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Vermin as Pets -- Bad Idea, Says Docs

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In what could be considered the no-brainer news announcement of the year, doctors are now warning that kids should not keep such "exotic" animals as hamsters, hedgehogs, lizards and turtles because of the risk for disease. Duh.

hamster with fangs
The report, just released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, says these types of animals carry dangerous and potentially deadly germs and are more prone to biting and scratching than other domesticated animals. According to the docs, these risks mean families with children under five should not have "nontraditional" pets in the home. Also, petting zoos with these types of critters should be avoided.

"Many parents clearly don't understand the risks from various infections" these animals often carry, said Dr. Larry Pickering, the report's lead author and an infectious disease specialist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As an example, Pickering says roughly 11% percent of cases of salmonella in children are believed to be caused by contact with lizards, turtles and other reptiles. Hamsters also can carry this germ, which can cause severe diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps.

Hedgehogs are also extremely dangerous because their quills can penetrate skin and have been known to spread a bacteria that can cause fever, stomach pain and a rash.

If you already own one of these creatures, the study suggests you contact your vet to find out about specific risks to you and your family.

next: Mom Blogger Reveals Newborn Son's Struggle
8 comments so far | Post a comment now
micki October 6, 2008, 2:39 PM

Kids need a pet like this GOLDEN RETRIEVER who qualified for the Olympics!

Anonymous October 6, 2008, 4:36 PM

whats the author

Becca October 7, 2008, 6:18 AM

Excuse me I always thought the kids that didn’t have these pets at least once were weird! Not to mention my kids and every kid they know has had them! None of them have fallen ill with some mysterious illness ether! I think this is just another scare tactic thing like when they were saying eggs were bad for you! Suddenly they are good for you again! Not to mention the hamsters, Ginnie pigs, and small pets of that sort are raised and breed in a captive environments! Its not like they went to a forest and picked up some rabid rabbit or other type of rodent! Not to mention the only way I could see it being a problem is if your child is allergic to many things! As for me I’m going to keep getting my children these little pets and besides they are easy to keep care of and not expensive!

Becca October 7, 2008, 6:21 AM

I’d like to know where they are getting their fact from becasue I have never ever heard of anything like this from my child’s doctor! It doesn’t seem accredited to me! For all we know it could just as well be here say stuff that this writer wrote up as from the experts! I don’t believe it!

Cindy October 7, 2008, 11:21 AM

As a vet tech and small animal specialist, I can say that they are correct - AT LEAST about the reptiles. In Texas, we weren’t allowed to sell turtles under 4” because children could stick them in their mouths and become infected…and we were always sure to tell them about salmonella and to be sure and wash hands well after playing with their pet.

As for the small rodents, I hadn’t heard that, but you can get fecal matter on your hands, when handling them.

This is just a case of people needing to educate their children on proper hand washing …and everything will be all right! :)

Rikki October 8, 2008, 12:57 AM

I will never have these kind of pets in my home. We will stick to dogs…I won’t even get a cat.

Sheryl October 8, 2008, 10:30 PM

I had hamsters, lizards and turtles as a kid and the lizards and turtles were ones we caught outside ourselves. I NEVER got ill from any of them.

Andrew Pelt March 13, 2011, 4:24 PM

This is great..thanks forposting!

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