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Are Turtles Poisonous?

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Turtles are cute, but it has been said that they can also pose a danger to humans. Are they really harmless?

In this article, we will be answering the question, ‘Are Turtles Poisonous?’ as well as further discussing how they can cause harm to humans.

Sea turtle in the ocean

Are Turtles Poisonous?

The short answer is yes, turtles can be poisonous.

There have been many cases of people being poisoned by eating turtle meat. In fact, there are several different types of poison in turtles and their shells.

The most common one is tetrodotoxin (TTX), which is found in puffer fish and other marine animals. It is what causes the famous “tetrodon” effect when you eat certain species of sea creatures.

Tetrodotoxin is extremely dangerous because it affects the central nervous system and can even kill you if ingested.

As well as this, turtles are also notorious for carrying salmonella bacteria. They can carry a lot of germs on them, and when they come into contact with human skin, these germs can enter your body through cuts or scratches.

Salmonella poisoning can lead to diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting.

Turtles can also contain staphylococcus bacteria, which can cause infections. These infections may be mild or severe depending on the type of infection, but they can still be very painful and uncomfortable.

Why Are Turtles Considered Poisonous?

Turtles are classified as poisonous because they contain certain chemicals in their bodies that cause sickness in people.

For example, the toxin found in the flesh of sea turtles (such as the green sea turtle) is similar to the poison produced by some types of snakes. People who eat these turtles can develop an allergic reaction that makes them feel ill.

Can Turtles Carry Salmonella?

Yes, turtles can carry salmonella bacteria. Although this is rare, it does occur. This happens because the reptile’s digestive system contains special cells called microorganisms. These cells break down food and release their nutrients into the bloodstream.

When the turtle swallows food, the microorganisms travel from its gut through its intestinal tract to its liver. From there, they pass out through the bile duct and into the intestines.

Why Are Turtles Contaminated With Salmonella?

Although turtles are cute and cuddly, they are quite common salmonella carriers. There are over 1,000 different species of turtles around the world, and they all have varying levels of toxicity.

Some are more toxic than others, and some will only harm themselves if they get too close to humans.

The main reason why turtles are often contaminated with salmonella is because of what they carry. Turtles carry salmonella in their intestinal tract, and although this will cause no harm to them, this can cause serious harm to humans.

How Can Salmonella Be Passed From Turtles?

Woman with pet turtle on hand

Salmonella is passed from turtles to humans in two ways, either directly or indirectly. Direct transmission occurs when a person comes into direct contact with an animal. Indirect transmission happens when a person eats food contaminated by a sick animal.

Salmonella can survive in the environment for many months, and therefore, there is a chance that it could contaminate other foods.

For example, if a turtle is infected with salmonella, it can pass it onto eggs and meat. The contamination can occur during the breeding season when the turtle lays its eggs.

Turtles can also carry salmonella through their feces. They usually defecate in areas where they spend most of their time, and these areas include ponds, streams, lakes, and even pools.

When they defecate, the salmonella can remain on the surface of the water and enter the food chain.

Turtles are not the only animals that can transmit salmonella to humans. Other reptiles, including snakes, lizards, frogs, and crocodiles, can also carry salmonella. In fact, salmonella can be found in almost every type of reptile.

What Should I Do If I Have Been Exposed To Salmonella From Turtles?

It is important to remember that salmonella can cause illness in anyone. However, people at high risk of developing severe symptoms include those with weak immune systems, are pregnant, have diabetes, or are taking certain medications.

If you think you may have become ill after being exposed to salmonella by a turtle, then you should seek medical attention immediately.

You should tell your doctor about recent turtles exposure and ask whether you need antibiotics. It is possible that you might need to take antibiotics for up to 10 days.

If you develop diarrhea or fever within one week of exposure to salmonella, then you should continue to take antibiotics until the infection clears up completely.

Who Is Most At Risk From Salmonella Poisoning From Turtles?

People who are at risk of getting salmonella poisoning include those who:

  • Have weak immune systems
  • Are pregnant
  • Have diabetes
  • Take medicines such as diuretics

In order to stay safe, it is necessary to follow the steps listed in the above section.

Is It Safe To Have A Turtle As A Pet?

Now that it is known that turtles can indeed spread disease and be poisonous, you may be wary about keeping one as a pet. It is important to be reassured that having a turtle as a pet is still completely safe so long as you know how to handle them safely.

As we have covered, turtles carry salmonella bacteria which can affect any person who is in contact with the turtle. This includes its owner, carers, and visitors.

If someone gets ill from having contact with a turtle, it would be considered negligence. Therefore, if you decide to keep a turtle as a pet, you must ensure that you take all necessary precautions.

You should never allow children under 10 years old to touch a live turtle. You should always wash your hands before handling a turtle and ensure that you wear gloves while doing so.

If you want to buy a turtle, you should make sure that you know of the risks. A turtle is not a typical pet like a dog or a cat, so should be treated as the creature it is.

Be Cautious Of Your Children Playing With Turtles

Small turtle on someone's hand

If you pass a turtle, then it is best not to let your child touch or play with the creature. On the other hand, if you have a turtle as a pet, you should still be wary and teach them how to interact with the turtle respectfully.

There are several reasons why children should never play with turtles:

Firstly, they can easily bite and scratch children. This is especially true of young children as they tend to be curious and want to touch everything.

Secondly, turtles can easily swallow small items such as toys and coins. These things can block their intestines and prevent them from digesting food properly.

Thirdly, they can carry diseases like salmonella, which can lead to serious illnesses for children (who are one of the most vulnerable).

How To Safely Care For A Turtle

Although turtles carry salmonella bacteria, they are still able to be owned as pets. Despite this flaw, they are indeed loveable creatures and are great pets.

If you decide to own one for yourself, you should first know how to care for the turtle by following these simple steps.

  1. Make sure that you keep the tank clean. Clean tanks help ensure that all the necessary nutrients are available for the turtle’s diet.
  2. Keep the tank temperature between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Provide plenty of fresh water.
  4. Avoid feeding live foods to the turtle. Instead, feed them dry pellets and vegetables.
  5. Be careful when cleaning the tank, and make sure that you wear gloves.
  6. Never leave the tank unattended.
  7. Always wash your hands before handling the turtle.
  8. Never allow the turtle to come into contact with other animals.
  9. Do not allow the turtle to swim freely in the aquarium. They should always be kept on the land.
  10. Do not bathe the turtle unless absolutely necessary. Bathing can damage the skin and increase the chance of getting infections.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Bad Is Salmonella Poisoning?

Salmonella poisoning is usually mild, but it can sometimes be very dangerous. The symptoms depend on what part of the body is affected by the bacteria. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, headache, chills, muscle aches, confusion, fever, and more.

In some cases, people who get sick may feel so weak that they cannot stand up straight. Some people also experience loss of appetite, fatigue, stomach cramps, and dizziness.

What Causes Salmonella Poisoning?

Salmonella poisoning occurs when someone eats something contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella. It can happen at any time during the year, but it is often associated with eating raw eggs and undercooked meat products. However, a person can also be exposed to this bacteria by reptiles such as the turtle.

How Do I Treat Salmonella Poisoning?

The treatment depends on the severity of the illness. Most people recover without medication after about 24 hours.

But if the person has severe symptoms such as high fever, dehydration, blood in stool, or trouble breathing, he/she will need medical attention. If possible, the person should see his/her doctor immediately.

Are All Reptiles Poisonous?

No, not all reptiles are poisonous. Reptiles like snakes, lizards, tortoises, crocodilians, and turtles are nonpoisonous. A few species of venomous snakes are poisonous, but most of them do not affect humans. Snakes bite only for self-defense.

Final Thoughts

Turtles are cute and interesting creatures. Although they can cause salmonella poisoning and can pass over other diseases, they are still safe to own as pets. You just need to take proper precautions when caring for them.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.