Tortoises make for great pets however there are some hazards that come with them, similar to all pets. For example ringworm, Lyme disease, and hookworms are all common diseases found on pets. A problematic disease that’s often associated with Tortoises is salmonella, is it true you can get salmonella infection from contact with a tortoise? Let’s find out.
Do tortoises carry salmonella? Yes tortoises and every other reptile species are known to carry salmonella. They carry the bacteria in their intestines and then it will be further shed through their faeces. It can also be found on their shell so as a tortoise owner you should take extra caution when it comes to handling and feeding your tortoise.
In this article we’re going to discuss what salmonella is, precautions you can take to prevent salmonella infection, and every thing in-between so continue reading!
What Is Salmonella?
Salmonella infection ( ) is a common bacteria that can affect the intestinal tract. The intestines are where the bacteria lives until it’s shed through faeces. In tortoises it can be found on their skin, shell, scales, and of course intestines where it lives.
While salmonella is a leading cause of food poisoning and sickness in humans, it doesn’t effect tortoises and other reptiles because they have built up a resistance to it. Salmonella can be spread extremely easily so you should take extra caution and be sure to clean your tortoises enclosure properly.
The signs and symptoms of salmonella infection are :
- Stomach cramps
Salmonella infection symptoms can begin anywhere from 6 hours to 6 days after you were exposed to the bacteria. With adequate rest and fluid intake it usually clears up on its on around the 4-7 day mark. On extremely rare occasions the infection can spread beyond the intestines and potentially be life-threatening.
Tortoises and Salmonella
As salmonella are found in the intestines it’s often excreted through your tortoises faeces, so you should take extra caution when it comes to cleaning up your tortoises droppings. However salmonella can also be present in your tortoises scales, skin, and shells.
You should mainly concerned about the shell as that’s where you’ll have the most contact with your tortoise. It can also be present deep within the fold and flaps as they tend to contain heat and moisture which can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
Salmonella can also be present around the base of the scales, which tends to get overlooked by tortoise owners as it’s a small area, however salmonella thrives beneath them.
It’s also possible to be infected with salmonella without even touching your tortoise. This can happen through your tortoises excrement or by coming into contact something they have brushed up against like a plant or another item in your house.
When it comes to your tortoises enclosure it’s a given that there will be salmonella present as they spend most or all of their time there. As tortoises naturally carry salmonella it’s not something you can prevent or get rid of. You can only take precautions to stop yourself from being infected.
It’s recommend you use gloves whenever your around the tortoises enclosure, cleaning it regularly (especially the corners) will lower the chance of salmonella of being spread.
Don’t Forget About The Claws
Tortoise nails don’t need regular maintenance however they can be an area for salmonella to thrive. The main cause of this is down to tortoises walking in their faeces, which then leads to salmonella being transferred to the claws. This can be a safety hazard if you’re playing with your tort, naturally their claws will be in contact with you which increases the chances of a salmonella infection.
Once salmonella gets into your tortoises claws it’s going to be near impossible to completely remove. This is due to the fact they dig and burrow with their claws leading which pushes the salmonella further up. You should clean their nails regularly however don’t expect them to be fully clean of salmonella so take extra caution.
How Do You Prevent Getting Salmonella From A Tortoise?
Salmonella is something that exists in tortoises and reptiles so there is always going to be some risk present, however with some good hygiene habits you can drastically lower your chances of becoming infected.
- Wash before handling
- Wash after handling
- Wear gloves
- Regularly clean
- Don’t touch your mouth
- Keep your tortoise away from other animals
- Anti-bacterial wipes
Wash your hands before handling
You should always wash your hands before touching your tortoise, there’s a chance you can give them some infections, even salmonella. There might be a chance your tortoise hasn’t been infected with salmonella so you want to keep it that way.
Raw foods like chicken, eggs, beef, and even some fruits can contain salmonella. These are foods we would typically be in contact with every day and therefore there’s a high chance you could pass it on to your tortoise. Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before touching your tortoise or their enclosure.
Wash your hands after handling
Now let’s say your tortoise does have salmonella present. It’s likely you’ll be in contact with the bacteria at some point whether its by touching your tortoise, cleaning their faeces or enclosure you’re going to be exposed to it. Washing your hands after all of these things is a must when it comes to preventing salmonella from being spread.
I like to keep some wipes beside my tortoises enclosure to remind me to wash them, however you should do a more thorough wash with warm water and soap.
You’re more than likely going to contract a salmonella infection through your hands, which is why wearing gloves can drastically reduce the likelihood you become sick. Obviously wearing gloves all day isn’t practical or logical but for things like soaking your tortoise it’s recommended.
Wearing gloves when you’re cleaning their enclosure is also recommended because if they are infected with salmonella their enclosure will be covered in it.
Bonding with your tortoise is important so we don’t recommend you wear gloves whenever you touch them, basic hygiene practices like washing your hands will be enough to prevent salmonella from being spread.
Regularly wash your tortoise
As salmonella will be present on their shell it’s necessary to wash your tortoise often. Soaking your tortoise will remove the salmonella that’s present on their shell, which is the part of the body you’ll come into contact with the most. Salmonella will still exist in their faeces and scales however you’re most likely to pick it up from their shells.
You should soak your tortoise twice a week to prevent the build-up of salmonella and other bacteria, soaking them regularly is also great for hydrating them and preventing their shells and skin from becoming dry.
Don’t touch your face or mouth
Nail biters look away now – regularly touching your face and mouth is a sure fire way to increase the chances of becoming infected with salmonella among other nasty infections. You should be extra cautious especially after feeding or handling your tortoise.
I will admit it is difficult as it’s something we do on autopilot but being around tortoises there’s a good chance salmonella is present so avoid biting your nails or touching your face.
Keep your tortoise away from other animals
Tortoises can spread salmonella to other animals quite easily, which is only one of many reasons we suggest you don’t keep other pets around your tortoise.
When it comes to reducing the risk of a salmonella infection, anti-bacterial wipes are your best friend. The clue is in the name. The can instantly kill bacteria so you should use them to clean your hands and surfaces that your tortoise might have been in contact with.
Salmonella can survive for around 1-4 hours on surfaces. We don’t advise using anti-bacterial spray anywhere near your tortoises enclosure, this can harm their lungs, stick to using soap when cleaning their enclosure.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Horsefield Tortoises Carry Salmonella?
As Horsefield tortoises are reptiles there is a good chance they will carry salmonella. Tortoises and reptiles are known to be infected with salmonella however because they have built up a tolerance to it they don’t become sick like humans do. Horsefield tortoises can carry salmonella on their shell, scales, skin, and through their faeces.
Tortoises and Salmonella – Final Thoughts
A salmonella infection can be extremely unpleasant however it’s something that we have to live with when it comes to our beloved torts. They likely carry it in their intestines and then it will further be excreted through their faeces and onto their shell.
While we can’t avoid it there are some things we can do to prevent the risk of becoming infected. They include basic hygiene practices such as washing your hands, using anti-bacterial wipes, regularly soaking your tortoise, and avoid touching your face.
Don’t let the risk of salmonella stop you from bonding with your tortoise, the chances of you becoming infected are low if you take all the necessary precautions in this article.