Salmonellosis and Reptiles

This infection is very contagious to humans, so it's important to take care of the cleaning of your pet's terrarium. Sadily, the most affected animals are turtles.
Salmonellosis and Reptiles
Eugenio Fernández Suárez

Written and verified by the vet Eugenio Fernández Suárez.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Salmonellosis and reptiles are closely related. The bacteria Salmonella is present in many of these animals even if they’re healthy and it can be easily transmitted to humans. However, there is no need to be alarmed. You just need to be aware of this disease and take some preventive measures.

Salmonellosis and Reptiles

Salmonellosis is a zoonosis caused by Salmonella bacteria. Despite being found naturally in many animals, Enterobacteriaceae  can cause a serious and contagious infection to humans.

This bacteria lives in the intestines. Their feces can contaminate many different parts of a terrarium, as well as your animal’s skin. The disease can be transmitted through contaminated food, especially eggs. However, if you don’t take proper care of your reptiles then they too can become a source of infection.

Salmonellosis colonizes the digestive system and causes diarrhea and other symptoms such as headaches and fevers. It’s especially dangerous for people with a weak immune system, elderly people, and children.

A sea turtle swimming

The majority of reptiles have Salmonella in their intestines, but the animals that are most likely to be infected are turtles. Poor hygiene combined with rotting food in the water makes an aquarium a breeding ground for this bacteria.

Prevention of Salmonellosis

Preventing this infection is relatively simple. All you need to do is take some hygienic measures and follow the steps below:

  • Make sure you always wash your hands after handling your animals or anything that belongs to them, including the terrarium or their food.
  • It’s always best to use bacterial disinfectants. Ask your vet if you want more information about this topic.
  • It’s important to do this if you’re going to handle food after handling your animals.
  • Reptiles should be kept away from places where there is food.
  • It’s a good idea to clean your terrarium outside your house with hot water and soap.
  • If you can’t do this, don’t do it in the same sink where you wash your food and plates, or otherwise use disinfectant afterward.
  • Don’t kiss your reptile or bring them close to your face.
  • Keep an aquarium or any other habitat in a good hygienic state.
  • Be extra careful with children younger than five and senior citizens. It’s best for them not to handle your reptiles.
Iguana on a branch

Following these steps preventing salmonellosis and taking care of reptiles will make it much harder to contract this infection. This way you can live with your reptiles in perfect harmony. These steps are also applicable to many other zoonoses or infectious diseases transmitted between humans and animals.

Before Buying a Turtle

Sadly, many of these animals are sold illegally. This also increases the risk of spreading other severe illnesses. To avoid further problems, always make sure you buy them from a legal vendor.

One good way to make sure you legally buy a reptile is to buy reptiles that are bigger than 10 centimeters. If they’re smaller, then most likely they are illegal.

Terrapins on the rocks

Reptiles are exotic animals that require a lot of attention. When people abandon these animals, they can be a serious threat to the ecosystem. Sadly, this also condemns most of them to death.

The most popular reptile species live more than 20 years and can grow a lot in size. For this reason, it’s a good idea for you to do your research before buying an animal like an iguana or the popular red-eared terrapin. Don’t add to the number of abandoned reptiles!

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.