Dogs are curious creatures with a natural desire to hunt, which makes reptiles like lizards, snakes and other small animals tempting prey. If Fido comes upon a slithering snake or scurrying lizard, he may decide to chase after it or even eat it. Reptiles carry salmonella bacteria, which could make your pup sick, so it's best to keep him away from reptilians.
Reptiles Carrying Salmonella
Most reptiles carry different strains of Salmonella bacteria in their intestines, which they shed in their feces, according to PetEducation.com. These strains include Salmonella marina, found in iguanas, and Salmonella java and Salmonella poona, found in turtles and lizards, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. Salmonella bacteria usually wind up on a reptile's skin and contaminate his environment. When a dog licks or eats a reptile, he'll ingest these bacteria, which is how they spread. Once in his system, the bacteria can make your pup very sick. He'll require veterinary care to treat this infection.
What to Look for
If you suspect that your pup has eaten a reptile, watch him for symptoms of salmonellosis. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, lethargy, shock, fever, swollen lymph nodes, rapid heart rate and even miscarriage, says petMD. Bring Fido to the vet if he exhibits these symptoms and let her know about his possible reptilian snack. She'll properly diagnose your pup with salmonellosis using urine, fecal and blood tests. The vet may administer fluids to help with the dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea. In serious cases, blood or plasma transfusions may be needed. Antibiotic treatment is usually reserved for severely ill dogs because Salmonella bacteria are resistant to these treatments, according to WebMD.
An Ounce of Prevention
If you keep reptiles in the home with your dog, it's best to keep the two species separate. Dogs have been known to eat reptiles of all kinds, including hard-shelled turtles, warns the Turtle Rescue of Long Island website. Cover reptile enclosures with tamper-proof tops that Fido can't open, and separate their outdoor habitats from the areas your pup can access by using secure fencing both around and over the reptile areas. Clean your reptile's habitat frequently to remove fecal matter, using gloves to prevent spread of Salmonella bacteria to both your dog and to humans. You can catch Salmonella from handling infected reptiles and dogs, as well as from touching the surfaces they have touched and then ingesting the bacteria from your unwashed hands.
Training Fido to Stay Away From Reptiles
Train Fido to stay away from either your pet reptiles or any reptiles you may come upon outdoors. Teach your pup to obey the "leave it" command to get him to leave any reptile alone so that he doesn't even try to lick it or put it in his mouth, which can also transfer Salmonella bacteria to his system. This is especially important for young pups and elderly pooches whose immune systems may not work as well as a healthy adult dog to fight off any harmful bacteria. After handling any reptiles yourself, wash your hands before feeding or petting Fido to avoid giving him Salmonella, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Salmonella Infection (Salmonellosis) and Animals
- Public Health Agency of Canada: Salmonella
- PetEducation.com: Salmonellosis: Reptile Owners at Risk From Turtles, Lizards and Snakes
- University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine: Selected Zoonotic Agents of Gastroenteritis That Can Be Acquired From Dogs and Cats
- petMD: Salmonella Infection in Dogs
- KidsHealth: Salmonellosis
- Turtle Rescue of Long Island: Family Dog/Cat Dangers
- WebMD: Common Bacterial Diseases in Dogs
- Minnesota Herpetalogical Society: Reptiles and Salmonella
- Cesar's Way: Dog Training Tip: Teaching the "Leave It" Command
- Snake Removal: Snake Enemies -- Animals Catch Snakes
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Salmonella, Feeder Rodents, and Pet Reptiles and Amphibians -- Tips You Should Know to Prevent Infection
- Turtlecare.net: Cats, Dogs, Other Pets, and Turtles
- Tortoise Trust: Turtle/Tortoise Frequently Asked Questions
- Cesar's Way: Problem of the Month: Prey Drive
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.