Exotic pet zoonosis- diseases transmitted from exotic pets to people

This article uses vague interpretation of the term "exotic pets" to include pets that are not dogs or cats.

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.

We will concentrate on some of the most important and common pets.



Pet rodents are merely potential carriers of zoonoses. They practically pose no threat to public health. Some of the possible diseases include Salmonellosis (rare), Lymphocytic coriomeningitis (rare), Leptospirosis and Streptococcosis.


Birds are a much more serious source of zoonotic diseases and careful handling is recommended. Disease transmitted by birds include:


Chlamydiosis is caused by Chlamydia psittaci, a bacteria 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.


Salmonellosis is the most important zoonosis and is spread worldwide. It is caused by Salmonella bacteriae and usually transmitted my ingestion of contaminated material. Affected humans develop severe vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Children and seniors are more sensitive. The disease can be fatal.


Campilobacteriosis is a serious intestinal disease in humans. It is rare in parrots and pet birds and is not considered to be a serious threat.


Yersiniosis is a bacterial disease of a minor importance. Canaries and pigeons are likely carriers.

Newcastle disease

This is a viral disease that can affect humans. Pet bird owners are not at high risk.


Tuberculosis is a serious an fatal bacterial disease that can affect humans. Pet birds are not considered to be a serious threat.

Birds can rarely transmit other zoonoses.



This is the most important zoonosis transmitted from reptiles to people. Turtles, lizards and iguanas are reported to be responsible for human cases of Salmonella infection.

Other potential zoonoses in reptiles are Campilobacteriosis, tuberculosis and Q fever. The occurrence is rare. 


Strict hygiene and sanitation is crucial. Pet bird and reptile owners should keep cages clean 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. Specific zoonotic issues should be discussed during the visit.

More information from the CDC http://www.cdc.gov/Features/ReptilesSalmonella/http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/animals/birds.htmhttp://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/animals/pocket_pets.htm

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