Pediatrics warns against pets for toddlers

Young children should not keep hedgehogs as pets — or hamsters, baby chicks, lizards and turtles — because of risks for disease.

That’s according to the nation’s leading pediatricians group in a new report about dangers from exotic animals.

Besides evidence that they can carry dangerous and sometimes potentially deadly germs, exotic pets may be more prone than cats and dogs to bite, scratch or claw — putting children younger than 5 particularly at risk, the report says.

Young children are vulnerable because of developing immune systems plus they often put their hands in their mouths and are awkward at handling animals, the report says.

The report appears in the October edition of the American Academy of Pediatric’s medical journal, Pediatrics.

A spokesman for the International Hedgehog Association said there’s no reason to single out hedgehogs or other exotic pets.

‘‘Our recommendation is that no animal should be a pet for kids 5 and under,’’ said Z.G. Standing Bear. He runs a rescue operation near Pikes Peak, Colo. for abandoned hedgehogs, which became fad pets about 10 years ago.


Exposure to animals can provide many benefits during the growth and development of children. However, there are potential risks associated with animal exposures, including exposure to nontraditional pets in the home and animals in public settings. Educational materials, regulations, and guidelines have been developed to minimize these risks. Pediatricians, veterinarians, and other health care professionals can provide advice on selection of appropriate pets as well as prevention of disease transmission from nontraditional pets and when children contact animals in public settings.