Reptiles: Handle with care

November 14, 2012 - 12:49pm

As reptiles grow more popular as pets, there are some things you should know about proper handling.

A small amount of salmonella bacteria is harbored in the intestines of nearly all animals. Your pet reptiles and amphibians can become carriers. Although rare, salmonellosis is currently the only known disease that reptiles can transmit to humans. Reptiles carrying the salmonella bacteria may display the following observable symptoms: greenish feces with green or yellow-stained wet uric acid, loss of appetite, enteritis (inflammation of the intestines) and pneumonia. As a precaution, reptile owners should always wash their hands after handling their pets. Other precautions reptile owners can take include providing a sanitary/disinfected housing unit for their pets, giving only fresh foods and uncontaminated water, and avoiding skin contact with their pet’s fecal matter. Wearing a pair of rubber gloves (used only for this purpose) to clean a pet reptile’s cage is recommended.

Socializing snakes: Although it’s always safe to hold a snake firmly behind its head, it’s not the best way to socialize/tame a pet snake. Wear gloves to tame an un-socialized snake. Using both hands, firmly but gently lift the snake from its housing unit. Once you’re comfortable holding your pet, loosen your grip, allowing the snake to move freely, perhaps coil on your arm. If your pet tries to slither away, simply support the body with one hand and lead him back towards you with the other. Do this routinely. It may take several sessions before the snake socializes and becomes more gentle, reducing your need to wear gloves. Do not try to handle a snake that has eaten recently. Regurgitation may result.

Lounging with lizards: Lizards should never be picked up by their tails, as this appendage can break off. Small lizards generally tame quite quickly, larger require patience. Before handling, clip the toenails of your lizard to prevent scratching. Your Petland pet counselor can advise you on nail trimming and filing. Wear gloves to begin socializing and keep a firm grip behind the pet lizard’s head. Do this until biting is no longer a concern. Once the lizard is tame to your touch, allow the pet to rest in the palm of your hand, lay on your arm or against your torso. Your cold-blooded pet will appreciate your warmth. Always be alert when handling your lizard, ready to rescue your pet should it start to jump or fall.

Taming turtles: Most pet turtles and tortoises are harmless, making handling easy. Some aquatic turtles can nip. It is advisable to pick up all turtles from the rear of the shell. With repeated socialization, even the most introverted pets will become tame, enjoying human attention. Never pick up turtles by their tails.

Cold-blooded kin: Most amphibians have a protective slime coating on their skin, which can be damaged or removed by repeated handling. And some secrete poisons through their skin. Frogs, salamanders and other amphibians are delicate creatures and should be handled as little as possible.

Join the Discussion

paNOW is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules: Keep it clean, keep it civil, keep it truthful, stay on topic, be responsible, share your knowledge, and please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. See full commenting rules.