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Envenomation: a real risk of keeping exotic house pets

Luc de Haro, Philip Pommier
Veterinary and Human Toxicology 2003, 45 (4): 214-6
The fashion of exotic animals maintained as pets is increasing in France. Cases of envenomation after exotic animals bites or stings were studied. All 54 non-native animal envenomations reported by hospitals at the Poison Centre of Marseilles (3 south-eastern regions of France) between 1997 and 2002 were surveyed. They involved 22 snakes, 18 fishes, 11 spiders, 1 scorpion and 2 marine invertebrates. The snakes belonged to crotalids (genus Crotalus, Sistrurus, Agkistrodon and Trimeresurus), viperids (genus Bitis, Echis and Macrovipera, responsible for extensive swelling and coagulation disturbances), elapids (Naja and Dendroaspis which induce severe neurological signs), and colubrids (Lampropeltis with pain, edema and lymphangitis). Nine of the 22 patients bitten by snakes needed Intensive Care Unit management, and 5 of them received antivenom. Fish stings produced severe pain and local swelling. An Amazonian Stingray Potamotrygon histrix case had extensive swelling and malaise, headache and tremor. Pain and lymphangitis developed from tarantulas bites, and a black widow bite produced a severe diffuse muscle pain and contractions, and blood pressure disturbances. Exotic pets can be dangerous for their owners and family. Since antivenom from foreign countries is not often available in France, these cases raise the question of society's responsibility for treatment costs.

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