One of the most common pet snake illnesses is a snake mite infestation. Knowing how to prevent and treat them can be the difference between a healthy snake and one that suffers from a variety of related health problems.
The key to key to preventing and removing mites from your snake is a quarantine period for all new snakes and washing and sanitizing your hands before and after handling them.
Sometimes mites are not preventable and once you notice them, you need to start treating your snake and it’s enclosure right away.
What are snake mites?
Snake mites are parasitic bugs that attach themselves to your snake and feed off of their blood, much like fleas on a dog. While they are small, you’ll be able to see them with the naked eye especially once they’re larger.
Identifying a snake mite can be tricky, especially on snakes that naturally have black speckles like a banana ball python.
How to tell if my snake has mites
The first sign of a mite infestation is seeing one. A snake mite will look like a small black dot, not to be mistaken with a speckle on a snakes pattern.
The photo below, for example, would clearly protrude from the snakes natural scale texture. You may see them crawling around, too.
One way to see if a black spot is a mite rather than the snake’s pattern is to gently scrape it with your fingernail to see if it comes off.
If you still aren’t sure whether your snake has mites or not, give them a soak. If you spot the black dots floating in the water, there’s a good chance it’s a mite.
You can also quarantine the snake in question by putting them in a sterile environment with no substrate and just a water bowl. After a few days, if you see bugs in the sterile enclosure, you have a mite problem.
While you may find snake mites climbing on you or your clothes, they aren’t harmful to humans. There are over 200 species of mites that reptiles are vulnerable to, although treatment and prevention are similar for nearly all species.
How do snakes get mites?
There are multiple ways that mites can end up on your pet snake and its enclosure.
In the wild
First, wild-caught snakes are the most likely carriers of mites due to their origins. Since they are not bred in a clean, quarantined environment, there is no way to ensure their health. Mites are abundant in nature and can easily parasitize a snake.
Mites In Captivity
Another way a snake will get mites is through cross-contamination from an infected snake. If your snake has been around an infected snake or if mite eggs make their way into your snake’s enclosure from new structures or substrate, it can quickly result in a full-blown infestation.
This is why it is important to quarantine any new snakes you introduce into your collection.
You should also sanitize any new enrichment and decoration pieces you introduce into your animal’s enclosure.
How to prevent snake mites
The best way to prevent snake mites is to follow proper cleaning and isolation techniques for new pets and equipment while also making sure to only buy domesticated snakes from ethical breeders.
Snake mites can be dangerous for your pets. However, if an infestation were to occur, there are steps you can take in order to treat the problem and restore your snake’s health.
Top 3 Ways To Treat Snake Mites
There are several steps to snake mite treatment once an infestation occurs. Here are the 3 ways I have gotten rid of a mite infestation.
1. Soak your snake
Soaking your snake in warm water will drown some of the mites and release them from your snake’s scales. In most cases, mites will be visible, but some can hide under scales, in heat pits, and around the eyes.
Take the time to thoroughly rinse them and remove any visible signs of the infestation.
To prevent infection while soaking your snake, you can add a few drops of iodine into the warm water. This will kill bacteria in any open wounds your snake has from the mites.
You may see some redness and swelling on the skin where the mites latch on. A thin layer of Neosporin will help those wounds heal without infection.
For larger wounds, or those that are already showing signs of infection, you’ll need to speak to your veterinarian for the best course of treatment.
If you’ve noticed your snake is suffering from mites, it’s important to remove them from their enclosure and thoroughly clean the inside.
Mites lay eggs in substrate so removing that substrate prevents them from multiplying.
As you keep your snake in the sterile environment, you’ll start to see the mites die off onto the paper substrate; a good sign you’re following the right steps.
Remove all structures such as huts, climbing platforms, or water dishes to thoroughly clean them with snake-safe cleaning solutions.
Soak any removable items in hot water mixed with dish soap. Then spray it with a mite eradicating spray like Prevent a Mite.
3. Sprays are your best friends
I would not have survived the mite infestation I had with my snakes without these two sprays.
After soaking my snakes and wiping out their enclosures, spraying reptile spray on surfaces and directly on the snakes helped eliminate them completely.
Completely eliminating the mites from took about a week.
Once I stopped seeing dead mites in their sterile enclosures, I knew it was time to reintroduce the proper substrate and enrichment pieces back.
I sprayed prevent a mite on all surfaces of the enclosure including the branches and hides. After letting that dry I introduced the snake back into the enclosure.
Luckily, Reptile Spray is safe to spray directly on your reptile. I would use this as a preventative measure after eradicating the mites once a month.
Keep an eye out for illness
As mentioned previously, mites can cause a variety of illnesses, including skin infections, anemia, or similar conditions.
While you may not notice anything wrong with your snake while soaking them or cleaning its enclosure, make sure to pay a close eye for the next few days in case complications arise.
While the best treatment of any pet snake illness is prevention, early intervention is the next step.
Reach out to your veterinarian
The first step to snake mite treatment is to reach out to your veterinarian. While there are ways to treat an infestation on your own, which we’ll discuss next, having a professional’s guidance is one of the best ways to ensure a successful treatment.
If your snake is suffering any negative side effects from the mites, such as anemia or a skin infection, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe treatment to help restore your snake’s health.
Mites are the worse pests your pet snake can deal with. They multiply quickly and are hard to get rid of once you notice them.
They aren’t harmful to humans, but they can cause stress, illness, and sometimes death to your pet snakes.
Luckily, we have measures to prevent or eliminate a mite infestation including soaking your snake and spraying with reptile-safe sprays to kill the mites.
Overall, a mite infestation can cause further issues than just a pest problem. Always consult with your local veterinarian for the best course of action.