Although a good number of reptiles, and pets in general, are infected with salmonella, it’s actually quite near impossible to tell if your reptile has salmonella, as the visible symptoms are minuscule if they are at all noticeable. There are over 2200 strains of salmonella, and most animals, including cats, dogs, and other mammals, as well as reptiles and amphibians, are able to be infected by many of them. That being said, in many cases, a strain of salmonella will not cause any symptoms to the host, but if passed on to another species, will make the new host quite ill. Thus, there are strands of salmonella that will do nothing to your snake, even if it is infected, yet if passed on to you, may cause you to become severely ill. This is why it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after you’ve handled your pet, even if you don’t suspect he or she has salmonella.
When an animal does manifest the symptoms of salmonella, which, as has been stated, does not happen all the time even if the animal is infected, symptoms may include weight loss, dehydration, diarrhea, and sometimes lethargy.
Yet weight loss, dehydration, diarrhea and lethargy in snakes can all be caused by other things. Most of these symptoms, for example, are frequently caused by improper husbandry conditions in the snake’s enclosure, such as temperatures or humidity being too high or low. So you should never jump to the conclusion that your pet has salmonella just because you see one of the above symptoms. You should, however, be concerned about your pet if it has had a severe case of diarrhea, or shows any of the symptoms listed in extremes. Whether or not your snake has salmonella should be left for a vet to decide, but regardless of whether or not your pet has an infection, severe symptoms should not be taken lightly. Therefore, if your pet has them, you should arrange to see a vet immediately.
In order to test for salmonella, vets will take environmental swabs, samples of animal feces which contain bacterial culture, or even rectal swabs, and use these samples to test for any infection. That being said, even these tests sometimes give false negatives, as, although the bacteria does show up in feces, it does not show up in all instances. This means that even if your pet has salmonella and samples are tested by a vet, different samples will need to be collected and analyzed at different times to be certain that the negative result is not a false negative, and to be certain that the pet does not have salmonella. This results in it being very hard to test for salmonella, let alone to diagnose it by mere sight.