Companion reptiles such as bearded dragons, lizards, snakes, and turtles have been well-favored than other more common household pets. Their unusual appearance, as well as their general peaceful trait, make them perfect to look after. Nonetheless, these docile pets may carry with them infectious diseases that owners may not be even aware of. Small children, pregnant women, and those with serious health problems are susceptible to such infections. Thus, it is vital that one has a better understanding of these contagious reptile diseases.
Bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases in reptiles are sometimes caused by primary pathogens or microorganisms. However, they can also be the result of health-compromising conditions, such as inadequate temperatures, humidity, enclosure hygiene, overcrowding, and inappropriate hygiene management. Treating fungal and bacterial diseases generally requires addressing the handling inadequacies.
Common Infectious Diseases In Reptiles
Many contagious reptile diseases may be passed through its owners and handlers if not properly and promptly treated. The most common of these diseases are the following:
Salmonella is commonly present in every type of reptile. It can also spread from reptiles to humans. This happens when anything that has been contaminated with reptile feces comes in contact with the mouth. Not only are pet owners susceptible to the disease but also their families.
This can happen when the pet handler or owner is not careful enough when taking care or managing his or her pet. Animal droppings infected with salmonella can contaminate anything inside the enclosure. If the owner touches any of the contaminated things (including the food and water bowls, the soil where the feces were), he can pass the infection to somebody else in the family. Salmonella infection may result to having diarrhea, headache, fever, and also stomach cramps. More severe infection may cause septicemia or blood poisoning. Dehydration can also be severe when an infection like this is acquired.
Another contagious and serious reptile infection is Botulism. It can also be life-threatening. This disease is caused by a toxin released by the Clostridium bacterium. These bacteria remain in a dormant state until conditions in their environment allow them to grow. Once active, these bacteria can produce a powerful toxin called botulin. Anyone infected with this toxin may be paralyzed and die. They are quite resistant to adverse environmental effects. This makes it very difficult to eliminate these bacteria.
Clostridium is found in the environment, including in the soil and mud found in the pet enclosure. Exotic pets that live near the ground are usually contaminated with this bacterium. Clostridium usually contaminates reptiles, most specifically aquatic reptiles. Adults and older children likewise have a range of bacteria that overgrow these spores. However, small babies below one year old have not yet developed such protection, hence are most susceptible to the infection.
Considering these, pet owners who have young children should think twice when considering having any aquatic animals as their pet. These pets are not fir for small children and should never be kept in the home where there are children below five years old.
Careful handling and management of these animals is a must to ensure that not only the pets are kept healthy, but more importantly your family.
Other infections that these exotic pets may have include campylobacteriosis (a bowel infection), leptospirosis (a liver disease), trichinellosis (a disease of the muscles, nervous system, heart, and lungs). These contagious diseases have been associated with reptile handling and managing. While most of these conditions are treatable, some can be quite serious.
Safe Pet Animal Handling
1. Look for the pet that will be most suitable to your household. Those with young children below five years old, pregnant women, and house members with existing health conditions should not consider reptiles as pets in their houses.
2. All reptiles are possible carriers of these contagious diseases. Proper handling and management is a must.
3. Always wash your hands with antiseptic soap and water after handling your pets.
4. As much as possible, reptiles must be kept in their enclosures. If you need to take them out, make sure that you make extra precaution, such as carrying hand sanitizer, using disposable hand gloves, and keeping them away from other members of the family who are prone in acquiring their infections.
5. If you need to bring your pet reptile to an educational institution, make sure there are proper hand-washing and cleaning facilities in the location. Never bring your pet to a kindergarten or a daycare center.
6. Keep your reptile tank or enclosure properly cleaned. Never leave anything unclean (water and food bowls, decorations, even the beddings). Make sure to clear away animal droppings properly.
7. Clean your pet’s enclosure in a well-ventilated area. Wear latex or vinyl gloves when cleaning your pet’s enclosure. You may also need to disinfect everything inside the enclosure to ensure that any trace of fungus, germs, bacteria, or virus are totally eliminated. When you are done cleaning the enclosure, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and antiseptic soap. You may also need to clean your hands with rubbing alcohol.
8. Wash with hot water every surface that your pet has come in contact with.
9. Wash your pet in its own wash basin. Never wash your pet in the sink or in the bath. The wash water should also be disposed of properly through the drain outside the house.
10. Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling your reptile, even when cleaning its tank or any other equipment in its habitat. Never kiss or allow your kids to kiss or hug your reptile pet.
11. Take off any garments that have come in contact with the reptile while you are handling it. Wash them with hot or warm water.
12. Always remind children not to put their hands in their mouth, especially when they are handling a reptile. They should also be warned of the dangers that these reptiles may carry and what they can do to prevent any contagious diseases from transferring to them.
13. Consult local veterinarians for more information in the proper handling and management of your pet reptile.
Every family member needs to understand fully how to safely handle pets in the house to ensure everyone’s safety.