By Ivan Crab

Primates breeders and primate institutes recognize the fact that profitable breeding depends upon primate health.  The observance of a few common sense rules will contribute to maintaining a favorable status.

The primate keeper is the key in maintaining the health of an animal.

Since primates are subject to many of the same diseases as humans, the premises should be isolated as much as possible.

The cages should be well constructed to give indoor and outdoor possibilities and to lend themselves to daily clean-up and disinfecting.  The cages should be suitable for rotation in case of diseases.

The summation of diagnoses over a period of time will inform the primate owner as to the principal troubles; by making daily observations on the health and care conditions; by keeping records.

Purchasing primates

Always be certain that you purchase primates only from reputable suppliers; they may not have been obtained legally or could be ill.  This is a world wide problem, monkeys may be smuggled across the borders and are then offered for sale as captive-bred.

Disease can be difficult to identify in the early stages so if you have doubt about the condition or the origin of an animal, then it is best not to purchase.



One of the most important measures to be taken to protect the health is the quarantining of your newly received primate.

WARNING 1Buying just imported primates that just finished their legal quarantine means nothing.  The rooms of quarantine at the importers or traders are not a GUARANTY.  When one quarantine is finish, they start with another one and there are various pathogens that are still not cured and/or detected before the next imported group animals enter the same quarantine rooms.  Different species of animals are in quarantine at the same place/building and the length of quarantines often cause that old and new arrivals are mixed.

WARNING 2: Buying Primates from a trader or a shop: again the same GUARANTY problem.  Ask the vendor to provide you: The origin documents from the animal / a breeders or import attestation / a health document “vaccination
– medication – quarantine – age…ect ” written by a vet.  If it is necessary contact the vet, the breeder, the previous owner …. but don’t buy the animals if you are not provided with these documents.  Look around and check if the cages are clean, if there aren’t any ill animals present, if the place is maintained in a proper way.

WARNING 3: At home all new arrivals have to be in observation quarantine during a minimum time of 30 days (preferably 90 days) at their new premises before they can be in contact with the existing colony.  If not, put all your colony in quarantine observation and control all the existing animals as you control the new ones (this is only possible for people that owned 2-3 animals; however the risk stays the same).

WARNING 4: If you have any disease in your collection you will have to separate the contamined animal(s).  Do not
  Install the animal(s) in a separate room and put the animal(s) under strong vet control.  Ask information from other owners, breeders, zoos, primate research centers….  They will be glad to help you, try to be as complete as possible when you inform people with your case ( species – age – food – husbandry – …).  Even if your animal(s) is dead, try to find out the reason.  Send the bodies to a diagnostic laboratory.  It can be important not only for your other animal(s), but you can help research, other owners, breeders, …



With Primates you have to be aware to keep strong hygiene practices.

People with signs of infectious disease, pregnant women, kids under 15 years, should not be allowed to take care of primates.  Nobody with evidence of active disease must be allowed to get in contact with primates.

With a min of 6 month and a max of 12 month interval, a human health care program should be considered from all primate owners.



Some conditions like food, hygiene, husbandry, have to be permanently under control.  Diseases are developed all over the world all over the world and often we don’t know the reason or origin of the disease.  Diseases can often be prevented by a good hygiene, adequate food, and a correct husbandry.

  • most primates originate in warm climates: 15C and 30C degrees for old world primates – 20C and 32C degrees for neo-tropical primates
  • the behavior and social organization of the primates you own must be taken into consideration
  • Incorrect nutrition is a common cause of disease
  • bedding should be easily replaced
  • drinking and feeding devices need a daily hygiene
  • all the other tolls, toys , accessories used need a daily hygiene

Your primates should be daily checked for abnormal behavior such as: slow locomotion, injuries, loose feces, lack of appetite, refusal of drinking , ….  All these should be used as an indicator that something is wrong.

If any of these INDICATORS are present, you have two solutions:
1) change their environment
2) the animal is ill



Some disease are transmitted from primates to humans: herpes simiae – herpes tamarinus – pox – hepatitis – measles – rubella – influenza type – etc

Some disease are transmitted from humans to primates: herpes hominis -smallpox – influenza virus – measles – mumps – polio – rubella – hepatitis – etc

Some disease are transmitted from other animals to primates: pox (mammals) – sendai virus (rodents) – encephalomyocarditis (cockroaches) – rabies (mammals) – pseudotubercolusis ( birds – rodents) – etc

Some disease are transmitted from primate to primate: therefore, different species should not be housed in the vicinity of each other but in different rooms for example: herpes tamarinus – herpes saimiri – monkey pox – etc



  • Tikes, mites, flees: are rare in primate health but some isolated animals may suffer from it.  If so use insecticides for dogs or cats depending on the size of your monkey ( neo-tropical monkeys cat products – others dog products )
  • Helmimths: they cause enteritis, peritonitis, anal irritations, digestive problems. Cockroaches, humans, and domestic animals are the host.  Piperazine is used as prevention and cure.
  • Pinworms, tapeworms, nematodes, cestodes: should be controlled.  Cured with piperamizine – fenbendazole – mebendazole – dichlorophen or any commercial product used for pet animals, or humans
  • Protozoa: “flagellates” cause toxoplasmosis, diarrhea … clinical signs are not specific.  They can survive in the environment for long periods before they cause problems.  It is important to control your monkeys and to prevent flagellates with giving metronidazole cures (2 – 3 times a year during 6 days)



  • The Salmonella spp: causes lethargy, diarrhea, rapidly fatal.  May be cured with antibiotics if not to late.
  • Tuberculosis: neo-tropical monkeys are less susceptible than the others, be careful with recent imported OLD WORLD PRIMATES.  This bacterial infection runs a course of more than six months and can remain occult until it becomes fatal. Visible diagnosis may be difficult… pneumonia, loss of weight are the biggest symptoms.  Treatment is inadvisable; some cases are terminal and others can be helped.   When a primate with tuberculosis is detected, it should be immediately transported to a special institute, and not be kept in the vicinity of humans or other animals .
  • Pseudotuberculosis or paratubercolisis (yersiniosis): birds and rodents are the host of this infection.  Animals kept in outdoor cages are subject to this FATAL disease.  Most of the time when the infection is detected the whole colony may be contaminated.  Make sure to wash the vegetables and fruits you feed to your animals. Visible diagnosis are loss of weight or acute death of a nanimal in a colony.  Treatment is inadvisable.  Some broad spectrum of antibiotics may help in some cases.



  • Hepatitis: A – B hepatitis can be transmitted from human to primates and from primates to humans.  Human vaccination against hepatitis B should be considered for people at risk, importers, trader, zoo keepers, and breeders.
  • Myxovirus (common cold): may lead to severe respiratory disease.  Vitamin C and antibiotic therapy may be useful.
  • Herpes viruses: these are the most dangerous infections you can get in your collection.  Some of these viruses are usually self – limited to one host, but most of the time they can be fatal for other species.  Generally the host is carrying the virus without any health problem, or they only have a small lesion.  In most cases the virus is not fatal for the host.
  1. Herpes hominis: host humans, it can develop serious diseases in neo-tropical monkeys and apes , encephalitis and conjunctivitis by marmosets and tamarins it can be fatal.
  2. Herpes saimiri: host saimiris , it is fatal for marmosets, tamarins, owl monkeys, titis ,… more than 70% squirrel monkeys carry this virus , and do not have any clinical sign ….!!! it is transmitted by contact , oral , faeces…
  3. Herpes tamarinus: host saimiris in a subclinical way , it is fatal for marmosets, tamarins, owl monkeys, titis,… it is transmitted by contact, oral, faeces…
  4. Herpes simia: host macaques , this may be fatal for apes and humans , it is transmitted by bites, scratches and “splashing” of bodily fluids into the eyes, clinical signs are generally ulcers , this healthiness is rarely serious and dangerous for non-humans primates.
  5. Herpes ateles: host ateles, fatal for marmosets, tamarins, owl monkeys, titits,…
  6. Other herpes viruses are present in monkeys, apes… gorila herpes, chimp herpes, owl monkey herpes,…

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