Health Risks Associated With Owning Exotic Pets


Pet ownership always has its ups and downs. There are tremendous joys and significant responsibilities associated with owning both exotic and domestic pets. However, exotic pets pose an additional challenge: health risks. Let’s take a look at the most common health risks associated with owning exotic pets.


Salmonella are bacteria that are present on reptiles and birds. In humans, salmonella can cause severe stomach distress including diarrhea and vomiting. It’s especially dangerous for children and older adults, or those with a compromised immune system. Salmonella poisoning has been known to cause death.

Unfortunately, all you have to do is touch a reptile or bird to contract salmonella. This means thorough hand washing is essential if you own an exotic pet that carries salmonella. Simply touching your eyes or mouth or touching food with salmonella-infected hands can make you extremely sick.

Skin Disorders

Another extremely common complication with owning exotic pets is skin problems. These problems range from fungal infections to serious allergic reactions to fur, oils and dander. In fact, the lovely little hedgehog is noted for sharing a fungal infection with its owners. This fungal infection can be quite uncomfortable and may be difficult to treat.

Allergies to skin, oils and dander are also extremely common. Monkeys, lemurs, chinchillas and sugar gliders all have unique hair and this may lead to allergic reactions.


Many exotic animals carry diseases. These diseases are transmissible to humans and include:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Tularemia
  • Leptospirosis
  • Parasites
  • Rabies

Many of the treatments for these diseases are painful and it can take a long time to recover.


Finally, because exotic animals are wild, they’re not domestic and accustomed to humans; they bite, scratch and kill. That’s their nature. It’s how they protect themselves. So in addition to dealing with diseases, bacteria, allergies and fungus you also have to be prepared to manage injuries from the animal’s natural behavior.

Owning an exotic pet is not without risk. In fact, it’s extremely important to make sure you are 100% prepared and educated about the risks before you bring an exotic pet into your home. They’re not generally compatible with children and other pets and they require special habitats and care.

Once you’ve made the decision to own an exotic pet, make sure you take it to a certified and skilled veterinarian, one that’s knowledgeable about your animal type. The veterinarian can give your new pet a complete exam and help you prepare for the potential health risks.

There’s no doubt that the exotic pet trend is continuing to grow. Before you jump on the bandwagon, make sure you understand and are prepared for the risks.