A Scottish health department has had to issue a warning to owners to avoid kissing bearded dragons, as most reptiles carry salmonella in their gut without showing any signs of infection. These bacteria are then shed in droppings, which can quickly spread over the skin of pet lizards and other reptiles. As a result, any surface or object that the animal comes into contact with can be contaminated, such as toys, clothes, furniture, and household surfaces.
The health agency, NHS Forth Valley, reported that 4 people have been brought into hospital in the last 8 months suffering from the illness after kissing bearded dragons and other reptiles. Four people! Really!
It turns out that children are particularly at risk because they like to stroke and handle pets. Salmonellosis can be acquired from a variety of lizards, including these bearded dragons, snakes, turtles and iguanas. Appropriate hand hygiene is necessary to minimize this risk and directly kissing the animal would not be considered an appropriate behavior. Who knew?!?
Bearded dragons are native to Central Australia, but have become increasingly popular pets in the cold climes of Scotland. Taking their name from their spiny throat projections, which resemble a beard, they are said to be great pets for older children, and can live for 10 years.