PET owners have been warned about the risk of kissing reptiles after a number of people contracted salmonella from the animals.

Doctors in NHS Forth Valley have reported four cases of the infection in the past eight months in people who own bearded dragons and other similar species.

They said that while reptiles carried salmonella in their gut without showing any signs of infection, it could be shed in droppings that spread over their skin and can contaminate household surfaces.

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The health board has issued a guide for pet owners, warning them about the risk of catching salmonella. It recommends parents supervise children at all times to make sure they do not put the animals near their mouths and ensure reptiles are kept out of rooms where food is prepared.

Doctors have also stressed the importance of hand hygiene after feeding or handling animals such as bearded dragons, which have become more popular as pets in Scotland and can cost up to £100, living for up to 10 years.

Dr Henry Prempeh, of NHS Forth Valley, said: "While salmonella is not usually life-threatening in healthy individuals, immuno-compromised people, the very young and the very old can have complications associated with this infection. I would appeal to people who look after bearded dragons to take strict hygiene precautions."