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Using Good Hygiene with Bearded Dragons

Using proper hygiene with bearded dragons is something that beginner, advanced and prospective dragon owners need to know about.

If you are just starting out and don’t have a bearded dragon yet, there will be some things here that you might want to consider before purchasing.

If you are just starting out and don’t have a bearded dragon yet, there will be some things here that you might want to consider before purchasing.

I touched base a little bit on using proper hygiene with bearded dragons on my handling and taming page. Though, there is some information on that page, I really believe that hygiene with bearded dragons deserves a page all its own.

The reason for this is that bacteria that dragons may carry can be passed to people. Some of these bacteria, such as Salmonella, can be fairly nasty.

There are more than 70,000 Salmonella cases annually in the United States that are from direct or indirect exposure to reptiles and amphibians.

Although, bearded dragons seem to present less risk of disease transmission than some other reptiles (Philippe de Vosjoli, The Bearded Dragon Manual , 2001).

This article isn’t here to frighten, but to educate. Anyone owning or thinking about owning a bearded dragon needs to know that this health risk exists. Ignoring it does not make the problem go away.

If you take precautions and practice good hygiene, you should lessen your risk of having anything passed to you. To date I have not encountered any problem with this, but I am well aware of the risks. Especially with a young child at home.

I want to add that there are many organizations that recommend not keeping a reptile in your home, if you have children under the age of five.

This may or may not affect you. I know that it does affect me. Whether you keep a bearded dragon in a home with young children or not will really be your decision.

Why Practice Safe Hygiene?

I think that the question shouldn’t be why, but why not? It is a fairly simple practice and really doesn’t take that much extra time to do. Though, the dividends of using proper hygiene with bearded dragons can be tremendous.

The main reason to use good hygiene with bearded dragons is Salmonella. Need I say more? This is a biggie as far as I’m concerned. This is one nasty little bug. If you have ever experienced some sort of food poisoning, you know what I’m talking about.

The symptoms of Salmonella are not pleasant. They are sort of like a severe case of the stomach flu. You can experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (with bloody mucous), fever, and severe cramping.

There are thousands of different strains of Salmonella. Most people who contract Salmonella will have it clear up within 7-10 days without medical attention.

Salmonella, for most of us, will just produce nasty stomach flu-like symptoms. Though, for young children, pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems, this can be more dangerous.

If you have anyone in your house hold that fits this description, you might want to hold off on owning a bearded dragon. This is definitely something worth considering before purchasing a beardie. I am not saying that you can’t own a bearded dragon, but consider it before buying.

There are also other things that can be passed from animals to people, not from just reptiles. I do not know too much about any others at this time, though.

The term used for a disease that is passed from animal to person is zoonosis. There is a ton of information on zoonosis at anapsid.org on this subject. Be sure to check it out.

Bearded Dragons and Young Children

There are some exceptions to keeping reptiles if you have younger children. Though, the exceptions will have to be a little extra work on your part.

I have a son that is under five years of age and I do worry about Salmonella. I make sure that I disinfect any area in my house that is used for my dragons.

I use a bleach and water solution on just about everything. I keep dragon supplies isolated and out of reach of my toddler. I also have my dragons cages fastened to the wall out of reach.

My wife and I are expeting another child in the summer. I have no problems keeping bearded dragons in my home, but I practice safe hygiene. Well, most of the time I do.

I am by no means against keeping bearded dragons with young children in your home. This is fairly obvious, because of the fact I have a small child and another on the way. I just want you to be aware of potential health risks.

As for myself, I realize there is a risk, but I feel confident that I can keep my house clean and safe. I am very anal about cleaning procedures pertaining to my family’s dragons.

I also realize that most reptile Salmonella exposure cases don’t come from bearded dragons. Though, that doesn’t mean that they can’t.

What is Proper Hygiene?

Well for the most part it is just keeping things clean. This includes everything from your hands, house, dragon’s cage, cage fixtures and other things that are related to your dragon’s husbandry. It really is fairly simple to practice proper hygiene with bearded dragons.

The fist thing I’ll mention is, wash your hands after handling. This means after handling your dragon, cage fixtures, dragon dishes, dragon accessories, crickets, other feeder insects and pretty much anything associated with taking care of your bearded dragon.

This step alone will greatly reduce your risk. Also, if you touch anything after handling and before washing your hands, be sure to disinfect those things as well.

The second thing is to disinfect. If you use any part of your home to clean dragon dishes, cage fixtures or other paraphernalia, you’ll want to disinfect the area after you are done.

I use a strong bleach-water solution for this purpose. I don’t care what bacteria there is. If bleach can’t kill it, I don’t know what can. I just spray it liberally where I have done something, normally the sink, and let it sit a little while before I wipe it up.

The third thing is, keep your dragon’s cage clean. You’ll want to keep wastes scooped out and cage furniture cleaned of fecal matter.

I’ve recently bought a sand scooper by Zoomed and really like it. It works really well with the playsand substrate I use. If you use a sand substrate, it is really worth checking into.

You’ll also want to change out your dragons substrate. This isn’t too hard depending on what substrate you use. It’s also nice to disinfect your dragon’s cage from time to time. There are products on the market that will disinfect your dragon’s cage nicely.

You can also use mild bleach water solution. Just make sure that there aren’t any bleach fumes left in the cage before you put your dragon back in. *Note: It’s important to make sure there is no evidence of bleach before you put your dragon back in their home.

If these steps fail you can always set fire to your home and let the bacteria go up in smoke. I’m just joking on this one of course. I just wanted to break the tension a little.

I know that this can be a serious issue, and it should be taken seriously. I just wanted to lighten it up a little before we move on. Hopefully, I haven’t lost anyone with all this seriousness. Oh, by the way, it really isn’t a good idea to set your house on fire.

Preventative Measures

These are just some things that you can do to aid proper hygiene in reducing the risks of zoonosis. One thing is to keep all bearded dragon paraphernalia isolated to a certain area.

This will help contain anything to a specific place. This helps you to know where to spend your time when disinfecting. Also, it limits the places in your home where the bacteria will be found.

Another preventative measure is don’t allow your bearded dragon free roam around your home. I am guilty of this with my first dragon. I have to add that I didn’t have my son at the time. Actually, if your dragon has free roam of your house or not will be up to you.

If you feel it is not an issue, then feel free to do it. It is a good idea, however, to limit where they can go. When I let our first bearded dragon free roam, it never became a problem. Even though it might not become a problem, just be aware that it could.

One last measure is don’t eat or drink while handling your bearded dragon. This is another very simple thing to do. Though, you might be surprised how many times it is not done.

Most of the things that I have mentiones are pretty much common sense things, and doesn’t take a whole lot to do. Even though these measures are small and are accomplished rather easily, they pay big dividends in safety.

Conclusion

Using proper hygiene with bearded dragons is a tough subject to take on. It tends to be kind of a gloomy one. Even so, it is a responsibility to pass along this information.

I hope that this article didn’t frighten you too much, but maybe just enough to keep you aware.

I also want to add that most cases of Salmonella from reptile exposure come from other reptiles such as iguanas, turtles and snakes.

I have not yet come across a case of Salmonella caused by exposure to a bearded dragon. Though, there is a lot of information I haven’t read yet.

If you practice using proper bearded dragon hygiene, you will greatly reduce your risk of contracting any disease.

If you’ve considered this and still want to get a bearded dragon, than by all means do.

Bearded dragons are still great pets, in my own opinion. If the fear of Salmonella stopped us from doing things, we wouldn’t be able to eat chicken. I have to say that I really like chicken.

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