Hidden Dangers of Unusual Pets

What to know about guinea pigs, snakes, ferrets, iguanas and more
yellow cockatoo Photo: hin255/Shutterstock
boy holding guinea pig
gerbil
ferret
ball python
green iguana
box turtle
yellow cockatoo
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Birds

From chatty Mynas to exotic Cockatoos, our feathered friends can be fascinating. They also can transmit illnesses. Four common ones, according to the CDC:

  • Cryptococcosis, a fungus that when inhaled can cause symptoms similar to pneumonia
  • Histoplasmosis, a fungal infection that brings on fever, chest pain and cough
  • Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), a bacterial disease that can cause weight loss, abdominal pain, diarrhea, anemia and fatigue
  • Parrot fever, or Psittacosis, a bacterial infection that causes fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, trouble breathing and a dry cough

To avoid germs, the CDC advises not letting droppings build up and using disposable gloves to pick them up (wash your hands after). Clean cages and perches with clean water and dish soap from a bottle dedicated to this purpose. To disinfect the cage, use a bleach solution or a disinfectant made for birdcages (rinse well for your bird’s sake). Don't clean the cage or equipment in the kitchen sink.