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Q&A: Can My Corn Snake Get Infected From a Used Terrarium?

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He works with dogs, cats, exotics, and livestock.

What a sweet baby corn snake!

What a sweet baby corn snake!

Can My New Corn Snake Get Sick From a Used Tank?

"I have a baby corn snake that I just got around 5 days ago. She seems to be doing well in her enclosure so far. Yesterday, I got a secondhand tank from someone whose bearded dragon passed away due to a prolapse. The tank was dirty, and I placed it on the first floor of my house. My corn snake's enclosure is on the second floor.

I had washed my hands twice after handling the dirty tank, and a few hours later I went and replaced the sphagnum moss in the humidity hide with a new, damp one. Later I realized that my arms have touched the dirty tank while moving it. Now I am paranoid that despite having washed my hands, my arms might've reinfected my hand that replaced the moss in the hide. I am also concerned if having the dirty tank on the first floor would spread any possible parasite/pathogen to the second floor. I plan to disinfect the tank as soon as possible.

Since she is a newly homed baby corn snake, I am in a bind about whether I should get her out of the enclosure to clean her current enclosure. I don't want to stress her unnecessarily. I am planning to get an appointment with a local vet so she can get her first checkup. But until then, I am very anxious and concerned I might've just made a huge mistake and threatened my corn snake's health. What can I do to prevent her from possibly getting infected, or do you think she will be okay?

Perhaps I am just overly paranoid, but I would really appreciate the help if you can offer some insight. Thank you very much in advance!" —Ivander

Most Pet-Shop Snakes Have Salmonella

In one study, 100% of pet snakes purchased from a pet shop were shown to have salmonella. (1) Other studies have shown a lot less, but chances are high that your little snake is already infected. You already know you need to wash after handling, but that is to protect you.

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You are fine with the other cage around. There is no chance of her getting infected from a cage far away from her cage, and even parasites will require direct contact with the contaminated area. It is not impossible to transfer an infection on your arm but would be very unlikely. (Remember the elbow "handshake" during the pandemic?)

If you are worried about parasites, that is also unlikely. You can take a fresh fecal sample to your vet and have them look at it for coccidia and worm eggs. Some of them are zoonotic (will transmit from animal to human), so they all should be treated. (2) The only way she would develop a skin infection—which is something more serious—is if you put her in a very dirty cage and left her there.

Benefits of Handling Baby Corn Snakes

You should get her out of the cage but not so that you can clean it, just so that she becomes used to being handled as a baby. Corn snakes are now domesticated, and when you bring them into the home they should be handled enough to stay docile.

Cute little snake! She still has that baby face.

Sources

(1) Whiley H, Gardner MG, Ross K. A Review of Salmonella and Squamates (Lizards, Snakes and Amphisbians): Implications for Public Health. Pathogens. 2017 Aug 22;6(3):38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5617995/

(2) Mendoza-Roldan JA, Modry D, Otranto D. Zoonotic Parasites of Reptiles: A Crawling Threat. Trends Parasitol. 2020 Aug;36(8):677-687. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7203055/

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Dr Mark

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