Hygiene And Safety When Keeping Reptiles

Hygiene And Safety

This section is different from all the others on this site as it concentrates not on your pet's welfare, but instead on yours.

There is nothing to be scared about, but below we tell you of sensible precautions that you need to take to ensure that you do not suffer from an injury or from a nasty stomach complaint!


Salmonella Bacteria
One aspect of keeping reptiles that you must be aware of is the risk of Salmonella.

Reptiles are an acknowledged source of the bacteria and you should take sensible precautions.

What is Salmonella?

Salmonella is a particularly nasty bacteria that attacks the stomach and intestines. It is not prejudiced and attacks both sexes and all age groups. The elderly, children and those who are already suffering an illness are at risk of a serious infection.

What are the symptoms of a Salmonella attack?

You will soon know if you are suffering from Salmonella poisoning. You may suffer from one or more of the following symptoms
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Headaches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Possibly, blood in the faeces

How do you contract Salmonella?

The most common way that Salmonella is passed is orally. The classic example is by touching your mouth after previously touching something that carries the Salmonella bacteria.

Why are you telling me this on a site about reptiles?

You can contract Salmonella from many different sources including your pets. It is an unfortunate fact that many reptiles carry the Salmonella bacteria. Therefore you should assume that your pet could potentially make you ill.

What precautions do I need to take?

You should follow basic hygiene practices when coming into contact with your pet. In other words, you must wash your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial handwash. These are readily available, so there is no excuse not to do this.

This includes not just after handling your pet, but after touching anything that your pet has come in contact with.

What else should I be doing to avoid a Salmonella?

  • Keep your reptile and all equipment out of the kitchen
  • Clean and disinfect items and surfaces that your reptile has been in contact with
  • Ideally you should change and wash your clothing after being in contact with your pet


Snake Biting Hand
Virtually all pets can and do bite humans and reptiles are no exception to this.

If you keep reptiles, you must be prepared at sometime to get bitten, if you are not then they are not the pet for you.

If you do get bitten, then the fault is yours not your pet.

Below we give you some sensible advice that if you follow will dramatically reduce the chances of getting bitten.

The Deliberate Bite

One reason why reptiles bite is as a means of defence. To put it simply it is because they are afraid. Normally, snakes will let you know they are unhappy by adopting a striking position, and maybe hissing or moving their tail rapidly.

If you put your hand somewhere near without wearing gloves you will get what you deserve!

As the animal tames then this is less of a risk, but there are still individuals and species who are prone to continue doing this, but you must remember that this behaviour is due to fear.

The Accidental Bite

This is by far the most common way to get bitten, and it is an accident caused by you. These bites occur for one reason, the reptile thinks that you (normally your hand) is food!

Avoiding Being Accidentally Bitten

  • Remember a snake strike is lighting fast, if your hand is in range and he strikes you will not be able to remove your hand in time. No matter how fast your reactions are.
  • Read the signals. With most snakes and reptiles the feeding signals are quite obvious and will become even more so when you get to know your pet better
  • If your pet is hungry or thinks it is feeding time then keep your hand well away
  • Use tweezers or tongs to place food in the vivarium
  • Wear gloves
  • Make sure your hands do not smell of your pet's food

What to do if you are bitten

If the bite has happened due to a feeding response the animal will normally soon let go. If not then a splattering of cold water tends to make them loosen their grip. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Vivarium Hazards

Electrical Safety
The mixing of heat, water and electricity is potentially hazardous, so you will need to take great care with your vivarium.

Below we list some sensible precautions that you should follow, to avoid any nasty incidents.

Monitor Your Vivarium

When you check how your pet is doing, or during feeding, just spend a couple of seconds checking that the vivarium and its fittings are all as they should be.

Used Equipment

If you buy equipment that has already been used, then you need to check that it is not damaged. This is difficult if it is a sealed unit like a thermostat, but what you can check is that the wiring itself is not damaged and also check the plug. Make sure that it is wired properly and that the correct amperage fuse has been fitted.

Water And Electrics

Ensure there is no danger of any of the electric components coming into contact with water.

Electrical Fittings

Due to the high heat in a vivarium electrical fittings can become damaged and brittle. As they are inexpensive if in doubt replace them.

Right Wattage Bulbs

Make sure that you fit the correct wattage bulbs, if not then excess heat could cause a fire.

Always Use A Thermostat

For your pet's safety you should always use a thermostat, it could also prevent your vivarium from over heating and creating a fire.

If In Doubt

If you are unsure of anything then there are plenty of places to find information, such as the internet, the manufacturer and your local reptile outlet. If you are still unsure then you should consult a qualified electrician.

Disclaimer: ScalesAndFins.com is provided as a free pet care resource. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that all the information is up to date and correct, any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk. If in any doubt you should always consult a suitable veterinarian. If you see what you consider a potential error, then please contact us at info@scalesandfins.com.

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