Do Tortoises Carry Salmonella? [Prevention Tips]

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

I have met people with misconceptions about Salmonella in tortoises. For example, some pet enthusiasts avoid taking in a tortoise, thinking the reptile has Salmonella. But do all tortoises carry this bacteria? If yes, what is the solution?

Some tortoises carry Salmonella in their saliva, feces, skin, shell, and scales. It is a commensal bacteria and does not harm the host. However, Salmonella can be transferred to the keepers from the tortoise. Nausea, stomach ache, headache, etc., are the common signs of this disease.

Can you cure Salmonella in tortoises? How do you prevent this disease? Get more details below.

Salmonella In Tortoises: A Brief Intro

Apparently, Salmonella is a commensal bacterium in tortoises and other reptiles. This type of bacteria can benefit the host by supplying essential nutrients. Even if these organisms fail to add value to the host, they do not harm.

Salmonella can be found in the tortoise’s normal microflora components. As these micro-organisms are harmless, the reptile system feels no necessity to eliminate them. So, over the years, the tortoises build a resistance to the Salmonella bacterium.

You can find Salmonella trails in the tortoise’s skin, scute, shell, scales, intestine, and poop.

Can Tortoises Swim

Does Your Tortoise Carry Salmonella?

Of course, not all tortoises carry Salmonella. But you can not say that for sure.

See, Salmonella bacteria grow their population intermittently. So, you can not declare a tortoise Salomonella-free with a single negative report. The experts are yet to understand the optimal testing protocol for detecting this bacteria with 100% certainty.

Thus, it is assumed that all tortoises carry Salmonella bacteria trails.

Is Salmonella Dangerous For Tortoises?

As mentioned, Salmonella is a commensal bacteria and imposes not harm the host reptiles. So, your tortoise will do okay even if it is carrying Salmonella.

However, even if you want, you can not eliminate the bacteria from your tortoise’s system. The commensal bacteria evolved to survive in their host body. Thus, when you apply an antibacterial to the tortoise’s system to kill Salmonella, it backfires.

For example, the antibacterial dose can proliferate Salmonella or kill other good bacteria. Sometimes the meds do not reach the target as this organism lives inside the cells.


Well, obviously, there is no way of getting rid of Salmonella from tortoises. The reptiles will naturally build resistance against this organism to protect themselves.

How Do Tortoises Carry Salmonella?

Salmonella bacteria can grow its population both inside and outside the tortoise’s system. It means the shell and skin of the reptiles are the possible hiding locations of this bacteria.

Experts suggest that the folds and wrinkles of the tortoise body trap most moisture and heat. Salmonella organisms thrive in such conditions. No wonder why the scale bases carry most of the bacterial colonies.

Again, Salmonella bacteria also multiply their population in the tortoise’s digestive system. As a consequence, the excrement of the creatures can carry the organisms.

Moreover, Salmonella can spread to the enclosure beddings and corners too. If you do not take any steps, the whole pen will become the breeding ground of this bacteria.

Finally, there is a possibility that tortoise nail beds also carry Salmonella. The bacteria transfer from the poop or substrate when the pet digs its claws in the dirt. So, the organism will shove deeper into the nail bed if the tortoise burrows into the infested ground.

Is Salmonella Dangerous For Humans?

Unfortunately, Salmonella is highly contentious. So, the bacteria can spread to humans and other animals from the sick tortoises. But is Salmonella dangerous for us?

No! Yes, you will suffer for a few days, but nothing serious. However, there can be complications in pregnant women and babies due to Salmonella.

Symptoms of this disease are,

  • Stomach ache
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Dizzyness
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Bloody stools
  • Physical discomfort

If you find these signs in you or your family members, consult a doctor soon. With medications, you will recover within a week.

How To Prevent Salmonella In Tortoise

By now, you know that it is not possible to eliminate Salmonella from pets. So, you better take steps to prevent the spreading of this bacteria. Such as,

  1. In some states, buying turtles and tortoises smaller than 4 inches is prohibited. These babies are more likely to carry and spread Salmonella. So, recheck with the state law before you welcome the tortoise.
  2. Make a separate zone in the house dedicated to the tortoises. Educate your family members about the health risks associated with pets.
  3. If you have a pregnant lady or baby at home, make sure the tortoise does not come closer to them.
  4. Never allow the tortoise in the kitchen or food storage areas,
  5. Washing hands before and after handling the tortoises is always recommended. This way, the pets stay safe from the outside bacteria, and you can protect your family from Salmonella.
  6. Install sinks or washing facilities right beside the tortoise enclosure. Or sanitize your hands with antibacterial wipes instantly and wash with soaps later. Do not use antibacterial sprays near the pet, as they can cause respiratory damage.
  7. Wearing gloves is an excellent way to avoid Salmonella disease. So, put on nitrile or latex gloves when handling or soaking the tortoise.
  8. Salmonella bacteria can take shelter in the substrates. Therefore, maintaining enclosure hygiene is mandatory. Remove any dirt from the bedding immediately and change the substrate once every month.
  9. You can get infected with Salmonella if the tortoise bites you. This is why keepers are suggested not to put their hands in front of the pet’s mouth.
  10. Finally, keep the tortoises away from other pets. Otherwise, the cats or dogs can get the disease from the ill tortoises.

N.B. Remember, Salmonella can enter your body via the nose, mouth, or minor cuts. Be very careful when handling the tortoise and maintain the minimum hygiene to prevent this disease.

Before You Go…

Turtles can also carry Salmonella bacteria. Yes, the keepers may get infected with this organism if they are not careful. Find out how to get rid of this bacteria from the link below.

How To Get Rid Of Salmonella In Turtles?

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


This site is owned and operated by Muntaseer Rahman. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.