Boy Dies From Disease Contracted From Pet Rat

A family is mourning the tragic death of a 10-year-old boy who died from Rat Bite Fever that he contracted from contact with his pet rat. INSIDE EDITION talks to the family.

This cute ten-year-old boy died from a disease he caught from his pet rat.

Aidan Pankey was dead within 48 hours of catching a rare infection called Rat Bite Fever.

Aidan's grandmother, Sharon Pankey bought him the rat from a Petco store in San Diego. The boy named his new pet Alex.

Sharon told INSIDE EDITION, "He just kind of collapsed on the floor. His breathing was very shallow and it was scary. It was so scary."

Just two weeks later, little Aidan was dead.

"It was just a huge loss for all of us. I think we all just sat there in shock," said Sharon.

Aidan's distraught dad can hardly speak about the tragedy.  Still in shock, he can't eat, and has lost 35 pounds.

Hear From the Heartbroken Family Of Aidan Pankey.

Now, Aidan's grieving family is suing Petco. Court papers claim: "Alex (the rat) was carrying Rat Bite Fever...particularly dangerous for children."

The family's attorney Hamilton Arendsen told INSIDE EDITION, "If they can't sell healthy rats, they shouldn't be selling them at all."

The pet store chain offered their condolences and are investigating.

"We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss," A spokesman said. "We take the family's concerns very seriously."

More than 500,000 households in the U.S. keep pet rats.

Veterinarian Jeff Werber says a child like Aidan can catch Rat Bite Fever just by playing with an infected rat. A bite isn't necessary to catch the disease. He said pet rat owners should take precautions to avoid becoming infected.

"After playing, teach your children wash your hands well. If there is a bite, clean it well, disinfect it and if it turns into something more than a little scratch, see your doctor," said Werber.

Little Aiden loved having rats as pets. The family has photos that show him with another one of his pet rats named Oreo.