Lizard courtesy of Tim Ross
Many new exotic animal lovers are very exited to become the proud owner of a new snake, lizard, turtle, or other amphibian or reptile. So excited in fact that they become all thumbs when it comes to handling these creatures. It is imperative that new pet owners remember the A-B-C’s of ownership and to abide by some basic rules when it comes to handling to these critters.
The most important rule any owner can remember is that turtles, snakes and lizards are carriers the Salmonella bacteria. This bacterium is shed in the reptiles' feces and tends to hand out on and gets on skin, in cages, and other things they come in contact with.
As an owner who constantly handles your critter, you can pick up the bacteria on your hands and spread it to other people. Salmonella can cause illness similar to food poisoning with serious stomach and intestinal distress, diarrhea and vomiting.
Young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are more at risk than the rest of the general population. While this seems like a scary proposition, the chances of becoming infected decrease significantly with a few simple rules:
ALWAYS Wash your hands thoroughly after you handle your pet reptile, its food or anything it has touched.
BE loving and enjoy your pet reptile, but don't nuzzle or kiss it.
CAGE your pet reptile in a habitat designed for it; don't let it roam around the home.
DO NOT keep your pet reptile and its equipment near the kitchen or any area where food is prepared.
If you have a small child in the house, do not allow unsupervised visitation with your pet, in fact it would be best to keep the two from direct contact until the child is old enough ( 5 and up) to interact with the creature without fear of serious complications. If you do notice any signs of illness, consult a doctor and be sure to mention that you or your child has been in contact with reptiles.
Remember that taking care of cage bound creatures in 90% husbandry and this applies to your health as well. Following these simple rules will keep you and your new pet happy and healthy and strong for years to come.