Salmonella are bacteria that can live in the intestinal tract of many different animals. Salmonella can make both people and animals sick.
Many animals and pets can carry these germs, even if they look clean and healthy. Animals that can spread Salmonella to people include
- Poultry (chicks, chickens, ducklings, ducks, geese, and turkeys)
- Other birds (wild birds)
- Reptiles (turtles, lizards, and snakes)
- Amphibians (frogs and toads)
- Rodents (mice, rats, hamsters, and guinea pigs)
- Other small mammals (hedgehogs)
- Farm animals (goats, calves, cows, sheep, and pigs)
How Salmonella spreads to animals
Animals get Salmonella from their environment, by eating contaminated food, or from their mothers before they are even born or hatched. Most animals do not get sick from Salmonella. Animals can carry Salmonella and still appear healthy and clean. Salmonella naturally lives in their intestines and can be found in their feces (poop). The bacteria in poop can easily contaminate the animals’ body parts (fur, feathers, or scales) and anything in areas where these animals live and roam (like a terrarium or aquarium, chicken coop, pen, or fencing).
Animals that do get sick from Salmonella might have diarrhea. Sick animals may seem more tired than usual and may vomit or have a fever.
Pets and Salmonella
If your pet has symptoms of Salmonella or you are concerned that your pet may have a Salmonella infection, contact your veterinarian. Salmonella infections may require prompt treatment with supportive care and fluids. If your pet is very sick, it may need to be hospitalized in a veterinary clinic. Your veterinarian is the best source of advice on your pet’s health.
Because pet food and treats can be contaminated with Salmonella, tell your veterinarian if your pet recently ate a product that has been recalled. Do not feed your pet any more of the recalled product. Throw the product away immediately.
How Salmonella spreads from animals to people
People infected with Salmonella might have diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. Some people—especially children younger than 5 years old, adults 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems—may experience more severe illness that requires medical treatment or hospitalization.
People can get sick with Salmonella if they do not wash their hands after contact with animals carrying Salmonella or items in their environment, such as their bedding, food, or tank water. Additionally, reptiles and amphibians that live in tanks or aquariums can contaminate the water with Salmonella, which can make people sick even if they don’t touch the animal. Some pet products, like pet foods and treats, can be contaminated with Salmonella and other germs. Pet food and treats that could be contaminated include dry dog or cat food, raw pet food, dog biscuits, pig ears, beef hooves, and rodents used to feed reptiles (including frozen feeder rodents).
People most at risk for serious illness
Anyone can get sick from Salmonella, but some people are more likely than others to get severely sick. This includes:
- Children younger than 5 years old
- Adults 65 and older
- People with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV, organ transplant patients, and people receiving chemotherapy
Some animals are more likely to spread Salmonella to people, including poultry, reptiles, amphibians, and rodents. These animals are not recommended as pets for people at higher risk of severe illness from Salmonella.
The best way to prevent getting Salmonella from animals is to always wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and running water immediately after touching animals, their food or treats, items in their environments, and their poop.
Children under 5 years old should not handle animals that are likely to spread Salmonella (like reptiles, amphibians, rodents, and poultry). They should also not touch items in these animals’ habitats or the water from containers or aquariums.
Never eat or drink around these animals, or in areas where they live and roam. Keep animals away from areas where food and drinks are prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens or outdoor patios.
Wash Your Hands
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling animals and anything where they live and roam. This includes
- After feeding your pet or handing pet food or treats
- After handling pet habitats or supplies (like cages, tanks, toys, and food and water dishes)
- Adults should always supervise handwashing for young children.
Clean and Disinfect Properly
- Use soap or a disinfectant to thoroughly clean items and surfaces that have come in contact with high-risk animals.
- Do not let children under 5 years old clean surfaces that have come in contact with poultry, reptiles, amphibians, or rodents. Supervise older children in cleaning and disinfecting.
- Clean your pet’s cage, terrarium, or aquarium and its contents (such as food and water bowls) outdoors, if possible. If you must clean your pet’s habitat indoors, use a bathtub or large sink and clean and disinfect it after.
- Once you finish cleaning, throw out the dirty wash water in a toilet or in a sink that is not used for food preparation or for drinking water.
- CDC Salmonella Website
- Healthy Pets, Healthy People: Backyard Poultry
- Healthy Pets, Healthy People: Reptiles & Amphibians
- Healthy Pets, Healthy People: Small Mammals
- US Outbreaks of Zoonotic Diseases Spread Between Animals and People
- Reptiles and Amphibians
- Backyard Poultry
- Rodents and Small Mammals
- Pet Food Safety [PDF – 2 pages] (Poster)
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