There has been much discussion about the health concern with regard to owning exotic pets. The Associated Press (AP) sent out a warning in an article stating, “young children should not keep hedgehogs as pets-or hamsters, baby chicks, lizards and turtles, for that matter-because of risks for disease.” This warning originated from the American Academy of Pediatrics who published a report on the adverse health affects from owning exotic pets. While exotic pets have the potential to carry disease and other germs, people should not abandon or become fearful of the exotic pets they already own or would like to own.
It is obvious that every pet owner runs the risk of bringing disease and germs into their home with any animal that they purchase or adopt. Some pets have worms or fleas, but these issues as well as others can be taken care of properly if pet owners take immediate action and see a veterinarian for treatment. It is also important to groom the pet on a regular basis by cleaning their claws and fur and by disinfecting their food and bathroom area. Counters, especially kitchen counters, should be disinfected too.
In response to the recent health warnings on exotic pets, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reminds pet owners that good hygiene can prevent many health concerns, especially when it comes to children under the age of 5 years. Pets can teach children about responsibility and compassion, so instead of putting your exotic pet up for adoption, teach your child about good hygiene practices. Keep hand sanitizer in the family room and bedroom or wherever your child is likely to play and pet the animal. Emphasize the importance of washing hands to your child, and make sure they know not to put their dirty hands in their mouth.
Exotic animals make excellent pets, and good hygiene is key to staying healthy regardless of what type of pet you own or want to own. However, if you are still concerned about your family’s health, don’t abandon or return your exotic pet to the wild. Instead, find a new home for them that is more suitable.