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K-State Veterinarian Says Although Exotic Pets Can Be Great Companions, There Are Health Factors That Can Affect Both the Animal and Humans
Date:6/18/2009

MANHATTAN, Kan., June 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Owners of exotic animals like reptiles and birds need to be aware of illnesses that can affect both their pet and humans, according to a Kansas State University veterinarian.

Gary West, assistant professor of zoological medicine in K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine, said exotic animals can make fun and interesting pets, but there are many health factors to consider before owning one.

West said common exotic pets are ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles and birds. He recommended several of these animals as good pets, including cockatiels, guinea pigs, rabbits, bearded dragons, corn snakes, blue-tongued skinks, some species of tarantulas, freshwater tropical fish and some tortoises.

Owning an exotic pet is different from owning pets like dogs and cats. Some exotic pets have specialized needs, such as lizards that require an ultraviolet light for basking, live insects for food or other whole prey items, West said.

"Many of our diets and health care are very advanced for dogs, which have been domesticated for a long time," he said. "Many exotic pets are non-domestic, and although many advances have been made, there are still things we are learning about them."

West said there are fad exotic animals every few years that can be challenging to own, such as a kinkajou. West said this South American animal is related to the raccoon and typically does not make a good pet because of special environmental requirements and that it can bite.

He said all exotic animals have specific needs and requirements, and it is important that the pet owner become educated about the animal before purchasing it. He said the best way to keep an exotic pet healthy is to know what it requires to stay healthy and thrive.

Exotic animals can carry diseases, West said. Reptiles are commonly known to be at
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SOURCE Kansas State University
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