Do bearded dragons carry salmonella? Yes, bearded dragons can carry salmonella. If you take proper precautions, however, you can minimize the risk of getting sick. These precautions include washing hands before and after, sanitizing your bearded dragon’s cage, and removing uneaten food.
However, just because a bearded dragon may carry salmonella doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep one as a pet. This guide explores everything you need to know about salmonella and bearded dragons, including how to protect yourself and others.
Salmonella and Bearded Dragons
Many reptiles, including snakes, turtles, iguanas, and lizards, often have traces of salmonella bacteria in their guts. The salmonella bacteria pass into the reptile’s feces and can then infect humans who come into both direct and indirect contact with the feces.
In 2014, America saw a multistate outbreak of salmonella, which was traced back to bearded dragons. Since then, bearded dragons become part of a list of pets, which can cause salmonella.
How is salmonella transmitted from bearded dragons to humans?
Just because bearded dragons, feces may contain salmonella, it doesn’t mean that humans will automatically become infected. Humans get salmonellosis – the disease caused by salmonella – when they ingest the bacteria.
There are a variety of ways humans may ingest the bacteria, including:
- Direct animal contact. If your bearded dragon has soiled itself, direct contact with it may cause you to ingest the bacteria.
- Food and water. If strains of the bacteria enter your food or water, there is a high chance you’ll contract salmonellosis.
- Contaminated utensils. Even if your food is not infected, a utensil that has been contaminated may lead to you getting salmonellosis. The salmonella bacteria can even be spread through sharing straws, cups, water bottles, lip balms, and cigarettes.
- From person to person. A person who has salmonellosis can spread it to another person through an exchange of saliva.
How to minimize the risk of salmonella transition
While salmonella is treatable, prevention is always better than a cure. If you are careful, you can ensure that you protect yourself from contracting salmonella from your bearded dragon.
Keep your bearded dragon’s cage clean
Dirty environments become breeding grounds for bacteria and infections, and your bearded dragon’s cage is no exception.
Ensure that you are cleaning surfaces in the cage at least once a week and giving the entire cage or habitat a deep clean at least once a month.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind when cleaning the cage:
- Remove feces immediately. As soon as you see that your bearded dragon has left a ‘deposit,’ scoop it out and dispose of it. Use a special scooper, so you don’t come into direct contact with it.
- Remove uneaten food. Adult bearded dragons will eat at least once a day. If food has been sitting for two days, remove it. Allowing food to sit for a long time will increase the number of bacteria.
- Use a disinfectant spray. There are special disinfectant sprays that have been designed to sanitize reptile cages. Try the Zoo Med Wipe Out Difenecant (available on Amazon) to disinfect all hard surfaces in your lizard’s cage.
Give your pet a bath!
There’s no point in having a sparkling clean cage if your beloved pet is dirty! Try to bathe your bearded dragon once or twice a week.
A regular bath will ensure that you are removing bacteria on your pet’s body, which minimizes the risk of contamination when you play with and care for him.
Here’s how to give your bearded dragon a bath:
- Fill a shallow tub with warm water.
- Condition the water with a special conditioner. Doing this removes any toxins from the water, making it safe for your lizard to bathe in. Try Zoo Med RepiSafe water conditioner (available on Amazon).
- Pour water over your lizard’s back.
- Use a toothbrush to scrub any dead skin cells of your lizard.
- Take him out of the water and gently pat him dry.
- Place him back in the cage.
Look after your own hygiene
After bathing, playing with, getting licked by, or otherwise handling your bearded dragon, make sure you immediately wash your hands. You should also wash the other parts of your body that came into contact with him.
Use an antibacterial soap, which will kill any bacteria you picked up from your pet.
You should also sanitize any areas which your pet may have rested on, including carpets, tables and, chairs.
Even if you love your pet dearly, don’t kiss him! Direct mouth contact will increase the chances of you contracting salmonella.
Take your pet for regular check-ups
Bearded dragons who are carrying the salmonella bacteria may not display any signs of it. In fact, unless there’s a large amount of it in its gut, the salmonella bacteria probably won’t impact your pet at all.
The only way to diagnose whether your bearded dragon has salmonella is to take it to a vet who will run a stool test. If your bearded dragon does have salmonella, the vet can prescribe medication and remind you to be extra vigilant.
Even if you clean your lizard’s cage and bathe your lizard regularly, try to keep him away from young children, the elderly, and others with weakened immune systems. They are more likely to be impacted by salmonella and find it harder to recover from salmonella poisoning.
A fear of salmonella shouldn’t stop you from keeping a bearded dragon as a pet. If you’re passionate about reptiles and reptile care, a bearded dragon will make for a wonderful, interesting pet!
However, make sure you are taking precautions to protect yourself from salmonella including:
- Keeping your bearded dragon clean by bathing him regularly.
- Keeping your bearded dragon’s cage clean.
- Taking your bearded dragon to the vet regularly.
- Washing your hands after handling your pet.
If you think that you may have ingested salmonella, or are having symptoms of salmonellosis, be sure to visit your doctor immediately.