Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are with your snakes and other reptiles, there is always a chance you will get a mite infestation. The usual cause is from either handling a friend’s snake or handling an infected animal at a reptile show, visits to a pet store, and even occasionally a bad batch of bedding. By far the most common way is through direct contact with a new snake that was infected. Before we go into how to get rid of mites on snakes, I think we should go over what mites are and how to tell if you have them on your snake.
Mites are a close relative to a tick, slightly smaller and often the reptile variety will be black or red in color. Mites feed on the snake’s blood often around the creases of the eyes or the anal vent. Mites are bloodsuckers and they can transmit diseases quite easily between your reptiles. Aside from the fact that mites cause discomfort, you want to get rid of them to avoid the diseases they can carry and infect your reptiles with.
One of the ways to notice if you have a mite infection would be to check the water bowl. Mites cannot survive in water. When they come into contact with the water, they will drown. The reason they will be in there is the snake will often try to soak in the water dish to relieve the irritation. You may also notice little dots moving along the snake around the size of black pepper.
Mites can spread throughout a reptile collection without direct contact quite easily. When a mite comes into contact with a barrier like a water bowl or tank wall it will climb straight up rather than go around. Mites are small enough to get through openings in tanks. Since most reptile collections have the next tank right next to the first, the mite climbs up and creates a new infestation in the next tank.
Now it’s time to get rid of the mites on your reptile. One of the most common methods is giving the snake a bath since mites drown. This is a good start but mites also will climb towards any part of the snake, not in the water such as the eyes and face. While the bath is a good start, it should not be the only step you take. Adding in a treatment to the snake such as Natural Chemistry’s Reptile Relief spray or Nature Zone’s Snake Oil will both offer more mite killing action. I prefer to put the product onto a clean cloth and wipe the reptile down; I find this to be more effective in covering the entire snake.
Before we reintroduce the snake back to their cage, you need to clean and disinfect the habitat. First, take everything out of the habitat so that it can be cleaned. All the décor will need to be soaked for about 20 minutes in a water and light bleach solution. Remember, mites will climb to the top of an item so make sure the entire body of the décor is submerged in water for the 20 minutes.
I use Natural Chemistry Reptile Relief to wipe down the entire cage inside and out. You will want to rinse this thoroughly with water. Before adding the bedding, it is a good idea to look into a mite repellant for the cage such as Nature Zone’s Mite Guard. Sprinkle it down before adding the new bedding. Once the cage is dry, get new bedding in there and set the cage back up for your snake.
Mites are not fun for you or your snake but with a little time, you can take care of the problem. With the right precautions, hopefully, avoid mites in the future.