause death in some cases. For this reason, scratches or bites from a pet reptile or amphibian should always be taken very seriously. The affected area should be cleansed thoroughly with hot soapy water, and you should consult your doctor for further instructions.

As scary as this all sounds, keeping pet reptiles and amphibians can be a very rewarding hobby. The hobbyist just needs to take precautions, and always follow the best health and sanitation practices.