While it is important to keep your pet Bearded dragon’s environment clean and hygienic, it is equally important to practice good hygienic principles on yourself too.
In its simplest form, hygiene refers to keeping things clean. Apart from this, personal hygiene is also important to help protect ourselves from micro-organisms that can cause various diseases. This article will point out some of the important hygienic principles that Bearded dragon owners should adopt. Also see best Bearded dragon hygiene practices for more information.
Why hygiene is important for Bearded dragon owners
There are a couple of good reasons why it is important to practice good hygiene when it comes to keeping a pet Bearded dragon. They are preventing you from getting diseases from your Bearded dragon and preventing the spread of Bearded dragon diseases.
Preventing humans from getting diseases from Bearded dragons
Some diseases, e.g. salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis, can be transmitted from reptiles to humans. These diseases are called zoonoses. Zoonotic salmonellosis is mostly reported to be from pet turtles, but Bearded dragon owners are also at risk. Campylobacter, which is also a bacteria found in the feces 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) 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.
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.
Good hygiene practices for Bearded dragon owners
In 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 its enclosure, feeder insects, or its 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 its enclosure, its food, or its 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 to Bearded dragons.
- Use safe, but proven disinfectants to wash, wipe or spray your hands.
Many diseases are transmitted through the mucous membranes of your mouth, eyes, and nose. Bringing a Bearded dragon close to your face can also allow micro-organisms to be inhaled while breathing. Some environmental bacteria will also be more than happy to grow on cuts and open wounds, causing serious wound infections. In these cases, it is better to use medical-grade disposable gloves while working with Bearded dragons.
Washing and disinfecting your hands
Washing and disinfecting your hands, including any other in-contact skin areas, after working with Bearded dragons are extremely important for Bearded dragons owners. By not doing so, microorganisms can remain on your skin for long periods and can still infect humans and other Bearded dragons.
Cleaning refers to either removal, wiping, or washing with water/soap after which it is dried. Disinfection refers to the cleaning of live tissues e.g. your hands, and hard surfaces with something that kills micro-organisms. Many disinfectants are in the form of hand soaps, sprays, wipes, and gels. These are popularly used and double up as a cleaning soap too.
There are various disinfectants on the market today. As mentioned earlier, they can be in the form of soaps, sprays, wipes, and gels. Some disinfectant products are sold as ready-to-use (RTU) while others are in a concentrated form that needs controlled dilution before it can be used.
Health & Hygiene’s F10 product range is tested safe and efficient to be used with Bearded dragons, reptiles, and other animals. Various forms of contact sprays, hand soaps, and gels are available from most veterinarians and some good pet shops.
Parents that keep Bearded dragons, or any other pet, should be responsible by teaching their children to wash and disinfect their hands frequently.
Humans that are at risk
It must be said that the chances are relatively small for contracting a disease from Bearded dragons, especially when there are only one or two and when proper hygiene is practiced. Although anyone might still be at risk, some people are more at risk than others. These include children, elderly people, and people that suffer from conditions that suppress their immune systems or where the immune system has not developed (e.g. HIV, cancer, chemotherapy, etc.).