Salmonella Outbreaks Linked to Pet Bearded Dragons

Illustration with a microscope and text reading Investigation Notice

Updated October 18, 2022

Almost half of the sick people are less than 1 year old. Learn how you can keep your child and yourself healthy around your pet bearded dragon.

Fast Facts
  • Illnesses: 23
  • Hospitalizations: 8
  • Deaths: 0
  • States: 15
  • Investigation status: Active
Person holding a pet bearded dragon.
Bearded Dragons and Salmonella

Bearded dragons can carry Salmonella germs in their droppings even if they look healthy and clean. These germs can easily spread to their bodies and anything in the area where they live and roam.

You can get sick from touching your bearded dragon or anything in its environment and then touching your mouth or food and swallowing Salmonella germs.

What You Should Do

Always take these steps to stay healthy around your pet bearded dragon:

  • Wash your hands
    • Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching or feeding your bearded dragon and after touching or cleaning the area where it lives and roams.
    • Always wash your hands right after handling your bearded dragon and especially before holding or feeding a baby or a young child.
    • Make sure children younger than 5 years old avoid contact with your bearded dragon and older children wash their hands after touching or feeding a bearded dragon.
  • Play safely
    • Don’t kiss or snuggle your bearded dragon, and don’t eat or drink around it. This can spread Salmonella germs to your mouth and make you sick.
    • Have a dedicated enclosure for your bearded dragon. Don’t allow bearded dragons to roam in the same spaces where your baby or young children crawl and play.
    • Keep your bearded dragon out of your kitchen and other areas where you eat, store, or prepare food.
  • Keep things clean
    • Clean your bearded dragon supplies outside the house, if possible. These supplies may include its feeders, toys, and food and water containers.
    • If you must clean the supplies indoors, don’t clean them in the kitchen or other areas where you eat or prepare food. Use a laundry sink or bathtub, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area right after.

If you are thinking of getting a pet bearded dragon:

  • Pick the right pet for your family
    • Bearded dragons and other reptiles are not recommended for children younger than 5, adults aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems. These people are more likely to get a serious illness from germs that reptiles can carry.

Call your healthcare provider right away if you or your child has any of these severe symptoms:

  • Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F
  • Diarrhea for more than 3 days that is not improving
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • So much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down
  • Signs of dehydration, such as:
    • Not peeing much
    • Dry mouth and throat
    • Feeling dizzy when standing up
What Businesses Should Do
  • Educate customers about how to stay healthy around bearded dragons.
    • This poster provides information on how to stay healthy around pet reptiles, including bearded dragons.
    • Consider putting the poster right by the bearded dragon area and giving a copy to customers who are buying a bearded dragon.
    • This graphic can be used as a sticker and illustrates handwashing when handling pet reptiles, including bearded dragons.
  • Learn more about how to protect your customers and employees from Salmonella infection and other diseases shared between animals and humans.
Symptoms of Salmonella
  • Most people infected with Salmonella experience diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps.
    • Symptoms usually start 6 hours to 6 days after swallowing the bacteria.
    • Most people recover without treatment after 4 to 7 days.
  • Some people—especially children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years and older, and people with weakened immune systems—may experience more severe illnesses that require medical treatment or hospitalization.
  • For more information about Salmonella, see the Salmonella Questions and Answers page.