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Develop Salmonella from Pet Reptiles - Signs, Treatment, Prevention

Updated on November 16, 2009
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney has raised and bred different species of geckos, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and other exotics since 2003.

Get Salmonellosis from Reptiles

If you have pet reptiles, I'm sure that you've heard about salmonella. It's a common excuse for mothers to not let their children have a pet turtle, gecko, or lizard. You may actually be surprised to know that there is a greater likelihood that a turtle, lizard, gecko, or snake will carry one of the 500 strains of Salmonella, but not every reptile owner contracts the disease. Truthfully, the risk of salmonella to reptile owners is greatly exaggerated and started as a mom's worry.

Yes, young children and infants as well as elderly are at a higher risk of contracting Salmonellosis, but so is anyone that may have a suppressed immune system. The risk is there, but you shouldn't panic because most healthy people actually come into contact with the a small number of the bacteria on a near daily basis, and we all end up in the hospital suffering the infection on a regular basis.

Generally, those with a suppressed immune system or those who encounter a rather large number of bacteria, are those most likely to contract the infection.

When it comes to salmonella in reptiles, you'll find they have a pretty low number of the bacteria, and if you follow common sense hygiene practices, you can easily decrease your chance of contracting the illness, but you'll find that the best and easiest thing to do, is to treat every reptile as though it has salmonella and take into account the precautions that you can take to prevent getting salmonella.

Signs You Have Salmonella

Salmonellosis can be a pretty serious infection caused by salmonella bacteria. It affects the gastrointestinal fact. You'll find that the most common signs of salmonella infection include the following symptoms.

  • Diarrhea (most common symptom)
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomitting

The effects of salmonella can be very serious, even fatal for those with a suppressed immune system, such as young infants and children, pregnant women, elderly, and those with an illness. You want to be very careful to practice preventative measures so that you don't have to worry about developing Salmonellosis.

Treating Salmonella

If you think that you have salmonellosis, you want to seek medical assistance from your doctor in order to be properly diagnosed and treated. If you are diagnosed with salmonellosis, your doctor will probably let you get better on your own unless the infection is pretty severe.

If you have a severe infection or you're a part of the high-risk group, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic, but in most cases, antibiotics have not been proven to be of any major benefit in minute and non-sever cases.

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe medications to lower your fever or rehydrate you from the diarrhea and/or vomitting.

If you have a severe case of salmonellosis, your doctor will order further tests to determine what strain of the salmonella bacteria you have, so that he can prescribe a more specific antibiotic.

If you have the infection, you'll want to quarantine yourself because you are contagious even after several days to weeks after you were infected and even after you're symptoms have improved. Even if you were treated with antibiotics, you can still be contagious for several days. So until you've past a week or so mark, you'll want to keep your hands thoroughly cleaned, and you want to avoid sharing your food and drinks with anyone. You'll want to get your doctor's permission before returning to work or school.

Home Remedies to Treat Salmonellosis

  • Atuna racemosa- boil 5-8 leaves in 1 cup of water for at least 30 minutes; strain; drink 20 ml of extract 3 times a day for 1 week
  • Barberry- squash pulp and take 3 times a day
  • Bitter gourd- boil 10 leaves in 1 liter of water; cook for 15 minutes; let sit for 20 minutes; strain; drink 2 cups of extract 2 times a day for 2 weeks
  • Gleditsia sinensis (Chinese honey locust or Chinese honeylocust)- boil 5-8 spines in 1 cup of water for at least 30 minutes; strain; drink 20 ml of extract 3 times a day for 1 week
  • Golden Shower Tree- boil 5-10 Cassia fistula Flowers in 1 cup of water for 30 minutes; strain; drink extract 2 times a day for 1 week
  • Gurguli- boil 5-10 Gurguli or Andrachne cordifolia leaves in 1 cup of water for 30 minutes; strain; drink extract 2 times a day for 1 week
  • Jambul- crush dry Jambul seeds into a fine powder; boil 1 teaspoon in 1 cup of water for 30 minutes; strain; drink extract 3 times a day for 1 week
  • Lemon grass- boil 50 grams of finely chopped Lemon grass or Cymbopogon citratus aerial parts in 250 ml of water; strain; drink 15 ml of extract 3 times a day for 1 week
  • Rumex japonicus- boil 5-8 leaves in 1 cup of water for at least 30 minutes; strain; drink 20 ml of extract 3 times a day for 1 week
  • Satureja- boil 10-15 leaves in cup of water for 30 minutes; strain; drink extract 3 times a day for 1 week
  • Tetterwort- boil 5-10 leaves in 250 ml of water for 30 minutes; strain; drink 50 ml of extract 3 times a day for 1 week
  • Vahlia capensis- boil 5-8 leaves in 1 cup of water for at least 30 minutes; strain; drink 20 ml of extract 3 times a day for 1 week
  • Zanthoxylum chalybeum- Boil 5-8 leaves in 250 ml of water; strain; drink 15 ml of extract 3 times a day for 1 week

Reptile Hand Sanitizer

Prevent Salmonellosis

When avoiding contracting salmonella bacteria, you want to make sure that you take all the necessary precautions. Your reptiles don't have to suffer. You can still handle them. You can still care for them.

  1. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your reptile. Soap and warm water. Hand sanitizer is actually better than soap and water in some cases. (Or use disposable gloves.)
  2. If you use disposable bowls and materials that are porous, you'll want to throw them away when you're finished.
  3. Keep your reptiles and reptile supplies out of the kitchen and off the counters and anywhere your food may come in contact. Don't put reptiles, cages, or equipment in the sink where your dishes will be washed later. Use the bathtub and disinfect with a diluted bleach solution when you're done.
  4. Don't eat or smoke while cleaning or handling your reptiles.
  5. Don't let reptiles roam free in the house.

Pregnant women, children, and elderly should take extra precautions because that are at greater risk of serious complications of salmonella. If possible, it is a good idea to have someone else care for pet reptiles if pregnant or until one's immune system is a little more equipped.

If the household has children under 5 years old, you want to take extra precautions that the child(ren) use hygiene precautions (IE hand washing.) It's a good idea to keep the pet reptile(s) away until the child is a little older and the immune system is more developed.

If pregnant, some recommend keeping pet reptiles away in another room, if not moving them out of the house altogether. Your immune system is just a little more fragile, but that doesn't mean that you're guaranteed to contract salmonella if you handle a reptile while pregnant. (I've known women handle and clean numerous reptiles on a daily basis while pregnant and never be affected by salmonella while pregnant.)

These are all pretty basic precautions, that should be common sense. Good hygiene methods is the best method to preventing complications with salmonella bacteria.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed doctor. Consult your doctor if you think that you might have a Salmonellosis.


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    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 

      10 years ago from Tucson, Az

      way to go Whitney!! Cool hub...Please tell me you are NOT holding red on black good friend jack?

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      10 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Full of information as always. Ye again I have learnt something new

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 

      10 years ago from USA

      Whitney - You rightly point out the Salmonella dangers inherent in reptiles and the like. If you really want some super-nifty Salmonella, give birds a whirl. I remember the day when the mess hall guys let the sliced turkey cool down and sit around before feeding it to several thousand basic trainees. We filled gallon jugs with bismuth and paregoric and hauled it to the barracks where there were probably 5,000-6,000 GI's together all going at both ends. Gus

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      10 years ago

      I learned something today as well, (Not that I would have those pets in the house), but I know others who do. I shall pass this one on. Great information

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      10 years ago from London, UK

      I never knew that. These are great information, advices and information. Thank you.


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