For any loving owner, it can be tempting to give your bearded dragons a great big kiss!
But is this something you should actually be doing? Or can kissing a bearded dragon cause serious health issues?
In this post, we will take a close look at the potential risks of kissing your bearded dragon and see if it’s really worth kissing your bearded friend or not!
So, can I kiss my bearded dragon? You should never kiss your bearded dragon as you could possibly contract salmonella poisoning. Bearded dragons carry salmonella in their faeces which can easily be present all over their body even if they look clean. Good hygiene practices are required at all times when handling bearded dragons.
Read On to Find Out…
Can I Kiss My Bearded Dragon? (More Info)
It’s great to have a family pet that you love and you can show your affection to.
Part of showing this love and affection often means bonding with fun activities, having a cuddle and even kissing your beardie.
While this might seem harmless on the whole, when you take a deeper look, you could be setting you or another member of your family up for a serious bout of illness.
Bearded dragons along with most other reptiles carry salmonella in their faeces.
This can be easily spread onto various parts of their body without you even knowing (more on how this happens later)
When you then kiss your bearded dragon you are potentially putting yourself at risk of contracting salmonella poisoning.
The risk of contracting the illness is higher in children, the elderly and those with a compromised immune system, however, the risk is there for everybody and it’s something you should take seriously.
Kissing your beardie might seem like a great way to show affection but it’s simply not worth the risk of illness.
How Do Bearded Dragons Actually Carry Salmonella?
Salmonella is a bacteria that you can’t smell. See or taste. The official name for this bacteria is called salmonellosis.
Salmonellosis is known as a zoonotic disease which means that it can pass freely from animals to humans and therefore it’s important to understand how your bearded dragon actually carries it.
Lots of animals (including cats and dogs), reptiles and even humans carry salmonella in their intestinal tract in small traces without showing any signs of illness or being affected by the low levels of salmonella in their system.
Bearded dragons are one of the reptiles that have salmonella in their gastrointestinal tract.
This only becomes an issue when they shed the bacteria in their faeces as the levels of salmonella bacteria can be harmful to others including humans.
How Can Salmonella Be Transferred From My Bearded Dragon to Me?
Lot’s of owners will be pretty sure that as long as they clean their beardies tank regularly and there are no faeces lying around then they should be free to kiss their beardie as much as they want, right?
Well, not exactly, there are many different ways that your beardie can carry salmonella bacteria on their body even if they look clean and you clean up their faeces regularly.
Here are the 3 common ways that bearded dragons can carry salmonella on their body:
- Eating faeces directly
- Running through faeces
- Getting faeces on food and in their water bowl
Let’s now take a closer look at these 3 common reasons…
1. Eating Faeces Directly
As gross as it sounds, many bearded dragons will eat their own faeces. This is perfectly natural and in many cases a survival instinct.
This can mean that your bearded dragon has bacteria from salmonella around their face which can then obviously be a health issue if you kiss them.
The 2 common reasons why bearded dragons eat their own faeces are due to:
- Undigested food in their faeces
- Their diet lacking vitamins & minerals
If your beardie has undigested food in their poop, they will often go hunting around and pick out pieces of crickets and whatever they can find.
It can also be a sign that they are lacking vital nutrients in their diet and beardies will often try and recycle nutrients from their poop to ensure they are getting as much nutrition as possible.
We have actually created a guide that covers in more detail why bearded dragons eat their own poop and what you can do about it…
2. Running Through Faeces
Probably the most common way for a bearded dragon to pass salmonella on to their owners is by running through their poop.
As you can imagine, this is pretty easily done and the majority of beardies won’t try to avoid their poop when exploring their tank.
The likelihood of them having faeces on their feet, tail and body will be directly linked to a number of factors
These factors include:
- How often they poop
- How often the tank is spot cleaned
- How active they are
- How big the tank is
Having a small tank increases the chance that your bearded dragon will step in their own poop.
Here’s a table that shares how big we recommend your beardies tank should be depending on their age:
Bearded Dragon Tank Size Chart
|Baby Bearded Dragon||Juvenile Bearded Dragon||Adult Bearded Dragon|
If the tank isn’t spot-checked regularly then this will also increase the chance of your beardie picking poop up on their feet too.
The bacteria can then easily be transferred from your bearded dragon’s body, feet or tail towards their face indirectly which makes kissing them a potential health concern.
Remember, it only takes a small number of bacteria to cause illness and this often can’t be seen by the naked eye.
3. Getting Faeces On Food And In Water
Something that’s often overlooked is the possibility that your beardie could get poop on their food or in their water bowl.
This can happen in a number of ways and often goes unnoticed.
The ways bearded dragons can get faeces on their food and in their water bowl are:
- Pooping directly on their food
- Walking poop onto their food
- Pooping directly in their water bowl
- Walking poop into their water bowl
If you provide your beardie with fresh greens every day it’s possible that they can either poop or walk poop onto those greens and then begin to eat them.
This will then mean that the bacteria from the salmonella has a chance to be around their face and mouth.
A lot of bearded dragons also like to either walk through or even lay in their water bowl.
The result of this can mean that they will often inadvertently walk poop through their bowl or actually poop in their bowl as they lay in it.
Either way, the water bowl will then be contaminated and as they drink it will increase the chance of them having the bacteria around their mouth and face.
Here’s an article that shares the 4 little known reasons why bearded dragons lay in their water bowl…
The obvious risk to your bearded dragon doing any of the above is that even if you have good housekeeping practices there is still a chance of them salmonella bacteria on their body and face without you knowing.
For this reason, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry and stick to the recommended guidelines and not kiss your dragon.
Do All Bearded Dragons Carry Salmonella?
Without testing every single bearded dragon it would be impossible to tell if all bearded dragons carry salmonella in their faeces at all times.
With this being said, the CDC (Centers For Disease & Control Prevention) have highlighted bearded dragons as high risk for potential carriers of salmonella.
For this reason, it is wise to assume that all bearded dragons are carrying salmonella and to handle them with the appropriate hygiene methods to ensure that you can enjoy the company of your beardie without the risk of becoming sick.
At this point, it’s important to note that many reptiles and animals are highlighted as potential salmonella carriers including cats and dogs.
As long as you stick to good hygiene practices you shouldn’t be scared of general handling or ownership of bearded dragons or other reptiles for that matter.
How Can I Keep Safe & Hygienic When Handling My Bearded Dragon?
Even though your bearded dragon is potentially carrying salmonella, you shouldn’t feel like you can’t handle them.
As mentioned earlier, as long as you are following simple hygienic handling practices then you can still have a fantastic hands-on relationship with your beardie.
Here are hygienic handling guidelines you should stick to when handling your bearded dragon:
- Wash hands immediately after handling
- Don’t eat while handling
- Don’t allow your bearded dragon to walk on your face (if so wash immediately)
- Don’t kiss
- Don’t mess with your face while handling
- Always supervise children
This list might sound like a lot of do’s and don’t, however, they are mainly just good practices that should be part of your routine.
Washing your hands after you have handled your beardie is something you should always do and if something you should always ensure any children that handle your bearded dragon do too.
The same goes for eating while you are handling your dragon. It can be tempting to snack on a cookie or other treats but you could easily be transferring bacteria into your mouth and potentially making yourself sick.
On a side note, we have a great article that shares all you need to know about handling your bearded dragon in simple steps…
Something that’s often overlooked and often hard to even know you are doing if messing with your face while you are handling your beardie.
As humans, we tend to scratch our face or adjust our hair every few seconds but when you are handling reptiles you need to keep this to a minimum as you could be spreading bacteria onto your face and not even realising it.
It goes without saying that children should be supervised at all times when handling beardies and encouraged to wash their hands afterwards as they are the most likely group to become sick from touching their face etc.
The main thing is not to be scared by the fact that bearded dragons potentially carry salmonella as sticking to good handling practices with all but ensure you are safe to enjoy your pet without issues.
To accompany this section, here’s a video that explains the actual risk of contracting salmonella from reptiles and how to use simple steps to stay safe.
Check out the video below…
What Are The Signs Of Salmonella Poisoning?
Usually, people with salmonella poisoning share many of the same symptoms.
These symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps
It can often be hard to tell exactly when the infected originally came from as signs and symptoms can occur anywhere from 6 hours to 6 days after the original infection.
The illness will then usually last anywhere from 4-7 days. With this being said, some people will not show any symptoms for several weeks while others can be ill for several weeks.
Most people will recover from salmonella poisoning without the need for treatment, however, others will need antibiotics etc and some cases can be serious.
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