The Ophionyssus Natricis Snake Mite
Like other mites, the parasite Ophionyssus natricis survives by feeding on the blood of its host; in this case, your pet snake. These mites do not live for long (only 1 – 2 months) but once they are in your home that they can spread quickly and continue breeding either othe snake itself, or in the humid and dark places in your home. Young snake mites are a whitish colour and cannot be easily seen without magnification. Adult snake mites are still hard to spot at only 0.5 millimetres long and are black with a lighter patch on the back until they feed, when they turn a dark blood red colour.
How to Spot Snake Mites
As snake mites are very small and can be difficult to see on the snake itself, one of the first places to start looking is inside the snake’s water bowl. When a snake has mites it will try to relieve the itching by soaking in the water bowl. This will result in a few of the snake mites drowning in the water and you will be able to see these floating on the surface. Look for tiny black specks which would not otherwise be there.
Breeding and Transmission of Snake Mites
Snake mites enjoy damp, warm, humid places and so may choose to stay in the confines of your snake’s cage. However, snake might have been known to travel up to 50 feet in an hour and can easily spread throughout your home to breed. Of course, they are most likely to stay within feeding distance of the snake itself. The females will often lay their eggs on pieces of wood inside the cage or along the inside edges of the cage. With some larger snakes, the mites may actually lay their eggs on the host itself.
Symptoms of Snake Mites
Snake mites are not just an irritant for your pet; they can also carry diseases which may be transmitted to not only the snake, but also to humans they may come into contact with. Your snake may appear more lethargic than normal, have loss of appetite and poor shedding. Due to blood being taken from the snake’s body by snake mites, anaemia can also be caused by an infestation. In severe cases, an infestation of snake mites can actually cause the death of your snake.
How to treat Snake Mites
Of course you must take your snake to the vet where they will decide which course of veterinary treatment should be undertaken. There are many products on the market which will tackle snake mites and your vet will no doubt recommend one. The most common product however is ivermectin which is generally applied topically to kill the mites. If, along with your vet you do decide to use ivermectin, make sure you fully discuss its application as this product is toxic and must be applied properly.
Removing Snake Mites from the Cage
As well as removing snake mites from the snake itself, it is equally important to remove the snake mites from its enclosure. With the snake removed from the cage (preferably as far away as possible) take everything out of the cage and preferably throw it all away. For items you do not want to discard and replace with new ones, do not put them back in the cage until they have also been treated to remove all mites and eggs. The entire cage must be cleaned and disinfected from top to bottom, leaving no remaining presence of the mites.
Treatment Time and Full Eradication Snake Mites
You should not expect to be able to eradicate all traces of snake mites at the first attempt. Snake mites are notoriously difficult to completely remove in one go, and it may well be the case you need to repeat treatment two or three times to complete the job. It may even take a few months to completely remove all traces from your snake; however, if you value your snake and its health, you must be willing to go through with these treatments for a full recovery. An infested snake is not only an unhealthy snake, but an unhappy snake and everything must be done to correct this.