House lizards eat a great deal of insects in the house and some are kept as pets. But you might be worried about their possibility of harming you or contaminating your food, milk or drinking water – but Lizards are vertebrates.
Lizards will bite you when they feel threatened. But are lizards poisonous?
Short answer is NO. Most house lizards are not poisonous. But they have viruses and bacteria on their skin which can cause serious illness when consumed by humans.
Only the Blue-tailed lizard has poison on the skin. A few lizards are known to have venomous bites. These include the Mexican Bearded Lizards, Iguanas and the Gila.
Are Lizards Poisonous?
1. Lizards Bite for Defence
Most house lizards are harmless creatures and will always scamper for safety whenever they feel threatened. In rare cases they can bite you as a defense mechanism.
However, their bites are not known to be poisonous. Although they might inflict some pain, the bites won’t have any serious effects on your body. But there are some venomous lizards.
2. Desert Lizards Are Poisonous
The only lizards with venomous bites include the Mexican Bearded Lizards, Iguanas and the Gila. These are found in northern Mexico and south-western US. These lizards live in the desert regions and rarely come to dwelling places. They are also not know to bite unless they feel threatened.
3. Pathogens on Lizards’s Skin
Your only worry with lizards should be the pathogens on their skin such as Salmonella. When you touch your pet lizard, you might ingest the harmful pathogens causing you fall sick.
Lizards are attracted to food stuff especially milk. Thus when they touch your food or accidentally fall into milk, you might incur serious infections. A few lizards like the blue-tailed lizard contain poison on their skin.
Common Venomous Lizards
1. Gila Monster
Gila is an endangered lizard of northern Mexico and the south-western US. It’s usually black in color with bright spots on various parts of the body. It has a notable stout body which is bulged at the head and tail.
An adult can reach about 20 inch and feeds on birds, small mammals and their eggs. The bulged head helps in holding the prey in place as it injects the venom to paralyze it.
But unlike snakes, all venomous lizards such as Australian lizards don’t have fangs. Venom flows over the groves on their teeth to the prey. They rarely bite humans. If they bite they won’t cause death.
2. Mexican Beaded Lizard
A close relative to the Gila monster, Mexican Beaded Lizard lives in western as well as the central parts of Mexico. It resembles the Gila monster in all aspects except that it’s darker and grows longer (32 inches).
It’s also an endangered species and its trade has been banned. They inhabit thorn scrubs and pine forests where they feed on small mammals, birds and their eggs – like the blue tailed lizards are venomous.
Similar to Gila, this lizard bites it prey and holds on it with its powerful jaws before paralyzing it with its venom. For humans, the bite is only painful but it won’t cause death.
These are large lizards stretching to about 6.6 feet long. The most common is the green iguana usually found in Brazil and Mexico. They mainly inhabit arid areas, tree and the edges of water bodies.
Unlike most lizards, iguanas are vegetarians. However, they have sharp teeth which they use to bite impending intruders. Their venom is relatively mild compared to other venomous lizards.
Although they don’t attack easily, they can cause serious injuries on soft skin such as face, hands and legs. But they are known to warn intruders before they strike. Watch out for iguanas when they take a deep breath, lower their dewlap or stand on their fours.
4. Monitor Lizard
Last but not least is the monitor lizards. Commonly found in Australia, these lizards vary greatly in size (2/3 foot to 10 feet). They are not usually very aggressive to intruders and will tend to run away.
Although they are venomous, they won’t cause death. Whenever they are cornered, they might cause injuries with their powerful claws or jaws. Or they may whip with their powerful tails.
Can Lizards Harm My Cat?
Venomous lizards will definitely harm your cat in two ways – Being bitten by a venomous lizard or ingesting a poisonous lizard.
Your curious cat tends to run after every crawling creature oblivious if the dangers. Some lizards like the Blue-tailed lizard have poison on their skin. If your cat eats such a lizard it might suffer serious reactions from the toxins.
Possible symptoms of the toxin include vomiting, fever, dizziness, staggering, diarrhea etc. some toxins can even lead to paralysis. If venomous lizards stray into your compound, they might end up biting your curious cat in their encounter.
The Mexican Beaded and Gila Monsters lizards are two lizards to watch out for. When they bite your cat, they won’t release easily. By the time you release the animal, it’ll have released the venom to your cat. Symptoms of the bite might include:
- General weakness
- Low blood pressure
- Vomiting and nausea
- Abnormal defecation and urination
- Lizard’s broken teeth in the wound
The first thing you do is to try and remove the lizard from your cat using the safest method possible. You can insert a metal rod into the lizard’s mouth.
Alternatively put some drinking alcohol or vinegar into the lizard’s mouth. After successively removing the lizard, take the cat to the vet.
Also if you don’t manage to remove the lizard, take the cat to the vet with the lizard in place. Your vet will remove the lizard, and administer an anti-venom.
Are Lizards Harmful To Humans?
Lizard venoms will inflict pain and cause serious reactions to your body. The intensity of the reactions will depend on species of lizard that bites you.
Lizard venoms are however less serious compared to snake venoms and can be treated with minimal complications. Kids can be at risk of developing serious complications from lizard venoms.
Do Lizards Carry Salmonella?
Lizard bites can transfer pathogens such as Salmonella. Symptoms of lizard bites in humans include:
- Pain and Convulsions
- Decreases blood pressure
- Blurred vision
- Swelling and Numbness
- Diarrhea and Shock
- Difficulty in breathing
In case of lizard bites, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Delayed medical attention can lead to complications or even death.
How to Treat Lizard Bites
When you’re bitten by a lizard you might not immediately know whether it’s poisonous or not. So the first thing to do is to call poison expert to help in identification.
If they cannot respond your call of distress with prompt, take a photo of the lizard and report to the nearest hospital. If possible take the lizard with you. But you risk getting more bites which can worsen the condition.
Waiting for symptoms to show might only make the condition worse. Treatments for poisonous and non-poisonous lizard bites include:
1. Treating Non-Poisonous Lizard Bites
House lizard are certainly not poisonous. So, if you’re bitten by a house lizard you don’t have to go to hospital.
You can treat yourself at home with simple methods and ingredients to prevent infection and ease the symptoms. Here’s what to do:
- Stop the bleeding by applying a little pressure on the bite.
- If the lizard broke its teeth on the wound, remove them carefully with a pair of tweezers.
- Clean the wound with warm water to prevent infection.
- Apply a little petroleum jelly on the wound to inhibit bacterial contamination.
- If need be, cover the wound with a non-stick bandage.
- A cold therapy can help ease pain and inflammation.
- If symptoms persist, see a medical doctor.
2. Treating for Poisonous Lizard Bites
If you’re certain that the lizard is poisonous or you are not sure about that, call for medical assistance – but some lizards such as Green Anole are venomous.
Meanwhile here are some home interventions you should try before medical help is available.
- Keep calm and remove tight cloths and jewelry. They are hard to remove when swelling begins.
- Call poison control hotline. These will help in the correct identification of the lizard and advice you accordingly. You may be asked to send photos of the lizard.
- Keep the affected part below the heart level.
- Monitor the spread of the venom with 15 minute interval markings.
What a Medical Specialist Will Do
- Cleaning the wound and Removing any lizard teeth
- Administration of painkillers, anaesthesia and antibiotics
- Performing sawyer’s extraction to remove the venom
- Tetanus injection
- Cardiac examination
- Pulse monitoring
How Do You Know If A Lizard Is Poisonous?
There’re only few venomous lizards on earth. Unlike the common house lizards, venomous lizards live in the wild away from humans. Most of them live in burrows and don’t come out so often. Here are notable features to look for:
- They’re relatively larger than house lizards
- Their skin is beaded skin instead of being scally
- Can be recognized by their distinct colors i.e black and yellow, black and red or black and orange.
- Strong limbs
- They exhibit signs of panic. For instance, some lizards will produce a hissing sound. Notably the iguanas will take a deep breath, lower their dewlap or stand on its four limbs.
- When they bite, they clamp on until they are forcefully dislodged
How to Dislodge a Lizard from a Victim
Whenever they bite, venomous lizards tend to cling on the victim while they release venom. The powerful jaws on their head makes it hard to detach.
It’s advisable not to try to pull the animal as this would leave broken teeth in the victims flesh and cause further tissue damage. Here is what to do.
Open the Jaws with a Prying Tool – A prying tool such as a pliers or butter knife can be used to force open the jaws, and safely dislodge the lizard from the victim.
Immerse the Lizard in Water – Immersing the victim’s body together with the lizard in cold water is a safe way of detaching the animal. Some lizards are protected and so killing them is an offence.
Flame under the Chin – Another method of getting the lizard from the victim’s flesh is to slightly apply a flame just below the chin.
Allow the Lizard to Stand On Its Feet – If the lizard gets good grip on the ground, it may feel secure and release the grip. But this is not a quick method if you want to save the victim from subsequent venoms.
Most lizards are non-venomous and will not readily bite you. Even the few venomous lizards bite when provoked or in defense when they feel threatened.
Although the venom can barely kill a human, it can cause serious body reactions. In addition the bite can cause serious tissue damage. So, it good to be on the safe side whenever you encounter such lizards.