Snake mites are very small parasitic creatures that feed off the blood of your snake. They are visible to the naked eye and look like tiny black, red, or grey bugs. They are often visible on your animal (often in the thin skinned areas such as eyes, ears and armpits), on your hands after you handle your animal, and in the water dish in your animal’s enclosure. Most mites are introduced through new animals, or substrate, though you can also introduce them to your pet’s enclosure on your hands and clothing. Pet stores and reptile expos are especially risky areas due to the large number of reptiles.
Mites can be very difficult to get rid of and can pose a serious risk to your pet by transmitting disease. Additionally, since they have the ability to reproduce very quickly, large numbers of mites can drain too much blood from your animal causing them to be anemic and lethargic- and can even result in death if left untreated.
The first step in Dr. Pinello’s preferred method for getting rid of snake mites is to empty the enclosure and fill it with shallow water and a few drops of dish detergent. This will help to remove the mites from the enclosure and cause them to sink and drown. Hot water (over 122F) and 3% bleach (2T of bleach in 1 quart of water) should then be used to scrub the enclosure. After rinsing it very thoroughly, the enclosure should be dried and new substrate (preferably paper towels for the time being since they are easy to replace) should be used. All old substrate and hide boxes should be disposed of. All solid-surface items that will go back into the enclosure (water bowls, etc.) should be scrubbed with bleach solution each time the enclosure is scrubbed. After the cage is scrubbed the first time the cage and lid should be sprayed with an insecticide spray containing 0.15% trichlorfon or 1% permectin. This should be allowed to dry for 24 to 48 hours before returning your snake to its cage. The enclosure should be completely emptied, scrubbed with the bleach solution and refurnished with new susbtrate at least twice a week. Finally, the snake and its environment should be sprayed with Ivermectin twice, two weeks apart. Ivermectin has the potential to cause adverse reactions in some snakes so if your snake becomes lethargic or refuses to eat then do NOT repeat the Ivermectin treatment and contact us immediately.
It is important to know that although this treatment plan yields successful results it can take time and patience to completely rid your pet of mites. Sticking with this plan will ultimately yield a mite-free snake. If you have any questions about snake mites and how to get rid of them please contact River Road Veterinary Clinic at 802-649-3877.