Best Bearded dragon hygiene practices
To keep pet Bearded dragons healthy, it is important to practice good hygiene. Best hygiene practices for Bearded dragons include keeping the environment clean, regular disinfection, supplying fresh food and water and keeping your hands clean.
In its simplest form, hygiene refers to keeping things clean. Dirtiness can be in the form of dust, soil, moisture, organic material and faeces. As with humans, or the keeping any other pet, hygiene is just as important for keeping Bearded dragons.
Why Bearded dragon hygiene is important
There are a couple of good reasons why it is important to practice good hygiene when it comes to keeping pet Bearded dragons. They all boil down to keeping your Bearded dragon healthy and looking after your own health.
Good hygiene reduces the chance for Bearded dragons to get sick. Unhygienic environments has the tendency to serve as a breeding ground for micro-organisms and acts as hiding place for worms and coccidiosis. Bearded dragon diseases that are common in unhygienic environments include ‘mouth rot’, yellow fungus disease, coccidiosis, intestinal worm infections, pneumonia and gastroenteritis.
The most important hygiene principles to prevent diseases are to keep the Bearded dragon environment clean and sterilisation.
Preventing the spread of Bearded dragon diseases
Some contagious diseases can spread from one Bearded dragon to another. This can either happen directly, e.g. when Bearded dragons sit on top of each other, or indirectly. Indirect transmission of diseases can take place through human hands and feeder insects. Common Bearded dragon diseases that can potentially spread indirectly are coccidiosis (through crickets), ‘mouth rot’, yellow fungus disease and salmonellosis. It is suspected that Adenovirus infections in Bearded dragons can also spread indirectly.
The most important hygiene principles to prevent the spread of diseases between Bearded dragons are disinfecting your hands and by discarding uneaten feeder insects (especially crickets). Although not hygiene-related, the spreading of diseases between Bearded dragons can also be prevented by quarantine.
Preventing humans from getting diseases from Bearded dragons
Some disease, e.g. salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis, can be transmitted from reptiles to humans. These diseases are called zoonoses. Zoonotic salmonellosis are mostly reported to be from pet turtles, but Bearded dragon owners are also at risk. Campylobacter, which is also a bacteria found in the faeces of reptiles, has been reported to be a significant cause of gastrointestinal disease in humans. In a study done by Harriet Whiley, Ryan McLean and Kirstin Ross 60% of the captive/pet reptiles (of which some were Bearded dragons) they tested were positive for the organism. There are also studies that say that mycobacteriosis, chlamydophilosis, Aeromonas and Pseudomonas infections may also be of reptile origin.
It is also possible for humans to contract diseases from feeder insects.
The most important hygiene principles to prevent the spread of diseases from Bearded dragons to humans are by washing your hands and by applying a proper disinfectant after each time you handle one. You should also be washing and disinfecting your hands after touching anything inside the Bearded dragon enclosure (e.g. the enclosure furniture) or feeder insects. Also see Bearded dragon owner hygiene for more information.
Bearded dragon hygiene practices
Good Bearded dragon hygiene practices include cleaning and disinfecting of food and water bowls, removing soiled substrates, cleaning and disinfecting enclosure furniture and only supplying fresh food and water.
Daily removal of stool or droppings is very important. Where granular substrates are used, the affected area can be removed, but where non-granular substrates are used (e.g. carpets or butcher paper) the entire substrate sheet needs to be removed. One can use an inverted plastic bag over your hand or disposable medical grade gloves instead of bare hands to prevent direct contact with faeces. Food and water containers should also be cleaned once a day.
It is also recommended to remove, clean, disinfect or even sterilise cleanable enclosure furniture and substrates at least once a week.
Cleaning, disinfecting and sterilisation
Cleaning refers to either removal, wiping or washing with water/soap after which it is dried. Sterilisation refers to the removal of all micro-organisms from objects (as suppose to live tissue), whereas disinfection refers to the cleaning of live tissues e.g. your hands, and hard surfaces.
There are various sterilants and disinfectants on the market and can be in the form of soaps, sprays, wipes and gels. Some products are sold as ready to use (RTU) while others are in a concentrated form that needs controlled dilution before it can be used. Note that not all sterilants and disinfectants are safe to be used with Bearded dragons, reptiles and other animals. Save sterilisation and disinfection (e.g. for enclosure furniture and non-disposable substrates) can also be achieved by using the sun.
Health & Hygiene’s F10 product range is tested safe and efficient to be used with Bearded dragons, reptiles and other animals. Various forms of their contact sprays, hand soaps and gels are available from most veterinarians and some good pet shops.
Bearded dragon owner hygiene practices
As a summary, these are good hygiene principles for Bearded dragon owners:
- Do not touch your face while, or directly after, handling a Bearded dragon, the inside of their enclosure, feeder insects or their substrate.
- Protect any open sores or wounds you might have on your hands before touching or handling a Bearded dragon.
- Wash and disinfect your hands (or in-contact skin) directly after handling a Bearded dragon, the inside of their enclosure, their food or their substrate.
- Do not kiss a Bearded dragon or bring it close to your face.
- Do not eat while handling or even close in close proximity with Bearded dragons.
- Use safe, but proven disinfectants to wash, wipe or spray your hands.
For more information, also see our Bearded dragon owner hygiene article.
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