Salamanders. Are they dangerous? You may have some questions regarding these fascinating little amphibians. Especially, if you are looking to get one as a pet. Their bright colors and friendly faces make them cute and endearing, but are they safe for humans? What about touching, handling, and the risk of biting? Here is all you’ll want to know.
So, are salamanders dangerous? Salamanders can be considered relatively dangerous – with some species being more so than others. While salamanders do not usually act aggressively toward humans, they do pose risks if they are not kept or cared for safely or correctly. All salamanders are poisonous to some degree, and toxins excreted from their skin can cause issues if touched or ingested. Equally, salmonella is a potential risk. However, salamanders are not venomous, and the most common species kept as pets are unlikely to bite nor are able to kill you.
There are many reptiles and amphibians we can have as pets that are best left in their enclosure for a number of reasons. This is true when it comes to salamanders.
If you keep a pet salamander, while it is definitely possible and somewhat rewarding, it’s important to know all about the potential risks that come with them.
The most common species are not a danger in the traditional sense – unlikely to attack, bite or lunge for you, but they do carry varying amounts of poison which may be dangerous if ingested or consumed.
Let us now explore the topic in greater detail so that you are equipped with all the information you need to keep yourself safe.
Are Salamanders Poisonous?
Yes, all salamanders are poisonous to some degree. There is not a single species of salamander that is completely toxic-free.
When people hear this, they start to get all these images of tarrying, deadly creatures in their heads.
The thing is, just because an animal is poisonous doesn’t mean that it is aggressive – nor that the poison will kill you.
A lot of the misconceptions over this concept comes from the fact that we attribute “poison” to the wrong animals.
Many people start to conjure images of evil queens holding apples and deadly monsters. This couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to our small, amphibious salamanders.
It can help to first establish the difference between venomous and poisonous.
The two words tend to be used interchangeably as they are somewhat related. This is a big problem that can lead to a lot of confusion.
They are two different terms that categorize two different types of toxicity.
- Venomous: When something is venomous, it means that it creates a kind of toxin that must be injected into your bloodstream to take effect. These animals have stingers, barbs, or hollow fangs that allow them to pierce your skin and get the toxins flowing into your bloodstream. Most commonly, you can think about a cobra and its deadly bite or a scorpion. On the less-lethal side, you can think about a jellyfish or a bee. For the animal to use this weapon, it has to go out of its way to break your skin (and often uses this as a means for hunting down prey). This is not how you would categorize the humble salamander.
- Poisonous: As mentioned above, salamanders are poisonous. This means that they excrete the toxins from their skin. How you are affected by contact with the toxic will depend on the potency of the excreted poison. There are some that can irritate the skin and leave a harsh rash (think of this as poison ivy or touching a poison dart frog). For the most part, poisonous animals hurt those who try to ingest them or rub their eyes after handling them.
Now different species of salamanders will come with a varying levels of poison.
Those often kept as pets are considered less poisonous than some of their wild counterparts.
The most common species that are kept in captivity are the: Marbled Salamander, Fire Salamander, Slimy Salamander, and Tiger Salamander.
Its important that you research the specific species ahead of time, educating yourself as to their own unique toxicity level.
Can You Get Sick From Touching A Salamander?
Even the salamanders you get at the pet store are poisonous and you can theoretically get sick by touching them.
They do not have the degree of poison where they will kill you if you touch them, but you can get sick from them if you put your hands in your mouth after handling them.
In general, you are going to want to limit the amount of handling you do with your salamander. This is for both you and your salamander alike.
Salamanders should not be touched or held very often, if at all.
Their skin is very absorbent and would take in any natural oils, germs or chemicals from soaps on your hands.
All three of which can damage their immune system in addition to the stress of being handled itself. Therefore, touching a pet salamander should be kept to a minimum.
There is also a bigger threat to a person that a salamander has to offer aside from their poison.
Salmonella is a big problem that you need to be aware of. The same infections which are caused by contaminated food (especially produce or raw meats) can be contracted through handling household pets. Specifically, reptiles and amphibians.
Salmonella germs are something that your salamander can naturally carry without this harming them at all.
Even if you aren’t directly handling the salamander, there are secondhand ways where you can end up contracting the disease. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) urges you to be careful when coming into contact with anything that your reptiles or amphibians touch.
As the salmonella germs can be passed through the feces, anything in which the fecal matter comes into contact with can become contaminated. This means their enclosure, bowls, and tank ornaments are all at risk for carrying the germs.
This is why owners typically purchase special gloves, like these excellent ones off Amazon, that they can use whenever they do need to handle their salamander – keeping themselves and their pet equally safe.
While salmonella is nothing to completely freak out about, this is something that you should keep in mind when getting and keeping one as a pet.
You’ll need to be very careful whenever you do touch your salamander (without gloves) or anything kept within their environment. Be sure to thoroughly and regularly wash your hands during and after cleaning, and it is recommended that you use disposable gloves, like these.
Also, you may want to consider getting a different pet if you share a home with very young children or individuals who are immunocompromised.
It is generally not advised to get a salamander if you have children under the age of 5.
Do Salamanders Bite
Any animal will bite if you provoke it enough. In terms of whether or not salamanders are prone to be nippy however – they are far from it.
These little creatures are known for being pretty shy and tend to avoid confrontation.
Even when they are scared, they tend not to attack and reserve all of their biting for getting ahold of their prey. They would rather run away and hide. Only when this is not possible and you have backed them into the corner may they lunge.
If they do bite you – it won’t be the end of the world. While it might hurt a little bit, they only have tiny little teeth that are not too sharp. These are unlikely to penetrate the skin even.
Keep in mind the risk you run of developing an infection due to a salamander bite. If they manage to break your skin (which isn’t too likely) you may leave your body open to being attacked by different bacteria.
This is why it is imperative that if you are bitten, you clean the wound immediately. Monitor and watch out for any signs of infections. If you are worried, or notice any signs of infection, get medical attention immediately. Again, this is why owners purchase a pair of gloves.
Be aware that younger salamanders have sharper teeth than older ones.
Can Salamanders Kill You?
Whether or not a salamander can kill you depends on the circumstance and the specific salamander species.
If you are looking to find out whether having a pet salamander leaves you open for the potential of some kind of devastating attack – I am happy to let you know that these creatures are pretty peaceful.
They are not the kind of animal that would go out of their way to try to hurt you. Even if they did, they alone aren’t really capable of leaving any damage on you.
However, this doesn’t mean that a salamander doesn’t have the potential to kill you.
Salamanders have varying degrees of poison, and there are pretty toxic salamanders out there. As juveniles are more poisonous than adults, you technically can die from a young little salamander – especially a rare species found in the wild.
That being said, you’d have to eat, ingest or put the poison into your system in order to risk that.
Even then, it’s not like a salamander is an immediate death sentence. Generally, it is good practice never to eat these amphibians anyway!
While this is something that is easy for you to remember, keep in mind that your other pets may not be so smart.
While many animals have it ingrained in their heads that they shouldn’t eat little brightly colored creatures, there are some cats and dogs (and children) out there that didn’t get the memo!
If you decide to get a salamander, make sure that you keep it in a secure cage that it cannot escape from (and other easily can’t break into it). This will offer protection for everyone.
Salamanders are not the ‘safest’ of pets to keep. They are also not the type of pets that requires or even need handling or socialization.
These are solitary creatures that do best when you are not routinely touching them.
In fact, if you keep a salamander as a pet, you’d do best to touch them as infrequently as possible.
This will not only keep you safe from coming into contact with their naturally released toxins/salmonella but also look after their delicate skin that can easily be damaged through natural human skin oils, germs or soaps.
If you’re looking at a pet salamander, consider that they will mostly be kept in the cage and you will be observing them and taking care of them from a distance.
You can get special gloves and specific utensils which make looking after them easier, but these are not a pet that should be ‘petted’.
So long as you are aware of the potential risks, optimize their setup and environment, and be careful, there is no reason in why you should not look at adopting one.
They are very rewarding to take care of and fascinating to observe.
But they can live up to 25 years, just bear that in mind!
Salamanders should not be played with. All species have very delicate skin that can easily be damaged. They also secrete toxins from their skin which is poisonous and it also holds the bacteria salmonella which can cause illness and infection if it gets into open wounds and cuts.
Spotted salamanders typically cost between $10-$100. It depends on demand, supply, the time of year, and where you are purchasing them from.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.