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Lake Area Veterinary Clinic

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Turtles can be a very fun pet for both adults and youngsters.  Many of us have spent our youth looking for them among ponds and wetlands.  While most of us that partook in that activity never got sick there are some precautions that need to be taken when having a turtle as a pet or handling turtles.  Turtles can be carriers of salmonella. 


Salmonella is a gram negative bacteria that can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms in humans.  The most common of these symptoms are fever, perfuse diarrhea, cramping, and dehydration.  Salmonellosis is serious and can be a fatal illness if not treated.  If you think you may have salmonellosis call your physician immediately!


In 1975 the FDA banned the sale and distribution of turtles with shells under 4 inches in length. It was thought that turtles smaller than 4 inches might be more likely to be kept as pets by children and be small enough that a child could place it in his or her mouth.


So what precautions should you take if you have a turtle?

  • Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly after handling a turtle
  • Never kiss a turtle or place it in your mouth
  • Do not place your turtle on your counter or any surface that might be used to prepare food
  • Clean any surface you placed your turtle on with a disinfectant or bleach water solution
  • Keep your turtle’s cage clean,  remove feces and bedding on a regular basis
  • Do not let anyone with a compromised immune system handle your turtle
  • Do not give a turtle to a new born baby to handle
  • If you have handled a turtle and have severe diarrhea and cramping 12 to 72 hours afterwards call your physician!

CDC Turtles and Salmonella Link

CDC Salmonellosis Link

Lake Area Veterinary Clinic
601 10th St SW
 Watertown, SD  57201
fax (605)886-3142

Monday - Friday 8:00-5:30
Saturday 8:00-Noon

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