CHICAGO (AP) — Warning: Young children should not keep hedgehogs as pets —
or hamsters, baby chicks, lizards and turtles, for that matter — because of
That's according to the nation's leading pediatricians' group in a new report
about exotic animals.
In addition to evidence that they can carry dangerous germs, exotic pets may
be more prone than cats or dogs to bite, scratch and claw — putting children
younger than 5 particularly at risk, the report says.
Young children are especially vulnerable because their immune systems are
still developing and because they often put their hands in their mouths.
That means families with kids younger than 5 should avoid "nontraditional''
pets. Also, kids that young should avoid contact with such animals in petting
zoos or other public places, according to the report from the American Academy
"Many parents clearly don't understand the risks from various infections''
these animals often carry, said Dr. Larry Pickering, the lead author and an
infectious disease specialist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
For example, about 11 percent of salmonella illnesses in children are thought
to stem from contact with lizards, turtles and other reptiles, he said.
Dr. Joseph Bocchini, a co-author of the report, said he recently treated an
infant who got salmonella from the family's pet iguana, which was allowed to
roam freely in the home. The child was hospitalized for four weeks before
Hedgehogs, the report said, can be dangerous because their quills can
penetrate skin and have been known to spread a bacteria strain that can cause
stomach pain and a rash.
Those who already have such pets should contact their veterinarians about
specific risks and options, he advised.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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