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August 19, 2013

Pet snakes can slither their way into your heart

(Continued)

Health and sanitation are also considerations that shouldn’t be overlooked when choosing your pet. 

"Hygiene is important," said Gentry. "Salmonella is a bacteria that can be carried by pet reptiles and can be transmitted to humans, so washing hands is recommended after handling a pet snake."

Though there are many snakes that make suitable pets for adults and children alike, the safety of owning a snake as a pet is sometimes called into question. Just recently, two young boys in Canada were strangled to death while they were slept by an escaped pet python.

However, Gentry noted that isolated tragic incidents involving large constrictors or poisonous snakes shouldn't discourage people from choosing an appropriate snake species as a pet.

"It is significantly less common for a snake to harm its owner in any way than for a dog," Gentry said.

About 2 percent of the US population is bitten by a dog every year, leading to more than 30 deaths per year, Gentry said. Large constrictor snakes have killed fewer than 20 people in the United States since 1978.

Gentry explained that the most common causes of a pet snake to bite is a feeding error, where the snake missed the food item and bit the owner's hand, or a handling mistake where the snake clearly demonstrated its intent to bite, but was handled anyway.

"The human animal bond with any pet should not be underestimated," said Gentry. "The risks of owning a pet snake are no greater than owning a dog or cat and absolutely do not outweigh the benefits."

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University.

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