Hidden Dangers of Unusual Pets

What to know about guinea pigs, snakes, ferrets, iguanas and more
green iguana Photo: SantiPhotoSS/Shutterstock
boy holding guinea pig
gerbil
ferret
ball python
green iguana
box turtle
yellow cockatoo
black and white rabbit
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Iguanas and other lizards

Sure, lizards are cute. But taking in an iguana is no small commitment, since they can live up to 20 years, can grow as long as 5 feet and are not easy to properly care for. They can be hard to tame and can be aggressive toward humans, if not properly trained. Like other reptiles, lizards can carry salmonella. "It’s not uncommon for them to carry it on their skin, so it’s very easy to pick up. The germs can transfer to you, and if you get them your nose or mouth they can potentially make you sick," says the AMVA's Michael San Filippo. Wash your hands immediately after touching the animal or its cage. The CDC recommends against pet reptiles and amphibians if you have a child younger than 5 or a person with a weakened immune system in your home. Don’t let reptiles or amphibians roam anywhere food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, and don’t bathe them in the kitchen sink, bathroom sink or bathtub. Use a dedicated plastic tub.