Bearded Dragons And Pregnant Women

In this post we look at things that might concern bearded dragons and pregnant women – like is it safe to keep a bearded dragon while you’re pregnant

bearded dragons and pregnant woman featured image

Advice for Keeping Bearded Dragons While You're Pregnant

About 8 min reading time

If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to handle bearded dragons while you’re pregnant, bearded dragons can sense pregnancy or if bearded dragons are safe around babies then this post about bearded dragons and pregnant women is for you. If you’re not pregnant but you think your bearded dragon is pregnant and you want some advice then click here instead.

Can You Hold Bearded Dragons While Pregnant?

Provided you follow good hygiene for both you and your bearded dragon, there is no evidence to suggest holding bearded dragons while pregnant is dangerous to you or your baby. However, as with the handling of any animal while pregnant, good hygiene practises are essential.

Potential Infections Acquired by Holding Bearded Dragons While Pregnant

  • Salmonella infection[1]
  • Listeria infection (incredibly rare in bearded dragons, but not unheard of[2])
  • Botulism – caused by a toxin released from the Clostridium bacterium (rare in bearded dragons but more common in turtles or other water living reptiles)
  • Campylobacteriosis – a condition caused by the Campylobacter bacterium which can give diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. Studies[3] indicate this is perhaps more common than previously thought.
  • Leptospirosis – another bacterial infection which can cause flu-like symptoms.

Of the illnesses listed above, by far the most likely is going to be salmonellosis – the disease caused by salmonella infection. The risk, according to whattoexpect.com, of any harm coming to your baby from salmonella is pretty small[4], however, the symptoms are likely to be particularly unpleasant even when you’re not pregnant – and on top of pregnancy the symptoms will be downright horrible.

Far more risky – but far more rare – is the risk of Listeriosis. The chances of acquiring Listeriosis is, according to whattoexpect.com[5], significantly higher while you’re pregnant. If your bearded dragon isn’t harboring Listeria bacteria (and most aren’t) then your risk of acquiring Listeriosis will come from your food instead of your bearded dragon. But avoiding the foods listed at whattoexpect.com and maintaining good personal/hand hygiene around your bearded dragon will minimize this. Listeriosis is more significant than salmonellosis though as it can cause serious complications such as miscarriage, pre-term labor, sillbirth or meningitis in newborn babies[5].

Beardie Bath With Rubin

How To Protect You and Your Baby

Whilst many places might suggest you don’t come into contact with your bearded dragon at all during your pregnancy, we believe that a good hygiene regime will protect you and your baby from coming to harm. It should also be noted that cats carry with them a reasonable risk of causing complications during pregnancy due to a condition called toxoplasmosis which is caused by a parasite found in cat poo.

Similarly to the advice for reducing the risk of toxoplasmosis from cats, you can reduce your risk of catching anything nasty from your bearded dragon that might affect your pregnancy by practising good hygiene.

Good hygiene involves;

  • Good handwashing after handling animals
  • Good handwashing after touching/cleaning their environment
  • Keeping their environment clean (but perhaps someone else can do this for you) and avoid touching their poop
  • Don’t let bearded dragons roam areas where food is prepared (or baby is going to be once they’re born)
  • Don’t eat or drink while handling your bearded dragon
  • Avoid kissing or snuggling your bearded dragon while pregnant

When washing your hands, do so for 20 to 30 seconds, using soap and warm water. Alcohol rubs are not as effective as soap and warm water, and are largely completely ineffective if your hands are physically soiled. Give your hands a good rub together, including in between fingers, as well as rubbing the thumb. Remember the backs of your hands and nails and nailbeds too.

The CDC has a pretty good poster which gives you more information about how to stay safe from infection around your bearded dragon or other reptile, available at https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/resources/safety-around-reptiles-H.pdf

If you’re concerned about which bacteria and parasites your bearded dragon might be carrying, you can contact your Vet and ask for a faecal sample analysis. We’d recommend doing this once a year as a routine ‘maintenance’ exercise for your beardie anyway to help keep them healthy.

In general, you’re going to have to decide for yourself how much risk you’re willing to take with your pregnancy if you’re looking after a bearded dragon. But if you take some sensible precautions as mentioned above, there’s no real reason to think your baby is at any greater risk from a bearded dragon than any other pet.

Can Bearded Dragons Sense Pregnancy?

Some people online have speculated that their bearded dragon could sense when they were pregnant. There’s very little evidence to support this assertion but we do note that bearded dragons, particularly females, are sensitive to changes in pheromones emitted from male lizards so they may be sensitive to hormonal changes that result in human pheromone changes too.

An anecdotal article at https://www.anapsid.org/iguana/season.html suggests that Iguanas react differently to their human companion when the human is menstruating, with a study backed up by Frye, Mader and Centofani[6] in 1991 which suggested increased aggression from captive Iguanas when the dominant female human of the household was either menstruating or about to.

It’s possible that bearded dragons can sense pregnancy in a similar fashion perhaps but how they would react to it if they can, would likely differ between each individual – and it could easily just be attributed to normal bearded dragon moodiness that they sometimes exhibit. We’d be interested to hear your story though if you think your beardie has sensed that you’re pregnant.

Are Bearded Dragons Safe Around Babies?

Like much advice about bearded dragons, this question causes some fairly significant controversy. And there’s a few things to consider when wondering if bearded dragons are safe around babies. Are you asking if your baby will come to harm or the bearded dragon? Well, the answer is that either could come to harm.

First and foremost, never leave baby unattended around your bearded dragon. Your baby could get bitten if your bearded dragon feels threatened – or if your bearded dragon mistakes those little wiggly fingers for something it can eat (which let’s face it, is far more likely). Alternatively your baby could roll over onto your bearded dragon and significantly injure them.

The CDC suggests that bearded dragons are not suitable pets for children under 5 (or adults over 65 for that matter) but it doesn’t mean you need to re-home your bearded dragon if you got pregnant. Our interpretation of the CDC advice is that if the bearded dragon is your pet, not your baby’s (and we’d hope it is your pet!) then with sensible precautions, they can quite happily co-exist.

However, you’ll need to take good precautions with your hygiene as we mentioned above with good handwashing and making sure your lizard doesn’t roam freely around areas that your baby (or food) will come into contact with.

Remember that babies and small children think that a great way to wash their hands is to put them into their mouths… And never leave babies or small children unattended with the bearded dragon.

The CDC poster with good advice about reptiles as pets is available from https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/resources/safety-around-reptiles-H.pdf

Summary

Your pregnancy doesn’t mean you need to suddenly re-home your bearded dragon. Bearded dragons are not without risk to pregnant women, but with some basic (but good) hygiene that risk is minimal. You’ll have to decide for yourself, ultimately, whether you’re prepared to take even that risk but our research indicates that the risk is really very small. You probably have a higher chance of catching Listeria from a sealed packet of superstore bought salad.

The CDC don’t recommend reptiles as pets for anyone under the age of 5, and in general we’d agree. But if the bearded dragon is your pet, not the young child’s pet, then again, there’s minimal risk to them from your bearded dragon – so long as any contact between the young person and the beardie is always supervised and good hygiene is always maintained.

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Thanks for reading!

Featured Image by veriserpa from Pixabay

References

1: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Pet Bearded Dragons. June 16, 2022. Fetched from https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/uganda-01-22/index.html on 29th June 2022.

2: Matt, C.L. & Ramachandran, Akhilesh & Allison, Robin & Wall, C.R. & Dieterly, A.M. & Brandão, João. (2019). Listeria monocytogenes in an inland bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps). Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine. 30. 10.1053/j.jepm.2018.12.005.

3: Whiley, H., McLean, R., & Ross, K. (2016). Detection of Campylobacter jejuni in Lizard Faeces from Central Australia Using Quantitative PCR. Pathogens, 6(1), 1. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/pathogens6010001

4: Novak, S. (2020). Salmonella During Pregnancy. What To Expect. October 13, 2020. Fetched from https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/salmonella-during-pregnancy/ on June 29, 2022.

5: Novak S. (2020). Listeria Exposure During Pregnancy. What To Expect. September 28, 2020. Fetched from https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/listeria-during-pregnancy/ on June 29, 2022.

6: Frye, F. L., Mader D. R., Centofani, B. V. (1991). Interspecific (Lizard:Human) Sexual Aggression in Captive Iguanas (Iguana iguana). AARV Premier Issue. Fetched from https://meridian.allenpress.com/jhms/article-pdf/1/1/4/2787257/1076-3139_1_1_4.pdf on June 29 2022.