That iguana in your son's bedroom isn't just a reptile. It's also a deadly-germ machine.
So says the American Academy of Pediatrics, which warns parents that many of the "easy" pets the ones that don't shed, don't need to be walked, and don't throw up on the sofaחpose serious health threats to young children. Sigh. And here I was so ready to convince my daughter that lizards are almost as cuddly as a Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
I'm not alone. In the past few years, more and more families have turned to nontraditional pets, largely because they're considered easier to care for than cats and dogs. But they bring with them substantial health risks, particularly for children younger than 5.Shute then proceeded to list off a slew of pocket pets, including reptiles, hamsters and fish, and list the various dangers they pose, ranging from salmonella to fungal skin infections. And while it is true that these diseases can be carried by these types of animals, quite a few people were not happy to hear about the Academy of Pediatrics' findings -- and let Shute know about it! Today, Shute clarified a bit on her blog.
Several readers pointed out that I didn't include enough data for readers to figure out the health risk posed by different pets.
Here's the scoop: The pediatricians' academy got worried because in the past few years it has seen more and more families get exotic pets; 4 million families have reptiles, for instance. The concern is that many families acquire the pet first and ask questions later, and pediatricians rarely warn families that pets are a potential health issue. So the pediatricians, the veterinarians, and public health officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got together to recommend that families with children younger than 5 avoid getting nontraditional pets.