A Case Of Reptile Mites

Hopefully you will never see these horrible little insects in your collection – they are extremely difficult to get rid of.  Unfortunately,, they are very easy to catch, and you can bring them into your home on your clothing or footwear.

My one and only infestation came back with a pet python who’d been out on breeding loan. The person who he’d visited hadn’t known that the female was infected, and we’d seen no signs when inspecting the snakes prior to the loan.

A few days after I brought the snake home, I noticed he was sleeping in his water bowl much of the time. This was something he’d never done before. If I’d been aware that this was a symptom of mites, the infestation would have been a lot easier to deal with, as it would have been caught earlier.  As I wasn’t aware that this was why his behaviour had changed, the poor animal suffered much longer than he should have.

Python soaking  in water bowl

Python soaking in water bowl



Funny?  No, A symptom of mites



During the week before I discovered what the problem was, I bathed the snake twice in tepid water in the bath, thinking this was what he wanted.   Although he seemed to like the baths, it didn’t stop him sleeping in the water bowl.   It did appear to give hims some relief from the itching I though he was having, however.   I simply didn’t recognise the black dots in the water as mites, never having come across them before.

Finally, after about ten days, I saw a couple of live mites crawling up the side of the bowl, so was horrified but enlightened.   Immediately, I did some research regarding a solution, and discussed it with the person who’d had my snake.   He was very helpful and covered all costs for the treatment.

The treatment of choice was “Top of Descent” the aircraft disinfectant, used by the Australian and New Zealand airlines in the past, to ensure that no unwanted insects were inadvertently imported into their countries.   This is also known as “Black Knight” in the United States.

Reptile Mites

Reptile Mites

My snake was put into a bucket and lightly sprayed with TOD, then the lid was put on, and he was left there for ten minutes.   During this time, the kitty litter substrata and newspaper was removed from his cage and the cage was washed.    It was then sprayed with “Top of Descent”.   A good thing with TOD is the fact that you do not have to destroy everything that had been in contact with the snake, as it becomes a gas on contact with the air, and gets into all the cracks and corners of the cage, reaching all the mites.

After spraying, the cage was left with just newspaper as a substrata, and the snake was returned to it. The water bowl had been removed, and was not replaced until the following day as a precaution against TOD getting into the water.   This is not a real problem, as it is completely bio-degradable, according to all the research I’ve done.

The room, especially the area where the python had been on his time out of the cage, was sprayed with “Top of Descent”, as were the cages of the other pythons in my collection.   Their water bowls were also removed for 24 hours.   None of the other snakes showed any signs of infestation, thankfully.

After about five days, the treatment was repeated for the infected snake, as he returned to sleeping in his water bowl.   This was probably due to some eggs hatching.  After another seven days, his cage was treated again, and this seemed to do the trick.   There were no further signs of mites, and the snake returned to his normal placid self, sleeping in his log, or on his branch.

It is possible that “Top of Descent” may trigger a slough in your snakes, if you have to use it, but this is by no means a certainty.   I have not seen any adverse reactions from any of my snakes and would recommend this treatment to anyone unfortunate enough to get mites in their collection.

If you are uncertain as to how to treat your reptile, please consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.   Be aware that in severe cases of reptile mites, it is possible that your snake or other reptile could die.