Do Crested Geckos Have Salmonella and How to Be Safe?

Animals can be the carrier of diseases that we humans can get by interacting or eating them. While you won’t eat your pet you do have to interact in many ways with them. You’ll handle your pets and clean their enclosures for example. Reptiles are one of the carriers of the Salmonella bacteria but does your pet crested gecko carry it?

Do crested geckos have salmonella? Crested geckos can be the carrier of the Salmonella bacteria without signs that they’re sick. You should always take the right precautions to prevent transmission of the bacteria to you, your children or people with weakened immune systems.

While crested geckos can be a carrier of Salmonella this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get a crested gecko. You should just be careful when you handle a crestie and when you clean their terrarium. But when you read the rest of this article you will know what is risky behavior and how you can avoid getting an infection.

In this article, you’ll learn what salmonella is, if all crested geckos are a carrier of salmonella, and how the bacteria can be transmitted to humans. I’ll also provide you some safety tips to prevent the transmission of the bacteria and some useful links if you want to know more about the infection in general.

What Is Salmonella?

Salmonella is a group of bacteria that live in the intestinal tract of animals. These bacteria cause a bacterial disease called Salmonellosis. You or someone you know might have got Salmonella from contaminated food and such an infection is often called a food poisoning in daily life. What is less known is that a Salmonella infection can also be caused by contact with animals.

Crested Geckos and Salmonella

Pets are one of the sources of Salmonella infections in humans and pet reptiles are no exception to this. In fact, research suggested that exposure to reptiles and amphibians is associated with 74.000 Salmonella infections each year in the USA.

So, let’s learn a bit more about the relationship between crested geckos and Salmonella. Luckily for us, there’s a little bit of research that’s being done on the Salmonella bacteria in reptiles and more specific in crested geckos.

Do all crested geckos have Salmonella?

An estimated 90% of all captive reptiles are the carrier of Salmonella bacteria and some of them are “reptile-associated”. There have been some studies about the Salmonella bacteria in reptiles, including in crested geckos as they’re popular pets.

A study in 2016 in Southern Italy found that 22 out of 36 studied crested geckos had a species of the Salmonella bacteria. These crested geckos tested positive for the following Salmonella species:

  • Muenchen (10 out of 22)
  • Hadar (4 out of 22)
  • Oranienburg (4 out of 22)
  • Eastbourne (2 out of 22)
  • S. enterica (2 out of 22)

Another study being conducted from 2000 to 2002 in Japan also found high rates of Salmonella infections in reptiles. Although the testing group of crested geckos was only 3 in this study, all of them tested positive for Salmonella.

There was even an investigation from the CDC in the United States in 2015 when there was an outbreak of Salmonella (Muenchen) infections linked to pet crested geckos.

While not all crested geckos carry the Salmonella bacteria there seems to be a high number of crested geckos in captivity that do. But it’s definitely not true that all crested geckos carry Salmonella. You shouldn’t be afraid of getting a crested gecko and you should not get rid of your crestie as their great pets. You just have to always be hygienic when caring for crested geckos.

How do crested geckos get Salmonella?

Crested geckos can get the Salmonella bacteria the same way we do:

  • through their environment (for example, contaminated soil)
  • by eating contaminated food
  • by drinking contaminated water

But reptiles, including crested geckos, are also thought to be the carrier of certain Salmonella species that are naturally found in the gut microflora (the intestinal tract) of reptiles.

Symptoms of Salmonellosis in crested geckos

One of the most important things to remember is that most crested geckos will carry the Salmonella bacteria without being sick. They usually don’t show any signs that they’re unhealthy but when they do it’s usually being caused by another underlying disease or even stress.

Diagnosis and treatment of Salmonellosis in crested geckos

Crested geckos will rarely get sick from the Salmonella bacteria. When they show any signs of sickness you should seek the help of a vet that can treat your crestie and give it antibiotics when needed.

Vets will usually discourage treatment when there are no signs of sickness. Using antibiotics can cause resistant Salmonella strains which is not a good thing.

Salmonella Infection of Humans

How do people get salmonella?

You can get an infection with the salmonella bacteria when:

  • handling your crested gecko
  • coming in contact with the food, water, substrate in the terrarium
  • cleaning the terrarium

So you can get infected with the salmonella bacteria when you come in contact with your crested gecko or when you come in contact with objects that were in contact with your crestie. You don’t have to handle your crested gecko to get infected as an indirect infection is also possible.

Who is at risk of getting Salmonella?

Although anyone can get Salmonella and can get sick from it, there are some groups that are more susceptible to getting Salmonellosis. These groups of people have

The following groups have a higher risk of developing salmonellosis:

  • infants
  • children of 5 years or younger
  • adults of 65 years or older
  • people with a weak immune system (HIV/AIDS, cancer patients,…)

What are the symptoms of Salmonellosis?

People infected with Salmonella might have diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. Infants, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems are more likely than others to develop a severe illness which can even lead to death in the rarest cases. Pregnant women should also avoid contact with crested geckos.

Diagnosis and treatment of Salmonellosis in humans

When you get a Salmonella infection the symptoms will usually show within 1 to 3 days and the infection usually lasts between 5 and 7 days. A lab test can determine if a person suffers from Salmonellosis but usually, there’s little to no need for extensive treatment. When you suffer from a Salmonella infection you have to drink plenty of fluids.

In severe cases, when you get severe diarrhea and when the infection spreads to the rest of the body you’ll need to seek help from a doctor and possibly get to the hospital to get rehydrated. In such cases, you’ll need antibiotics to fight the infection.

Safety Tips When Handling Crested Geckos

General safety tips

To prevent getting sick from handling your crested gecko you should always follow these guidelines from the CDC:

  • wash your hands: always wash your hands after you handled your crested gecko or got in contact with the inside of the terrarium. You should always do this, especially when bitten by a crested gecko.
  • don’t house your crested gecko near the kitchen: the bacteria can be easily transferred onto food so don’t house your gecko in a room where food is prepared, served, or consumed.
  • don’t clean the terrarium in your bathtub or shower: cleaning the terrarium shouldn’t be done in the bathroom but preferably outside or in a garage to prevent contamination of your tub and shower with the bacteria.
  • never kiss or touch noses with your crested gecko: although you sometimes might be tempted to do so, you should never kiss or touch noses with your crestie. This only increases the risk of transmission of bacteria.

You should also be wary that indirect contact can also lead to the transmission of Salmonella. The terrarium and objects in it can contain the bacteria. Salmonella infections are highly contagious and can stay alive on surfaces for several hours (some species even several days).

Safety tips for vulnerable groups

Vulnerable groups (such as mentioned above) should always avoid direct and indirect contact with crested geckos. So, you shouldn’t house crested geckos in the vicinity of vulnerable people. Childcare or senior centers are not an appropriate home for crested geckos!

In Need of Medical Information?

Since I’m not a medical professional I highly encourage you to read more about Salmonella on the following reputable sources:

Want to Learn More?

If you want to learn more about crested geckos as pets, please read the following articles.

If you’re interested in getting crested geckos as pets you should also definitely read our article about baby and juvenile crested gecko care or (adult) crested gecko care.

Kevin N.

Kevin is the owner of My Crested Gecko. He wrote this blog for many years and has been a geckos enthusiast his entire life, but only became an official "geckophile" five years ago when he acquired one as a pet! Kevin knows how to care for hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, and degus in addition to crested geckos which are more than happy with him every day!

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