If you’ve ever been handling your snakes and noticed a tiny black spot moving around on its body you have likely been introduced to a mite. You’ll be lucky to just see one black spot as mites usually travel in groups and infest your snake. Mites can actually be rather difficult to get rid of even and sometimes will take multiple treatments. Needless to say a might infestation on your snake is not something to be taken lightly.
- What is a mite?
- By no means am I an entomologist, but I believe it will be beneficial for you to know what a mite actually is. We don’t need to get into great detail about them for the purposes of this article, but an overview of what they are and how they can affect your snake is important.
- A mite is a parasite
- Mites are well represented with over 48,000 different kinds in the world
- They are closely related to ticks
- Some have speculated that mites may have killed off the dinosaurs
- Mites carry diseases that can affect both snakes and people
- They can be notoriously difficult to get rid of once they have established a foothold
- Spiders are distant cousins of mites, with both being member of the same class, arachnida
Mites are not in any way beneficial to your snake and can quite easily be deadly. In the next section we will take a look at problems mites can cause your snake.
- How mites affect snakes
- Out of the 48,000 different types of mites there is only one, Ophionyssus narticis, that commonly affects reptiles. It is often called by its common name of snake mite. That’s not to say that no other mites can infest snakes but those are the most common. A snake with mites can be affected several ways. Some of them are listed below:
- Cause a loss of appetite
- Cause poor shedding
- Cause anemia
Not to mention how irritating it is for a snake to have mites laying eggs in their eyes, around their anal vent. Ultimately mites are far more dangerous than simple discomfort. They can kill your snake if left untreated. Furthermore they can infest other snakes in your collection and snakes in other collections. As a responsible snake owner it is your duty to do everything in your power to rid your animals of any mite infestations they might have.
- Getting rid of snake mites
- The very moment you discover mites you should begin taking measures to get rid of them. Even if you can’t immediately begin treating to kill the mites and sterilize the tank you can at least begin the process.
- Move the snake onto plain, white paper towels. This will help you to start seeing the mites
- Remove everything from the tank and replace with new stuff if possible
- Items you do not replace set aside to treat and do NOT use them until they have been treated
- Schedule a vet visit. For the most part when you actually see a mite infestation you have big problems
Once you are able to begin a focused assault on the mites you have a couple of options. One is called Provent-a-mite which has proven itself to be a formidable ally in the battle against snake mites. Another option is
an injection ofa drug called ivermectin. If you decide to use ivermectin you should be very aware that it has the potential to cause severe health issues in your snakes.
As reader JSCRICK pointed out you should never inject invermectin! In fact it should only be used under the direct and skilled eye of an experienced herp vet for a variety of reasons.
Thanks to JSCRICK for pointing out my error relating to this information!
Whatever method of treatment you choose expect it to fail. That probably isn’t what you wanted to hear, but by expecting it to fail you will be even more vigilant. Since mites are notoriously difficult to get rid of being vigilant is very important. Once you believe an infestation has been erradicated spend the next month or two checking each and everyday for any signs that the mites are still there. I’m sure this sounds extreme but a mite attack on your snake is also extreme.
One last word, snakes naturally have mites (and ticks) all over them in the wild. It is a finely balanced ecosystem out there unlike in your plastic tub which are fertile breeding ground for mites. Especially when they are kept at the right temperatures and humidities. As soon as you suspect that your snake is carrying mites start working on dealing with it. Your snake can’t afford for you to wait.