If you own a snake, you may have heard of snake mites. These tiny parasites feed on your reptile’s blood and can cause serious health problems if left untreated. This article will explain what snake mites are, how they affect your snake, and what you can do to prevent and treat them.
What are Snake Mites?
Snake mites are a type of reptile mite that belong to the genus Ophionyssus. The most common species that infests snakes is Ophionyssus natricis, also known as the serpent mite or the water mite. These mites are very small, about 0.5 mm in length, and have a dark brown or black color. They have eight legs and a round body with a pointed mouthpart.
Snake mites are ectoparasites, which means they live on the outside of their host. They feed on the blood of snakes by piercing their skin with their mouthparts and injecting saliva that contains anticoagulants and enzymes. This saliva can cause irritation, inflammation, and allergic reactions in the snake. The mites can also transmit bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that can cause infections and diseases in the snake.
How Do Snakes Get Mites?
Snake mites can come from various sources, but the most common ones are:
- Other infested snakes: If you buy a new snake or bring your snake to a reptile expo, vet clinic, or boarding facility, there is a risk of exposure to other snakes that may have mites. The mites can easily transfer from one snake to another through direct contact or shared bedding, cages, or accessories.
- Wild-caught snakes: If you catch a wild snake or buy one from an unreliable source, there is a high chance that it has mites or other parasites. Wild snakes are exposed to many environmental factors that can harbor mites, such as soil, plants, water, rodents, birds, and insects.
- Contaminated items: If you use bedding, cages, accessories, or food items that have been in contact with infested snakes or mites, you may introduce them to your snake. Mites can survive for several days without a host and can hide in cracks, crevices, or folds of materials.
How Do You Know If Your Snake Has Mites?
The best way to know if your snake has mites is to perform a physical examination. You might need a magnifying glass or a flashlight to see the mites clearly. Here are some signs to look for:
- Visible mites: You may see tiny black or brown dots moving on your snake’s skin or scales. They may be more concentrated around the eyes, mouth, nostrils, vent, or cloaca. After handling your snake, you may also see them on your hands or clothes.
- Behavioral signs of mites: Your snake may show some behavioral changes if it has mites. These include rubbing its body against objects, soaking in water for long periods of time, hiding more than usual, being restless or agitated, refusing to eat or drink, or showing signs of stress or pain.
- Physical signs of mites: Your snake may also show some physical signs of mite infestation. These include skin lesions, scabs, blisters, inflammation, redness, swelling, bleeding, dehydration, anemia (pale gums), weight loss, lethargy (lack of energy), respiratory infections (wheezing or sneezing), eye infections (discharge or cloudiness), or septicemia (blood poisoning).
How Do You Treat Snake Mites?
If you suspect that your snake has mites, you should act quickly and seek veterinary advice. Mite infestations can be fatal if left untreated. Different treatment options are available depending on the severity of the infestation and the type of snake you have. Some of the most common ones are:
- Ivermectin treatment: Ivermectin is a medication that kills parasites by interfering with their nervous system. It can be administered orally (by mouth), topically (on the skin), or injectable (under the skin). However, ivermectin can be toxic to some snakes (especially colubrids) and should only be used under veterinary supervision.
- Snake soaks: Snake soaks are baths that contain water mixed with an antiseptic solution such as betadine (povidone-iodine). The solution should be diluted according to the instructions on the label or by your vet. You should soak your snake for 15 to 30 minutes once or twice a day until the mites are gone. Avoid getting the solution in your snake’s eyes or mouth.
- Topical sprays: Topical sprays are products that contain ingredients such as pyrethrins (natural insecticides) or permethrin (synthetic insecticide) that kill mites on contact. You should spray your snake lightly all over its body and let it dry before putting it back in its cage. You should repeat this process every few days until the mites are gone.
- Environmental treatment: Environmental treatment involves thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting your snake’s cage and accessories to eliminate any remaining mites or eggs. You should replace all bedding and substrate with paper towels or newspaper. You should wash all dishes and hides with hot water and soap and soak them in bleach solution for 10 minutes. You should wipe down all surfaces with a bleach solution as well. You should also vacuum any carpets or furniture where your snake may have been.
How Do You Prevent Snake Mites?
The best way to prevent snake mite infestations is to practice good hygiene and quarantine procedures for your snake and its environment. Here are some tips:
- Quarantine new snakes: If you buy a new snake or bring one home from another place, you should quarantine it for at least six weeks in a separate room from your other snakes. This will allow you to monitor its health and behavior and treat any potential problems before introducing it to your collection.
- Inspect new items: If you buy any new items for your snake, such as bedding, cages, accessories, or food items, you should inspect them carefully for any signs of mites or eggs. You should also wash or disinfect them before using them for your snake.
- Clean and disinfect regularly: You should clean and disinfect your snake’s cage and accessories at least once a week to prevent any buildup of dirt, debris, or mites. You should also frequently change the bedding and substrate and dispose of it in a sealed bag or container.
- Avoid contact with infested snakes: You should avoid contact with any snakes with mites or showing signs of mite infestation. You should also avoid visiting places where infested snakes may be present, such as reptile expos, pet stores, or rescue centers. If you do come in contact with an infested snake or its environment, you should wash your hands and clothes thoroughly and disinfect any items that may have been exposed.
- Check your snake regularly: You should check your snake regularly for any signs of mites or other health problems. You can use a magnifying glass or flashlight to examine its skin and scales closely. You should also observe its behavior and appetite and monitor its weight and hydration. If you notice anything unusual or concerning, you should consult your vet as soon as possible.
Snake mites are a common and serious problem for snake owners. They can cause a lot of discomfort and damage to your snake and can even be fatal if left untreated. However, with proper care and prevention, you can keep your snake healthy, happy, and free of these pesky parasites.
How to get rid of snake mites?
The best way to get rid of snake mites is to seek veterinary advice and follow their instructions. Different treatment options are available depending on the type and severity of the infestation. Some of the most common ones are ivermectin treatment, snake soaks, topical sprays, and environmental treatment.
How do snakes get mites?
Snakes can get mites from various sources, but the most common ones are other infested snakes, wild-caught snakes, and contaminated items. Mites can easily transfer from one snake to another through direct contact or shared bedding, cages, or accessories. They can also survive for several days without a host and hide in cracks, crevices, or folds of materials.
How to identify snake mites?
The best way to identify snake mites is to perform a physical examination. You will need a magnifying glass or a flashlight to see the mites clearly. You may see tiny black or brown dots moving on your snake’s skin or scales. You may also notice some behavioral or physical signs of mite infestation in your snake, such as rubbing, soaking, hiding, refusing to eat or drink, showing signs of stress or pain, or having skin lesions, scabs, blisters, inflammation, redness, swelling, bleeding, dehydration, anemia, weight loss, lethargy, respiratory infections, eye infections, or septicemia.
Can snake mites infest my house?
Yes, snake mites can infest your house if you have an infested snake or if you bring any infested items into your house. Mites can travel through air currents or hitchhike on your clothes or shoes. They can also hide in carpets, furniture, curtains, or plants. They can cause allergic reactions or skin irritations in humans and pets. You should thoroughly and regularly clean and disinfect your house thoroughly and regularly to prevent and eliminate mite infestations.
Can snake mites live on humans?
No, snake mites cannot live on humans. They are host-specific and only feed on reptiles. However, they can bite humans if they come in contact with them. Their bites can cause itching, redness, swelling, or infection. You should avoid touching any infested snakes or items and thoroughly wash your hands and clothes after handling them. Seek medical attention if you have any allergic reactions or signs of infection from the bites.