Recent Posts

Photo of lounging iguana

We’ve already talked about how reptile and amphibian pets can pass salmonella to their handlers, yet this disease can be avoided with proper hygiene. But what about other diseases? Is it possible for you and your exotic pet to share colds or other viruses? Here’s the lowdown on what kinds of diseases can be passed from your herp to you.

All animals carry germs

It’s true that your snake, lizard, or other exotic pet carries a variety of bacteria on and in their bodies. Many of those, just like many of the bacteria you carry, are not harmful to your pet or you. However, a few notable exceptions can make you ill.


Botulism is caused by a toxin that the clostridium bacterium releases. Your reptile may carry the bacteria without any harm to itself. But humans can become infected and seriously ill. In fact, botulism can cause paralysis and death. Before you start to panic, know that most people have immunity built up against the toxin. Those with the highest risk are infants who have not yet built up immunity and those with weakened immune systems.


This bacterial infection is carried by many animals, including reptiles. It is spread through contact with urine. Although not usually life-threatening, leptospirosis can make you feel miserable with flu-like symptoms and a long-lasting headache.


Campylobacteriosis is actually a common bacterial infection picked up by people from pets or contaminated food. Symptoms include cramps, diarrhea, and fever. It’s unpleasant but not usually serious as long as you stay hydrated.

The good news is that all of these bacterial infections can be prevented in the same way you would prevent salmonella. Use proper hygiene by washing your hands with soap after handling your reptiles. Avoid direct contact with their feces and urine. And don’t wash their cages or equipment in areas where you eat, drink, or prepare food.

Parasites and viruses

Parasites and viruses are another possible cause of illness. That being said, many parasites your reptiles are exposed to are species-specific and will not infect you, such as coccidia. Coccidia is a parasite that reptiles can be exposed to through contaminated feeder insects. If your reptile’s intestines contain too many coccidia, they can develop smelly diarrhea that can lead to dehydration. However, it is unlikely for coccidia to cause health issues for you.

Reptiles can also pick up a form of the cold virus. You may notice your herp coughing or having a runny nose, just like you when you have a cold. Although the symptoms are similar, they are actually suffering from a different virus from the one that causes colds in people. You don’t have to worry about your pet giving you a cold, or vice versa.

Keep you and your pet healthy by regularly cleaning their living environment and practicing good hygiene. This dramatically reduces the chance of bacteria, parasites, or viruses thriving in your home. Come by and chat with our team at The Tye-Dyed Iguana for more tips on healthy herps and safe cleaning solutions.