Snake Mites 101: Vet Approved DIY Home Treatment (Save $$$)

Do you think that you see small bugs on your snake?  If so, these could very well be snake mites. But where did they come from and how do you get rid of them?

Truth be told, there are many ways that these mites may have gotten into your snake’s enclosure (more on this later). 

Rest assured, even the best snake keepers may get mites into their snake’s enclosure, and getting rid of them without a trip to the vet is possible!

There are many different ways that you can get rid of these unwanted creatures. This article will explain what snake mites are and outline the best treatment plan to get rid of them. 

Snake Mites Explained: What Are Snake Mites?

Reptile Mite Ophionyssus Natricis

Snake mites are very little parasitic bugs that feed off the blood of not only our slithery companions but other reptiles too.

Despite their tiny size, mites ARE visible on your snake and easy to see with the naked eye. 

In terms of appearance, these mites look like tiny black, red, or grey bugs. The best place to find them is in the thin-skinned areas of your snake, such as their eyes and ears. 

You can also find them on your hands after you touch your snake, or in their water dish in your snake’s enclosure.

Causes of Snake Mites: Where Do They Come From?

Snake With Mites
While parasitic mites are most commonly found on snakes, they can also appear on other reptile species such as lizards, turtles, and even alligators. Most often, the color of these mites will range from a dark yellow to a dark red appearance. As far as location goes, snake mites can be present by the vent, eyes, heat pits, and on the underside of the snakes head.

Below are some of the most common reasons why your snake may have mites.

Poor Hygiene

Failing to clean your snake’s enclosure regularly may lead to mites taking up residence in your snake’s cage.

Moreover, if you have multiple snakes, one of your slithery friends could have mites in one enclosure, and you can easily transfer these mites to a different enclosure by not washing your hands.

Bottom line? Washing your hands before and after handling each snake is equally critical.  

Contamination from an Infected Reptile

If you just got a new snake, they may have come with mites. Pet stores and breeding facilities are known to have problems with mites on their snakes. 

Being Wild-Caught

Snakes that live in the wild can easily get mites. And when you bring these wild-caught snakes into captivity, they can bring mites with them.

To avoid this becoming a bigger issue, any new snake that you introduce into your house should be kept in a different cage for a few weeks to make sure that they are not going to give mites to any of your other snakes.

From Their Substrate

Sometimes, mites can come in the substrate that you are using. If you recently changed out the substrate to something new, you may have introduced mites to your snake’s enclosure from their new substrate. 

It is best to make sure that you know not only where you are getting your substrate, but also what’s in the substrate.

How to Tell if Your Snake Has Mites

Snake with mites lodged in eye
Snake with mites lodged in its eye

There are many ways to tell that your snake has mites.  The most obvious that you see mites on your snake. 

These would look like small red, black, or brown pepper size flakes on your snake which you can usually see moving. 

Do you suspect mites but are having trouble seeing them? Try the following!

Take a small piece of tape and press it on your snake. Afterward, adhere this tape to a plain white piece of paper. This will help you see the mites on your snake.

Other Common Signs Seen With Snakes That Have Mites Are:

  • Rubbing
  • Lethargy
  • Prolonged soaking
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritable
  • Tiny black dots around eyes, ears & vent (cloaca)
  • Tiny black dots on shed skin
  • Tiny black dots on your hands after handling
  • Tiny black dots visible moving on the snake and/or enclosure walls
  • Ash-like “dust” (mite poo) on scales

Many snakes that have mites will constantly be soaking in their water dish.  This is a snake’s natural way to try to remove the mites.  Many times, you can even see the small mites floating in your snake’s water. 

You may also see tiny objects moving in the cage or on the skin of your snake.  They are often seen around the eyes, in labial pits, or the skin folds beneath the lower jaw.

You may find mites crawling on your skin after handling your snake or anything in its cage. 

You may also feel one or more raised scales that can easily be detected by running your hand against the grain of your snake’s scales.

Many infested snakes have trouble shedding. Infected snakes may have swollen eyes due to mites beneath the scales surrounding the eyes.

How to Kill and Get Rid of Snake Mites

Snake With Mites on Towel
Source

Mites can be very hard to get rid of and can potentially pose a serious risk to your snake by transmitting diseases. You see, mites can reproduce very quickly. 

A large number of mites on your snake can drain blood from your animal, causing them to be anemic and lethargic.  This can even be fatal if left untreated.

There are many different ways that you can get rid of the mites in your snake’s cage.

…but the following way is one that I use personally. This is one of the best ways to get rid of these mites…

It can be very time consuming, but if you take your time and fully clean and treat your snake, you can get rid of these mites.

Step #1: Take Everything Out of the Cage

Remove anything and everything in the cage. 

The substrate and any hiding boxes should be thrown away since mites can easily hide in these and can be somewhat impossible to clean!

Step #2: Clean the Inside of the Cage

Once everything is out of the tank, fill the inside of your snake’s cage with shallow water and a few drops of dawn dishwashing detergent.

This will remove the mites from your snake’s enclosure and cause the mites to sink and drown.

Use hot water (over 122F) and a 3% bleach. 

To make a 3% bleach solution add two tablespoons of bleach to 1 quart of water.  This solution should then be used to scrub the entire enclosure.  This includes the lid. 

Step #3: Allow the cage to Fully Dry

Once your snake’s cage has fully dried, start getting the cage ready to be used. 

Use newspaper, paper towels, or brown packaging paper for the bottom of the cage until all mites are gone. 

You are going to be cleaning your snake’s enclosure a lot over the next few weeks, so anything that paper product that you easily have access to can be used on the bottom of the cage. 

Step #4: Clean All Solid Cage Accessories

Any solid cage accessory that is going to go back into such as water bowls should be cleaned with the bleach cleaner solution and let dry. 

Each time you clean the enclosure, you should clean any solid accessories.

Step #5: Spray Cage With Fipronil Spray

Snake With Mites Being Sprayed With Frontline

Fipronil works extremely well for snake mites.  Spray the inside and outside of your Snakes cage with Fipronil Spray.  The name brand of this is Frontline Spray 2.5grams/mL. 

Make sure to treat everything that is in contact with their cage, and do not forget to treat the lid.

Step #6: Treat Your Snake with Fipronil Spray

Spray your snake with fipronil spray (Frontline Spray 2.5 grams/mL). 

Step #7: Repeat Cleaning Part

Your snake’s cage should be cleaned with warm water and bleach twice a week.  After you clean the cage, you should put a new paper on the bottom of the cage.  

Step #8: Repeat the Treating Process

Repeat Step number 5 and 6 in 3 weeks.  Usually, after two treatments, this will eliminate all mites if you did everything properly. 

If you continue to notice mites after the second treatment, keep repeating this process every 3 weeks until you no longer see mites.

🤓 Expert Tip: Do NOT treat your snake if they are about to shed or are currently shedding.  It is best to wait a few days after they finish shedding.  Make sure to use newspaper or brown paper in the bottom of their cage as substrate until all mites are gone. 

Other Products That Some Have Used to Treat Mites in Snakes

To Spray on Your Snake: If you are having a hard time locating Frontline spray, you can use Ivermectin Spray in your snake’s enclosure and on your snake. 

Some snakes can have adverse reactions to ivermectin and will become lethargic or stop eating.  If you notice any of these signs in your snake, you should stop using the products and contact your exotic vet. 

To Spray in Your Snake’s Enclosure: Insecticide spray that contains 0.15% trichlorfon or 1% permethrin has also been effective for in the cage. 

This should not be sprayed directly on your snake. After using this in your snake’s cage, you should wait about 24 to 48 hours before returning your snake to its cage to allow the cage to dry fully.

Preventing Mites in Snakes

The best way to keep mites off your snake is with a few preventative measures. 

Any new reptiles should be quarantined for 2 to 3 months.  Ideally, this should be in a separate room from where any other of your reptiles are kept. If that is not possible, they should at least be housed in a separate enclosure.

No matter how trustworthy you think the place that you got your new snake from seems, always assume that they have mites. 

It is better to be safe than sorry to make sure that you never have to deal with the hassle of mite infestation. 

Conclusion

Mites on your snake can be a very frustrating and very long process to get rid of them. 

By being very careful about what you introduce into your snake’s enclosure can help prevent your snake from ever getting mites. 

If your snake does have mites, cleaning, and treating them every few weeks will help get rids of these bugs. 

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