Salmonella from Small Mammals

guinea pig

The Salmonella germ is actually a group of bacteria that can cause diarrheal illness in humans. They are microscopic living creatures that pass from the feces of people or animals, to other people or other animals. Animals can carry this germ and not appear to be ill. Rodents, like reptiles, may spread Salmonella to people.

Choosing a Pocket Pet

When choosing a pocket pet, don’t pick one that is quiet, tired, has diarrhea, or looks sickly. The pet should be lively and alert with a glossy coat free of droppings. The animal’s breathing should be normal. There should be no discharge from the eyes or nose.

If one of the animals in the cage in a pet store has diarrhea or looks sick, the others may have been exposed to an infectious disease. Do not choose any of these animals as your pet. Wash your hands immediately after handling pet store animals or after touching animal cages or bedding.

If your pet dies soon after you buy it, it could have been ill with a disease that could also make people sick. Tell the pet store and do not reuse the cage until it has been cleaned and disinfected.

Tips for Preventing Salmonella from Rodents

  • Washing hands with soap and water after handling rodents or their cages and bedding is the most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of Salmonella transmission.
  • Clean and disinfect rodent habitats and supplies outside your home when possible. If you clean rodent supplies indoors, use a laundry sink or bathtub and be sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect the area immediately after. Never clean rodent habitats or their supplies in the kitchen sink, other food preparation areas, or the bathroom sink.
  • Pet rodents are not recommended for families with children 5 years old or younger, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems because these groups are at greater risk for serious illness.
  • Do not eat food or smoke while handling your pet.
  • Do not handle pets in food preparation areas.
  • Do not kiss your pet or hold it close to your mouth.
General Information on Washing your Hands After Handling Animals
Person washing their hands with soap and water

How to wash your hands

  • Wet hands with running water
  • Place soap into palms
  • Rub hands together to make a lather with the soap
  • Scrub all surfaces of hands vigorously for 20 seconds or longer
  • Rinse soap off of hands with running water
  • Dry hands with a paper towel
  • It is advisable to turn off the faucet using a disposable towel.
  • Young children need assistance in washing hands.

When to wash your hands:

  • After touching any animals, even your own pets.
  • After touching equipment, cages, fences, food bowls that may be contaminated by animals
  • Before eating
  • Before handling or preparing foods
  • After using the restroom
  • Anytime your hands appear visibly dirty