Filed Under: Pet Nutrition Small Animals

I’m always looking for topics for these columns that will both inform and entertain our readers.  So when a question comes in, the old juices get flowing and I attack the task like a dog on a bone.

My last column was about Hedgehogs.  I tried to, in 500 words, give you as full a picture of the pet as I could.  And at the end, included the advice I always give about taking on any pet, do your research.

It was brought to our attention by a concerned reader that there was an outbreak of salmonella in the states that was linked to hedgies.  Part of the research you do in deciding on a pet is what possible concerns they may pose, and salmonella is one of those remote risk factors you take into account with any pet.  It’s not like everyone that touches a hedgehog will get salmonella.  But if proper basic hygiene is not followed, there is a risk.  People with immune system issues are especially vulnerable, but they are also usually the most prepared for the risks, and conscious of the concern. 

Salmonella is a risk in our daily lives.  It is everywhere.  The outbreak linked to hedgehogs in the US happened last year, and included about 36 instances, one of which was fatal.  But in the same time span, cantaloupes caused 360 infections, 3 of them fatal.  Are cantaloupes more lethal than hedgehogs?  

People with immune system deficiencies are well versed in the risks around them.  They know how to protect themselves, their lives depend on it.  Children are also vulnerable, as their immune systems aren’t as strong as an adult, so parents need to protect them.  The rest of us tend to be more nonchalant about the simple do‘s and don’ts in regards to bacteria in our modern world. 

It all comes down to proper hygiene.  I had mentioned to get as large a cage as possible.  One of the reasons not mentioned is that hedgies poop different than other pocket pets, they have waste similar to cats.  So, when they run around the cage, it can smear and get into their feet and quills.  The larger the cage, the less likely they track in it.

But more importantly, washing hands can cure all these concerns.  Lizards, turtles, hamsters, or pretty much any caged pet can carry bacteria, and you should be washing your hands, or sanitizing at a minimum after handling. This also goes for cat and dog kibble, treats, or waste.  After handling anything of the sort, wash your hands well. 

It’s a big thing with raw pet foods as well.  Many veterinarians are concerned with the potential risk of salmonella and raw meats being fed to pets.  Not the risk to the pet, but to the owner.  Odd thing is, everyone knows the risks handling raw foods, so they wash their hands and dishes after using raw.  But they don’t with kibbles, which require the same handling procedures.  But people think kibble is safe, because it is cooked, and don’t give it the respect it requires, and get infected.

Just being aware is half the battle.  Knowledge of the risk is the most important tool in preventing anything. 

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