How Do You Know If A Turtle Has Salmonella

If you’re looking for a turtle, or you’re already a turtle parent, salmonella is, unfortunately, something you’ll need to be wary of. Turtles commonly carry this pesky bacteria, which can cause severe issues in the human gut.

How Do You Know if a Turtle Has Salmonella

And it’s not just turtles either! Many common reptilia and amphibian pets (such as frogs and lizards) can be carriers. And that’s carriers, not sufferers, meaning that they won’t be symptomatic.

But don’t panic! Less than 1% of salmonella cases are fatal, so if it does happen to you you’ll almost definitely be okay. And there are some steps you can take to stay safe.

How Worried Do I Actually Need To Be?

Unfortunately, the only way you’ll know if your turtle has salmonella… is if you get it yourself. Unless, of course, you send your turtle off to a lab for tests! In which case, the results would most likely come back positive. So is getting a turtle really worth it?

We’d say yes. While catching salmonella is something you should be aware of, it’s not so common that owning turtles is pointless. That’s because most people who do their research and are responsible can avoid catching it.

Turtles make really rewarding pets. If you’re passionate about them and have the time to spare, you won’t regret adopting one. And if you’re willing to put in the effort to follow good hygiene practices consistently, you’ll be out of harm’s way.

What Can I Do To Avoid Catching Salmonella From A Turtle?

How Salmonella Is Passed From Turtles To Humans

Two words: poor hygiene.

According to the FDA, salmonella is found on our turtles’ ‘outer skin and shell surfaces’. And just like humans or cats, turtles shed skin cells continually as their skin renews itself. Meaning contaminated cells could be anywhere the turtle has been…

So if you’re handling your turtle or anything in its tank, then don’t wash your hands after, you’re asking for trouble. And definitely don’t touch your turtle or its things, then touch your face. It’s all too easy to bite your fingernails or rub your eyes, so be aware of little habits like that.

And whatever you do, stay on top of poop cleaning duties. Remember that turtles can also spread salmonella through their droppings. So anyone not regularly cleaning their tank runs the risk of not only an unhappy turtle but becoming sick themselves.

Things like hand-hygiene might seem self-explanatory to most people. However, even otherwise responsible owners are guilty of letting their turtles “explore” their houses and gardens.

Unless you’re prepared to deep clean and disinfect literally everything in your living room that turtle has touched, it’s not worth it.

Salmonella in turtles

Also, always buy from reputable breeders. This is something you must do not only in the interest of hygiene but also to avoid supporting people practicing poor animal care.

It would be a mis-step on our part not to recognize that accidents do happen. So if you or a family member ends up sick, how do you know it’s salmonella?

How Do I Know I’ve Caught Salmonella From My Turtle?

The Importance Of Identifying Salmonella Poisoning

As we mentioned earlier, salmonella does not make turtles sick. However, it is uncomfortable and distressing for us humans and causes havoc with our digestion. And for the young, old, or otherwise vulnerable, it can even be fatal. So knowing the symptoms is paramount.

At first, it can be hard to tell the difference between salmonella and a “regular” stomach bug. The key factor is severity and duration. Symptoms start 12-72 hours after exposure to the turtle or things the turtle has come into contact with, and stick around for as long as a week.

Key Symptoms

  1. Abdominal cramps – this might happen reasonably quickly after touching the turtle and could range from light pain to intense cramping
  2. Diarrhea – this may also happen soon after coming into contact with the turtle and is watery inconsistency
  3. Vomiting and feeling sick – remember to stay hydrated when you reach this stage, and make sure not to vomit anywhere near your turtle’s tank
  4. Fever & chills – you may feel very sick at this point, so please make sure someone else is around to look after your turtle if you cannot
  5. Headache – This sounds nasty, and it’ll interrupt any plans you have for the week. But try to stay calm, stay hydrated, make sure you have a turtle sitter if need be, and remember you probably won’t need treatment.

Who Is Most At Risk If Your Turtle Has Salmonella?

Again, the very young and very old should be kept away from turtles. But this advice also extends to pregnant women, those with pre-existing bowel disorders, and the immuno-compromised.

In these cases, treatment of salmonella poisoning might require some antibiotics and at least a trip to the doctor. This is not only due to the strain that vomiting and diarrhea puts on the body but also because in severe cases the bacteria can spread to the blood and even cross over to a fetus.

While this latter outcome is unlikely, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

In Conclusion

When all is said and done, turtles are not the low-maintenance pets, some people think they are. They can live for over 50 years, which is a long time for an owner to commit to careful, specialized care! But anyone not willing to commit to that shouldn’t be getting a turtle in the first place.

In reading this article, you’ve taken the essential first step in educating yourself. Good job! Keep putting in the work to make informed decisions, and you and your turtle will thank you.