Exotic pets, although not as common as dogs and cats, are increasingly popular. The species variety and the wild origin of some of these animals complicate public health issues.
Pet rodents are merely potential carriers of human disease agents. They practically pose no threat to public health. Some of the possible diseases include Salmonellosis (rare), Lymphocytic coriomeningitis (rare), Leptospirosis and Streptococcosis.
Pet birds on the other end, are a much more serious source of diseases and careful handling is recommended. One of the most important diseases is Psittacosis or Chlamydiosis. It is caused by a bacterium found mostly in parrots and parrot like birds. Humans can develop flu like signs and occasionally a fatal disease. Bird owners can contract the disease from carrier pet bird by inhalation. Testing new pet birds and unsuspected carriers is highly recommended. Another significant disease is Salmonellosis. Salmonellosis is considered the most important disease and is present worldwide. It is caused by Salmonella bacteriae and usually transmitted by ingestion of contaminated material. Affected humans develop severe vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Children and seniors are more sensitive. The disease can be fatal. Pet birds can also carry Campilobacteriosis,
a serious intestinal disease in humans. It is rare in parrots and pet birds and is not considered to be a serious threat. Other less common diseases are Yersiniosis, a bacterial disease carried by Canaries and pigeons, Newcastle disease and Tuberculosis.
Reptiles carry Salmonella, the most important pathogen transmitted to people. Turtles, lizards and iguanas are reported to be responsible for human cases of Salmonella infection. Other potential diseases in reptiles are Campilobacteriosis, tuberculosis and Q fever.
Exotic pet owners should adopt strict hygiene and sanitation habits in order to prevent disease transmission. Pet bird and reptile cages must be cleaned on a daily basis using Disinfectants. Feces must be promptly removed and water changed frequently.
Any newly acquired pet has to be examined by the veterinarian who will discuss specific health issues during the visit.