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Are Lizards Poisonous? I Wish I knew This Before


You might be afraid that the pet you want to keep is poisonous. With kids around, can you really afford the risk?

We have had to research each animal we brought into the house beforehand to ensure it would not pose any threat to humans or other pets.

So, we get how hard it is to search pages upon pages of websites only to come up with two facts relevant to you. Read ahead and find out the answer to your most worrisome queries:

What is The Difference between poisonous and venomous?

The first fact you need to know is that there is a difference between being ‘venomous’ and ‘poisonous’. In the simplest terms, if the creature bites you and you die, it is venomous.

If you bite it and you die then it is poisonous. Lizards are venomous i.e. they can inject venom into your bloodstream when they bite you. However, there are very few lizards that are venomous mainly iguanas, Gila Lizard, and Mexican Beaded Lizards.

This is a remarkable new discovery in the recent years as it can help scientists find out about the relationship between snakes and lizards.

Contrary to popular belief, most Lizards are not poisonous though. Although they have a plethora of dangerous bacteria and viruses on their skin, they do not have poison on it.

Eating one might make you seriously sick, but it has nothing to do with poison.  Only a few ones such as the Blue-tailed lizards and skinks produce toxins in their skin and hence can be called poisonous.

What Happens If A Cat Tries To Eat A Lizard?

Since most lizards have some form of bacteria on their skin, chances are your cat might get sick.

However, if the lizard was poisonous, the cat might end up getting some sort of reaction to the toxins.

This involves severe vomiting, drooling, fever, staggering around and looking dazed. It can further dim their hunger so they might even end up starving themselves.

If the toxins are at a higher concentration it can even lead to severe diarrhea and even paralysis. If it’s your cat that has been infected, then you might want to clean the mouth to ensure all toxins are gone and then check with a vet.

Try to identify the species of the lizard it might have eaten.

Chances are your vet might have an anti-venom.

What Symptoms Can You Get If You Get Bitten?

If the lizard is venomous, then its bite can inject you with venom. This venom may not be as strong as some snakes, because it might not kill you. However, it can still cause you to be seriously sick.

Until recent years, it was thought that the swelling associated with lizard bites was due to the bacteria present on them. It was thought that this bacteria infected the wound.

However, it has been discovered that the swelling and bleeding is actually due to the venom.

Not only is this poison painful, but it can also reach life threatening conditions as well. Kids are at the highest risk of more serious complications including death.

Symptoms usually vary on the type of venom but generally includes pain, swelling, difficulty in breathing, tissue death, numbness, blurred vision, excessive bleeding, rapid pulse, diarrhea, convulsions, shock, paralysis, low blood pressure and in the most serious cases, death.  Victims should be treated immediately.

Are There Dangerous Parasites That Live On A Lizard?

Since lizards live around trees and bushes, they are bound to catch some parasites. They may carry some microbes on their skin and even in their digestion tract.

These parasites may not necessarily be harmful to the lizard, however, it can be very harmful to their predators.

These can include germs such as Clostridium, Salmonella, and Campylobacter etc. These can result in a number of diseases such as Salmonella, Leptospirosis, Campylobacteriosis, Botulism etc. Apart from germs, lizards are known to carry a number of smaller insects on their skins such as mites, ticks, and maggots.

These can infect your food and transfer to your hands easily any time that you touch them.  

Why Do Lizards Bite?

Most lizards, like the Green Anole, will leave humans alone as long as they do not disturb them. Most lizards only bite to ward off any potential predators.

They do so to scare them away. Only two to four species of lizards are found to be venomous.

They use the venom to daze to their predator so that they become distracted. This way the lizard can make their getaway. Even if the lizard is non-venomous, biting its predator will still cause a lot of pain to the attacker.  

For humans, this is quite similar to pit viper venom, which might not kill them, but can cause a series of infections and conditions. The worst part is that unlike snakes, lizards are hard to dislodge.

They continue secreting their venom for a long time. Most folks have to use pliers to remove it. They hold on so strongly that their teeth often end up broken and stuck in the human skin.

Do Lizards Carry Salmonella?

As we have already established that many lizards and even the house lizard are nonvenomous, however, they are still harmful to humans. Since they spend most of their time outside, their skin catches many harmful bacteria.

One such germ is called Salmonella. It can cause serious illnesses in people.  

Thus, it is highly recommended that you wash your hands with an anti-bacterial soap after handling animals. Salmonella can also be caused by handling lizard environments such as handling their water or food containers or even the terrariums that they live in.

It can result in a number of diseases such as salmonellosis which is evident by Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, headache, blood in stool, and abdominal cramps.

So, be sure not to touch anything after touching your lizard and wash hands as soon as possible.

If A Lizard Fell In Milk or Food, Would It Make You Sick?

Yes, as we mentioned before, their skin is crawling with a bunch of different germs that can be harmful to humans. So, if the lizard fell in any food, it would definitely transfer germs such as Salmonella into the food.

However, if the food was to be cooked later, it would kill the germs so it would be safe to eat such food.

If the food was ready-made then, it would mean that the germs would not be eliminated before ingesting.

Although you could eat the food after cooking it, we don’t recommend it anyways! Not many people would like to eat it either!

Which Lizards Produce Venom?

Most Australian lizards such as Iguanas and monitor lizards as well as the Gila Monster and the Mexican beaded lizard produce venoms in their bodies. When the lizard bites another animal, it releases the venom from the para mandibular sack that is present behind their teeth.

The venom mostly contains neurotoxins that can paralyze or cause hallucinations. However, very few cases have been reported. The venom is called the helodermatid venom which includes substances such as serotonin, hyaluronidase and gilatoxin and helothermine. Gilatoxin is the main neurotoxin found in most Gila Monster and Mexican beaded lizards.

It can cause convulsions, restlessness, lethargy along with paralysis and even death.

Apart from these, very few lizards might have toxins, however, these are still to be known.

What Is Venom?

Venom is a poisonous or toxic substance that is secreted by many animals including snakes, scorpions, spiders, bees, wasps etcetera. It contains one or more than one toxin and usually causes harm to animals that it is injected into.

Some animals such as bees use it as a defense mechanism to try to discourage any potential predators, while others use it to attack their prey such as snakes and spiders.

The venom contains any of the four types of toxins: Necrotoxins (causing instant death), Cytotoxin (causing cell death), Neurotoxins (affects the nervous system) and mycotoxins (damage muscles).  

Venomous animals are those which can secrete venom and inject it into their victims through their teeth or a stinger. These animals are responsible for killing thousands of humans every year. However, research has found that the toxins might be able to treat diseases.


All in all, lizards are mostly harmless. Only a few species are known to be poisonous or venomous (Click here to see if read-headed Lizards are poisonous). However, this does not mean you shouldn’t look out for these species.

If you live in an area that is frequently inhabited by lizards, you might want to check if some of them are poisonous or venomous. Next, you might want to ensure what kind of anti-venoms are present at your local hospital or vet clinic.
This will help you respond quickly to any emergencies.

Even with non-venomous lizards, you should be careful as they are known to cause cross-contamination. Be sure to wash your hands with a good anti-bacterial soap when handling them. And keep the kids away from them!


Hi, this is me with my daughter and my Lizard friend. I hope you enjoy my research. Please feel free to check out my "About Me" page to find out more about me.

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