Be careful which pets you choose for your children, say pediatricians

For years, hamsters have been the most popular pets among kids. But a new study out by the American Academy of Pediatrics claims that having the little critters around could make your child sick. So, before you purchase that Christmas pet for your kids, pediatricians want to warn you about the potential risk of exotic animals. KLTV 7's LaKecia Shockley explains.

Welcome to Pet 'n Critters. From birds to cute little puppies, stores like this are a kid's dream. But pediatricians say don't let these cuddle bunnies fool you - some non-traditional pets could be dangerous.

"The most important example of this would be reptiles. Reptiles have become very common," said Dr. Joseph A. Bocchini, Jr., from Louisiana State University. "Unfortunately, reptiles carry salmonella. Virtually 100% percent of them are infected with this organism. There have been outbreaks of salmonella and individual cases of salmonella infection in young children reported from exposure to frogs that have been purchased at pet swap meets."

Pet 'n Critters owner Laura Borens knows her animals, and says if pet owners take precautions their kids should be fine.

"If they have a reptile in their home that reptile should be confined to a cage. Never kiss a reptile...that can pass germs to your mouth. We just don't want you walking out of the door with a pet and not knowing how to take care of it."

Pediatricians also warn parents about turtles and hedgehogs. A study found hedgehogs quills can cause injury to the skin.

So, if you're brave and can handle a pet, just be careful, say experts.

"We all believe that the contact between children and animals is very good and has a lot of potential benefits for children but we want it to be done in a safe way."

The American Academy of Pediatrics says children under five should not be exposed to pets. Pediatricians say good handwashing, supervision and making sure your kids don't eat in the same area as the pet could help prevent your child from catching disease.

LaKecia Shockley, reporting.