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Salmonella, Feeder Rodents, and Pet Reptiles and Amphibians – Tips You Should Know to Prevent Infection

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You may be one of the many Americans who own a pet reptile or amphibian. Reptiles—corn snakes, iguanas, and red-eared sliders, and amphibians, frogs and toads, to name a few—are unique creatures and can make for interesting pets. But pet reptiles and amphibians carry some risks to their owners, such as the potential for Salmonella infection. Both the reptiles and amphibians themselves, as well as the feeder rodents fed to some reptiles or amphibians can be sources of Salmonella infection for people.

What are feeder rodents?
Feeder rodents are mice and rats—both frozen and live—used to feed some reptiles, such as certain snakes and lizards, as well as some amphibians such as “pacman” frogs.

What are Salmonella and salmonellosis?
Salmonellosis is an infection with bacteria called Salmonella. People get salmonellosis by ingesting Salmonella germs.

These germs can be found in the feces of many different animals such as reptiles, amphibians, rodents, live poultry and others or in the areas where these animals live and roam. These germs can also be found in water in tanks or aquaria where certain animals like turtles or water frogs live.

What are the symptoms of salmonellosis in people?
Persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4-7 days, and most persons recover without treatment. However the illness can be serious, even fatal, illness in some people. Children under 5 years of age, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for salmonellosis and may develop more severe illness.

What should I do if I develop symptoms of salmonellosis?
If you develop any symptoms of salmonellosis, call your health care provider. Be sure to tell your health care provider if you have had recent contact with reptiles, amphibians, or feeder rodents.

How do feeder rodents and reptiles get Salmonella?
Rodents and reptiles can naturally carry Salmonella in their intestines and show no signs of illness. The animals shed the bacteria in their feces or droppings. These, in turn, contaminate the environment with Salmonella, including the outside of the animals’ bodies and their habitats.

How do I become infected with Salmonella from feeder rodents or reptiles?
Feeder rodents, reptiles, and amphibians might have Salmonella germs on their bodies even when they appear healthy and clean. The germs can also get on cages, aquariums, terrariums, the water reptiles and amphibians live or swim in, and other containers that house them. Anything that reptiles and amphibians touch should be considered possibly contaminated with Salmonella. The germs can get on hands or clothing when handling the animal or habitat. It is important to wash hands immediately after touching these animals, or anything in the area where they live and roam, including water from containers or aquariums, because the germs picked up from touching the animal or habitat can be spread to other people or surfaces.

Contaminated surfaces may include countertops, microwave ovens, refrigerators and freezers, kitchen utensils, and glasses and bowls used to store, thaw, and prepare frozen feeder rodents. Reptile and rodent habitats, including their cages or enclosures, bedding, basking rocks, food and water dishes, and other objects in their cages or enclosures may also be contaminated with Salmonella.

Freezing does not kill Salmonella, so both frozen and live feeder rodents can be contaminated. Some companies may irradiate packages of frozen feeder rodents to lower the risk of Salmonella contamination. The labels on these packages will include the statement “treated with radiation” or “treated by irradiation” along with the international symbol for irradiation, the Radura.

Is salmonellosis the only disease I can get from rodents?
No, you can get other diseases from rodents besides salmonellosis. Worldwide, rats and mice spread over 35 diseases to people. Rodents spread some diseases directly to people, through handling, bites, or contact with their feces, urine, or saliva. Rodents spread other diseases indirectly to people, through ticks, mites, or fleas that have fed on an infected rodent and then bite a person. Be aware that feeder rodents, wild rodents, and pet rodents can all spread (transmit) diseases—directly or indirectly—to people.

Tips to Reduce the Risk of Salmonella Infection from Handling Frozen and Live Feeder Rodents – The Do’s and Don’ts

DO thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) immediately after handling feeder rodents or anything in the area where they are stored, thawed, prepared, and fed to reptiles.
DO thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces that come in contact with feeder rodents. A bleach solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 quart (4 cups) water is an effective disinfectant. For a larger supply of solution, add ¼ cup bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) water.
DO keep feeder rodents out of areas where food and drinks for people are stored, prepared, served, or eaten.
DON’T thaw frozen feeder rodents in a microwave oven used for human food.
DON’T prepare feeder rodents or feed them to your pet reptile with kitchen utensils that you use to prepare human food. DO designate separate kitchen utensils used solely for these purposes and clean and disinfect them after each use.
DON’T let children (especially those younger than 5 years), the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems handle or touch feeder rodents, reptiles, or amphibians.

Tips to Reduce the Risk of Salmonella Infection from Handling Pet Reptiles and Amphibians – The Do’s and Don’ts

DON’T let children younger than 5 years, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems handle or touch feeder rodents, reptiles, or amphibians.
DO thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) immediately after handling reptiles. DO supervise children during hand washing.
DO supervise children older than 5 years of age when they are handling reptiles.
DO thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces that come in contact with your pet reptile, including objects in the areas where it lives and roams. Talk with your veterinarian about which disinfectant is safe to use and how often. The website of the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians has a list of veterinarians, by state, who have experience with reptiles.
DO clean your pet reptile’s habitat and its contents outside and use disposable gloves when cleaning. DON’T dispose of the waste water from cleaning in sinks used for food preparation or drinking water for people. DON’T clean the habitat and its contents near any sources of food (such as gardens or crop fields) or drinking water for people.
DO flush waste water from your pet reptile down the toilet. Droppings should be disposed of in a dedicated trash can, away from human food preparation areas. DO NOT dispose of droppings or waste water down your kitchen sink, bathroom sink, or bathtub.
DON’T let children younger than 5 years handle or touch reptiles or any object where the reptiles live and roam.
DON’T house pet reptiles in children’s bedrooms, especially if the children are younger than 5 years. It’s best to keep reptiles out of homes with children younger than 5 years, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.
DON’T touch your mouth after handling reptiles and don’t eat, drink, or smoke until you have washed your hands thoroughly.
DON’T kiss your pet reptile.
DON’T bathe your pet reptile in your kitchen sink, bathroom sink, or bathtub. DO bathe your pet reptile in a small plastic tub or bin used solely for this purpose.
DON’T let your pet reptile roam freely throughout your house, especially in areas where food and drinks for people are stored, prepared, served, or eaten.

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2013 New Year’s Resolutions from Your Pet

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Do you ever wish that you could spend a sunny afternoon dozing in the sun or that you could dash up a tree to flush the birds – just because, well, because it’s your life?  Here are some tips from your pets on how to lead a more carefree life (from WebMD, believe it or not!):

· Forget Multitasking – When dogs have a job to do (like digging or chasing a ball), they give it their undivided attention. It turns out people should probably do the same. Stanford researchers found that attention and memory suffer in those who juggle work, email, and web-surfing, compared to those who focus on one task at a time. Other studies suggest that some employees actually lose time when multitasking.
· Take Naps – You won’t catch your pet going from dawn to dusk without any shut-eye.  There’s good evidence humans can benefit from catnaps too.  A study involving about 24,000 people indicates regular nappers are 37% less likely to die from heart disease than people who nap only occasionally.  Short naps can also enhance alertness and job performance.  I know a veterinarian-practice owner who regularly takes a 30-minute nap at 2pm each day he works, and he swears it allows him to go full-speed the rest of the afternoon.  Besides, Facebook and web-surfing really aren’t restful.
· Walk Every Day – Whether you have four legs or two, walking is one of the safest, easiest ways to burn calories and boost heart health. Get outdoors – and you won’t always smell like your patients!
· Cultivate Friendships – People are social animals, and friendships have measurable health benefits.  Researchers in Australia followed 1,500 older people for 10 years. Those with the most friends were 22% less likely to die than those with the fewest friends.
· Live In the Moment – Living in the moment may be one of the most important lessons we can learn from our pets. In a study called “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind,” Harvard psychologists conclude that people are happiest when doing activities that keep the mind focused, such as sex or exercise. Planning, reminiscing, or thinking about anything other than the current activity can undermine happiness.
· Don’t Hold a Grudge – Part of living in the moment is letting bygones be bygones.  Let go of old grudges, and you’ll literally breathe easier.  Chronic anger has been linked to a decline in lung function, while forgiveness contributes to lower blood pressure and reduced anxiety.  People who forgive also tend to have higher self-esteem.
· Wag – Maybe you don’t have a tail. But you can smile or put a spring in your step when you’re feeling grateful. Researchers have found a strong connection between gratitude and general well-being. In one study, people who kept gratitude journals had better attitudes, exercised more, and had fewer physical complaints.
· Maintain Curiosity – Curiosity may be hazardous to a cat’s health.  But no so for humans. Researchers have found that people who are more curious tend to have a greater sense of meaning in life.
· Be Silly – Indulging in a little silliness may have serious health benefits. Cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center concluded that “laughter is the best medicine” especially when it comes to your heart.
· Drink Water When You’re Thirsty – Dogs don’t lap up sports drinks when they’ve been playing hard – and most people don’t need to either.
· Eat Fish – Most cats would trade kibble for a can of tuna any day. Luckily, you can choose to make fish a regular part of your diet. Salmon, tuna, trout, and other fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and arthritis. In addition, Rush University researchers found that people who eat fish at least once a week are 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. (Are you paying attention yet?)
· If You Love Someone, Show It – Dogs don’t play hard to get – when they love you, they show you.  It’s a good approach for people seeking to strengthen their relationships.  Small, thoughtful gestures can have a big impact on how connected and satisfied friends feel.
· Play – Play enhances intelligence, creativity, problem-solving, and social skills.  So take a cue from your pet and devote yourself to an activity that has no purpose other than sheer fun.
· Make Time to Groom – Aside from the obvious health benefits of bathing and brushing your teeth, good personal hygiene is vital to self-esteem.
· Be Aware of Body Language – Dogs are excellent at reading each other’s intent from body language. Humans, not so much. While most of us do reveal our emotions through posture, speech patterns, and eye contact, other people generally aren’t very good at reading those cues.
· Stretch Often – Stretching will keep you limber, and may improve flexibility, increase muscle strength and endurance. Try this at least a couple of times a day in your office or break room.  If for no other reason, just look how content your cat appears after a huge stretch.
I think our pets are on to something! Happy New Year!

Bittering Agent to be Added to Antifreeze

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Bittering agent will be applied to products manufactured in all 50 states.

Antifreeze and engine coolant manufactured in the United States will now contain a bitter flavoring agent to prevent animals and children from being poisoned by the sweet-tasting liquid. Although legislation has been passed in several states, the Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) and the Humane Society Legislative Fund jointly announced Dec. 13 that the industry would now voluntarily add the flavoring agent to products for sale on the consumer market in all 50 states.

“Poisoning occurs because animals are attracted to the sweetness of antifreeze and engine coolant, which inadvertently spills in our driveways or is left in open containers in garages,” the joint release says. HSLF says estimates range from 10,000 to 90,000 animals poisoned each year from ingesting ethylene glycol, the toxic substance used in antifreeze. The release claims that one teaspoon of antifreeze or engine coolant can kill an average-sized cat.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says ethylene glycol is rapidly absorbed following ingestion, leading to systemic toxicity beginning with effects on the central nervous system, followed by cardiopulmonary effects and, finally, renal failure. Clinical signs may be more subtle in animals than humans.


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