Exotic Pets and Covid-19 – Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared

Exotic Pets And Covid-19: Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared

While there’s no evidence that the Covid-19 virus can be carried by domesticated animals, what about exotic pets?

With all of us trying hard to protect ourselves against the virus, which causes a mild to severe respiratory illness, we might fear that exotic animals could pass the virus onto us – especially if we consider how the virus started in the first place.

Where did Covid-19 originate from?

The virus is suspected to have originated in animals and is thought to have been transferred to humans via a wet market in Wuhan, China. These markets sell both live and dead animals for human consumption.

Since it occurred in China at the end of 2019, nearly one million cases of Covid-19 have been reported in humans across the world.

Animal activists are fighting for a ban on the illegal wildlife trade.

This is especially important since scientists are still not sure if snakes, bats, or pangolins were the animals that initially infected humans with it.

Reading news such as the above might make you worried that your exotic pets could transmit Covid-19 to you.

Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself, both when purchasing exotic pets and owning them.

Covid-19 And The Buying Of Exotic Animals

Covid-19 And The Buying Of Exotic Animals

If you’re interested in purchasing exotic animals to keep as pets, you should focus on some important factors related to how the animals have been bred and treated.

Here’s why that is so important, especially now when we’re dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unhygienic Conditions Are A No-No

As with any infection and virus, unhygienic conditions are perfect breeding grounds for them to erupt and spread.

When wild animals are taken from their natural habitats and bred in captivity, the conditions are not always good or humane.

Sometimes these animals are kept in small, dirty cages. This makes it easy for them to become infected with disease.

Therefore, if you’re purchasing an exotic pet from a breeder, it’s of the utmost importance to know more about their practices and ensure that they are certified by the USDA, the United States Department Of Agriculture, which will inspect the breeders’ facilities.

Raising Many Animals Together Is Problematic

If you can view the exotic pet breeders’ location yourself before purchasing an exotic animal from them, this is ideal as you can see what conditions the animals are kept in and if there are any clear indications that the animals could be ill.

As Time reports, when lots of animals are raised together, it’s difficult to notice when one or two become sick, and that can cause infections to spread quickly.

An example of this occurred several years ago with SARS disease, another severe respiratory disease, that originated in bats and then leaped to civet cats, and then finally was transferred to humans.

So, making sure that different animal species are not being raised together in close proximity is important.

What About Covid-19 And Exotic Pets You Already Own?

Giving Food To Monkey

Now that we’ve looked at some tips when purchasing exotic animals, let’s look at the issue of Covid-19 infecting animals you already own.

You’ll be pleased to know that there is not enough evidence that Covid-19 can be spread from companion animals to people, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states.

There are many types of coronaviruses – some cause people to become sick while others cause animals to become infected.

The site adds that when animals fall sick with coronaviruses, they can infect people but this is a rare occurrence.

When it comes to exotic pets specifically, the CDC states that there’s not enough evidence to claim that imported animals can spread Covid-19.

If your exotic animal hasn’t been in contact with other animals, this further reduces the risk that they could be infected and potentially pass the virus to you.

However, it’s always wise to practice safety and good hygiene because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Here are some important hygiene tips to follow.

  • Wash your hands after coming into contact with your pet, such as after petting it, cleaning out its enclosure, or replacing its food and water supplies. Make sure you wash your hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you are sick with Covid-19, limit the time you spend with your pet. Even though there are no reports of animals falling sick with the disease, you should still be on the safe side. By restricting contact with your animals in the way you would with your human loved ones, you will always ensure they stay healthy.
  • The above tip is also responsible to follow if other people come into contact with your pets. While the animals themselves might not be able to infect you with the disease, if someone is infected and touches the pet, then you touch the animal and touch your face before washing your hands, this could increase your risk of contracting the illness, however small.
  • Make sure you regularly clean your pet’s enclosure or cage to prevent it from harboring germs. When you keep your pet and its living space clean and healthy, you can prevent many illnesses from affecting it.

What Other Diseases Can You Catch From Your Exotic Pets?

Illustration of Herpes Virus

Practicing good hygiene around your pets is always important, and this is because there are various diseases that you can catch from them.

Known as zoonotic diseases, these can jump from your exotic pets to you. Here is a rundown of some illnesses to know about if you’re an exotic pet owner.

Herpes B-Virus

This is a disease that affects between 80 and 90 percent of macaque monkeys. It can be transferred to humans via saliva, such as if the monkey bites a person.

Salmonellosis

Almost all reptiles carry salmonella in their feces and they don’t show symptoms of it so it’s not easy to know if your exotic snake, lizard, or iguana is infected.

This infection can be transferred to humans. Not correctly washing hands after touching a reptile or something it has contaminated can cause one to fall sick.

Salmonella can cause various symptoms in people, such as diarrhea, headache, nausea, fever, vomiting, and even death in children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.

Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis

This is a type of meningitis that humans can be infected with by rodents.

It can cause hantavirus (a respiratory disease that has a high mortality rate), salmonella, skin infections such as ringworm, fever, flu-like symptoms, and tapeworm, as Stanford Children’s Health reports.

Guinea pigs and hamsters can also carry this disease. When humans come into contact with fresh urine, droppings, nesting materials, or saliva from infected animals, they can fall sick.

Rabies

Wild Cat

Wild cats are associated with rabies, which is why they should always be vaccinated.

Other animals can also have rabies, such as ferrets, but this is rare considering your exotic pets won’t come into contact with other animals.

If you’ve recently purchased your exotic pet, you should have it screened at your vet for rabies.

E. coli

This is bacteria that can affect all warm-blooded animals, even your domestic cat and dog.

When it infects humans, such as via contact with the animal’s infected fur, E. coli can lead to symptoms such as fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Hepatitis B

This virus is mainly a risk for gorillas, bonobos, as well as gibbons.

However, if you own a primate, you can have it screened and vaccinated. Hepatitis B can be transmitted to humans.

The virus can remain on surfaces, such as the animals’ fur, or be transmitted through bodily fluids such as saliva.

Symptoms of hepatitis B in humans include jaundice, fever, abdominal pain, and rash.

Trichophyton Mentagrophytes

This is an inflammatory fungus that you can get from hedgehogs and chinchillas. It causes skin infections.

Rickettsia Prowazekii

Flying Squirrel

This is an illness associated with typhus fever. It can lead to headaches, nausea, vomiting, photophobia, and myalgia.

You can get it from flying squirrels just by inhaling the bacteria from them. 

Sarcoptic Mange

This is a skin illness that can cause scales, alopecia, and itchy skin in affected mammals such as foxes and some wolves.

It can be transmitted to humans when humans make direct contact with the affected animals.

If an exotic animal has sarcoptic mange, they should be handled with gloves to reduce the risk.

Conclusion

Covid-19 is a pandemic that is causing people to have many concerns and worries, such as when it comes to how easily the illness can be spread.

One of the worries you might have is that you could catch the illness from your exotic pets.

However, as can be seen in this article, that is nothing to be worried about.

As long as you always ensure that you keep yourself and your animals clean, you can prevent various illnesses from striking.

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