Injuries, envenomations and stings from exotic pets

J R Soc Med. 2012 Jul;105(7):296-9. doi: 10.1258/jrsm.2012.110295.


A variety of exotic vertebrate and invertebrate species are kept as 'pets' including fishes, amphibians (for example, frogs and toads), reptiles (turtles, crocodiles, lizards and snakes), birds, mammals (for example, primates, civets, and lions), and invertebrates (for example spiders, scorpions, and centipedes), and ownership of some of these animals is rising. Data for 2009-2011 suggest that the number of homes with reptiles rose by approximately 12.5%. Recent surveys, including only some of these animals, indicated that they might be present in around 18.6% of homes (equal to approximately 42 million animals of which around 40 million are indoor or outdoor fish). Many exotic 'pets' are capable of causing injury or poisoning to their keepers and some contacts prove fatal. We examined NHS Health Episode Statistics for England using selected formal categories for hospital admissions and bed days for 2004-2010 using the following categories of injury, envenomation or sting; bitten or struck by crocodile or alligator; bitten or crushed by other reptiles: contact with venomous snakes and lizards; contact with scorpions. Between 2004 and 2010 these data conservatively show a total of 760 full consultation episodes, 709 admissions and 2,121 hospital bed days were associated with injuries probably from exotic pets. Injuries, envenomations and stings from exotic pets constitute a small but important component of emerging medical problems. Greater awareness of relevant injuries and medical sequelae from exotic pet keeping may help medics formulate their clinical assessment and advice to patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Admitting Department, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Amphibians
  • Animals
  • Animals, Poisonous*
  • Birds
  • Bites and Stings* / epidemiology
  • Bites and Stings* / etiology
  • Bites and Stings* / prevention & control
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Endangered Species*
  • Fishes
  • Humans
  • Invertebrates
  • Mammals
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Pets*
  • Reptiles
  • State Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • United Kingdom
  • Wounds and Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries* / etiology
  • Wounds and Injuries* / prevention & control