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First-aid kit for snakes

Credit:George Rollow

Just like any other pet a snake can and probably will get injured or sick at some point in its life. Sometimes only yourself and your knowledge stand between your snake and severe issues. You can have all the knowledge in the world of dealing with a snake’s afflictions, but without the proper tools you will get nowhere fast.

What is a first-aid kit?
Before we talk about the particulars of what to put in your kit it is important to understand what a first aid kit is and what it is meant to do. To keep it as simple as possible a first-aid kit is a collection of medicines and implements used to provide initial care to an injured or sick beings. Generally for ease of use a first-aid kit is contained in a bag or kit and easily transportable.

What the bag contains is what makes it a first-aid kit. Otherwise it is just a bag, and even stuffed full of things it is just a bag full of “things” if you don’t know how to use them. The objective of this article isn’t to teach you how to use the tools and such in your kit, but it is to explain what things you should have in there and why. If you wish to learn how to properly use them speak to a professional herpetologist or veterinarian that deals with snakes.

Why a first-aid kit for snakes?
Like I said earlier snakes can and likely will get injured at some point during their lives. It doesn’t matter if that comes from improper handling, another animal, sickness, or anything else. Since it is a foregone conclusion that it will happen there is wisdom in being prepared for the worst. And over and above everything else it just might mean the difference between life and death for your snake.

What belongs in a snake’s first-aid kit?
Since this article is generic in nature and not aimed at one particular species of snake or another I will describe the contents of a generic first aid kit. There will always be specialized items you could pickup for your particular kind of snake if you desire to do so.
Phone numbers
You will want to keep some important phone numbers handy.

  • Your primary herpetological vets day and night phone numbers
  • The phone numbers of two alternate vets who are willing and capable of working with snakes
  • A contact number for a more seasoned member of your local herpetological community who can help you out if need be

You can always add to those numbers if there are more you feel you need, but at the very least I recommend you keep those nearby.

If you need to get your snake to the vets as quickly as possible you need to have directions. Even if you’ve traveled the route 3 times a day for the past 20 years you should still take the 10 seconds and print them out and put them with your first-aid kit. It won’t hurt anything and might prove useful at some point. If you use a GPS system I recommend saving the locations of the vets in it so you can get there even quicker.

A few clean bandages and rolls of gauze should do the trick. Keep them appropriate for the size of your snake. You don’t need to wrap a corn snake in 3 yards of gauze anymore than you’d try to wrap a Burmese with 3 inches of it. One thing of note is that many bandages and gauze packs sold over the counter contain various chemicals to help in the healing process. Be wary of those bandages, you only want a simple antiseptic such as neosporin, but without additives like lidocaine. In fact if you can get just plain bandages without any addition “properties” you’ll be better off. As you’ll see in a moment you can always add the other things later.

You want to keep this as simple as possible. First it helps to avoid confusion. Often using the wrong medicine is more damage than doing nothing at all. Get a tube of plain Neosporin or Bacitracin. You can also use the “triple antibiotic” versions of them. Not to sound too much like a broken record, but avoid at all costs lidocaine(and other topical pain killers) in whatever topical ointments you get for your snake’s first-aid kit. For the record lidocaine can be toxic to snakes and that’s why you should avoid using it. Small amounts can sometimes be used but that’s best left to the professionals.

I hesitate to recommend any specific medicines to have on hand for your snake. A qualified specialist should be consulted about what to keep, how to store it, and how to administer it should that step become necessary. One commonly available medication is Provent-a-mite and is available over the counter at any pet store dealing with reptiles. It is used to deal with infestations of mites just like the name suggests. As with any medication follow the directions of your vet or those found on the label.

Tools and other implementations
It is always a good idea to keep some other basic supplies with your snake’s first-aid kit. I find the following to be useful.

  • A pair of tweezers – Handy in order to properly remove ticks, and splinters (yes snakes get these)
  • Heat packs – Used if you need to keep the snake warm and the power goes out or something similar
  • A wash cloth – Useful for helping the snake remove a retained shed
  • A wash basin – Appropriately sized for the snake to soak in to loosen skin that is left over after shedding. Some people also soak their snakes in water to flush off the mites. Just use provent-a-mite and save yourself a lot of hassle
  • Baby or mineral oil – Can be helpful in removing retained eye caps after a snake sheds
  • Flashlight – Always helpful to have one of these in your kit especially when you’re trying to see something in low light situations. To be most effective spend a few extra dollars on a lightweight LED headlamp instead of a handheld. Snakes are hard enough to keep still with two hands don’t handicap yourself anymore than necessary

I’ll stop listing extras you can have because I could go on for days. Ultimately you’ll have to decide for yourself what things fit best with your first-aid kit and what would be unnecessary for your snakes health.

Further information
The best information you will find regarding your snakes health is from knowledgeable breeders, enthusiasts, collectors, “herpers”, and qualified vets. There’s also a virtual treasure trove of information on the internet if you do a little bit of searching. The more you know about snakes in general and yours in particular the better off your animal will be.
  • Jodee Hall

    I was told u could use mineral oil on a snake to get rid of the snake pee smell, I want to make sure before I use it on either one of my snakes…


  • PetSnakes

    Mineral oil will cause the snake’s scales to fall off if you use too much of it. How much is too much? Hard to say every snake reacts differently. Why not just give them both a bath in luke warm, plain water without any soap in it?

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