A Note on Salmonella Contamination

A note on Salmonella contamination: pet water turtles often get a bad rap when uninformed people see headlines like ’Salmonella outbreak traced to pet water turtle.’ Then the panic, speculation and incorrect information starts flying and concerned parents make their kids get rid of their pet turtles.  If the turtle is lucky he’ll land in a rescue and be cared for until a proper home can be found. If not, often times he’ll be dumped into the nearest body of water to fend for himself.

But why the panic? The Salmonilla bacteria thrives in the human system but the human system doesn’t thrive with it. Diahrea, vomiting, and in severe cases death occurs. Salmonella bacteria occurs naturally in the guts of more than turtles and other reptiles. You’ll find it in your dogs system as well. So why don’t we get sick from our dogs? Easy, we don’t touch our dog’s poop and put our hands in our mouth. Yuk, who would do that? When you handle a water turtle that is essentially what is happening. Water turtles live in water, not only do they live there they eat, sleep and poop in the same place. The Salmonella bacteria is released in their poop, the poop infects the entire water container with the bacteria and unknowing child or adult picks up turtle, says hi, and puts him back. Wipes his/her hands on their shirt then goes on their way. Later he/she wipes their mouth with the same shirt or just puts fingers in mouth and contamination occurs.

Water turtles can be a safe, fun pet for adults and children if proper care and precautions are taken:

  • Invest in an appropriate water filtration and adequate habitat for the turtle (outdoor ponds are best). A filter will NOT eliminate the risk of contamination but will reduce concentration levels.
  • Supervise young or irresponsible kids while handling the turtle and immediately wash hands with soap and water after handling.

According to the CDC, there has never been a recorded Salmonilla contamination from a tortoise.