Should you quarantine your snakes, lizards, and other reptiles?
Understanding why reptile keepers quarantine their reptiles
When you quarantine your new pet reptile you get to separate them from your existing collection. This may benefit you by allowing some time to pass to potentially stop any kind of spread of parasites or passing on any other ailments. E.g. Reptiles Mites and Respiratory Illnesses. Quarantine may not be necessary if the pet reptile you are receiving is your only one, or if you own only a few and they are not kept relatively close to each other.
Consider The Following:
- Steps on how to prep quarantine
- Steps on how to quarantine
- Sensitive animals
Steps on how to prep quarantine:
The first important step is knowing that quarantine is NOT done in your reptile room or around your other reptiles. This is best done in a closed off room or far from wherever your reptiles live. You want to do this so that way you're not spreading any potential ailments or cross contaminating.
The second thing to note is what items you will need. Access to water, animal safe dish soap, paper towels, a separate bin and enclosure, gloves, mask, water dish/food bowl (if necessary), permethrin spray (Provent-A-Mite), and an animal safe mite killer (Repti-spray/Frontline).
The last step to prepping quarantine is the understanding that you should not be near your other reptiles when servicing your quarantined reptiles. A routine where you work with your collection before your quarantine section may help, or washing your hands thoroughly and changing your clothes can go a long way.
Steps on how to quarantine:
Don't be afraid! It's actually pretty easy, just tedious and best to take your time. The first thing you want to do when receiving your reptile is checking the outward appearance. Look for potential parasites, clear eyes, mouth and nose. Very gently open the reptiles mouth to check for bubbles and you may also softly put pressure near the lungs to see if you hear any issues with breathing. If you hear issues with breathing, see bubbles, or find the animal weak, immediately contact the seller. Next we work on eliminating potential parasites like reptile mites.
You're going to want to soak your reptile in a bin with holes and some lukewarm water, enough to cover the majority of it's body, but not to where the animal is forced to swim/float and cannot safely lift its head. Do this for about 30 minutes to allow your reptile to hydrate before the preventative treatment as it can dehydrate your reptile. While you're waiting, this is a good time to set up the temporary enclosure. I recommend paper towel as bedding for the mean time. Once this enclosure is set up you may use the permethrin spray inside (1-2 sprays or as recommended on the can). The permethrin spray will potentially kill any mites on your reptile that do not die during the preventative treatment. Doing the spray this early in the process will allow any harmful moisture and fumes from the spray to disappear before putting your reptile in the enclosure. Please note, you should wear a mask when spraying to avoid breathing in the spray.
Next add 1-2 drops of dish soap and move around the water to create some bubbles. Allow your animal to sit in the soapy water for about an hour. The soap is used so that way it can force water in between the scales of your reptile, therefore pulling out as many potential mites as possible and drowning them. After this, you may carefully dry off your reptile with some paper towels and put on gloves. The step that follows requires specific attention! Spray about two pumps of the mite killer of your choosing on your gloves. Most people use Repti-Spray, we use Frontline here for incoming reptiles, some people even dilute Nix with some water. With the product on your gloves, carefully rub it on your reptile avoiding eyes, pits, and inside the mouth. This should kill any potential remaining mites.
Place your reptile in the temporary enclosure once you have completed the preventative treatment. DO NOT add water for 24-48 hours as the chemicals you have used can enter the water and kill your reptile if they drink it. 24 hours for animals that look dehydrated and skinny, 48 hours for healthy looking animals. I would avoid offering food until after water is offered. If you found mites during this process, use the permethrin spray every 1-2 weeks for about a month (always remove water/food dishes for at least 24-48 hours when using this spray), and if you still see mites by the end of the 4th week repeat this whole process and do not put the reptile near your existing collection. Quarantine should be at least 4 weeks.
* BLOG ABOUT FIGHTING MITES AND THEIR LIFE CYCLE COMING SOON *
It is important to note that some reptiles cannot be soaked and/or sprayed. Some species will not do good with soaking and some will perish from mite treatment. Additional research of this process may apply. However, here we can give you an idea on how we deal with some species.
Ball Pythons, Boa Constrictors, Blue Tongue Skinks - Can be soaked and sprayed
Carpet Pythons, Tree Boas and Python, Large Rainbow Boas, Woma Pythons, Short Tail and Blood Pythons, Adult Dwarf Pythons - Can be soaked and sprayed but are more sensitive so be more careful
Large Colubrids, Large Sand Boas, Bearded Dragons, Uromastyx, Most Lizards, Tortoises - Can be soaked not sprayed
Geckos, Turtles, Small Colubrids, Small Rainbow Boas, Small Sand Boas, Young Dwarf Pythons - Do not spray or soak
Always buy from reputable sellers. Usually good sellers will work with you if your request is within their policies. Such as helping you with steps for the treatment and even sending you supplies, replacing weak or D.O.A animals, and sometimes even some form of refunding. Though respiratory illnesses and other sicknesses may be more serious, mites are not the end of the world, they are just a process to deal with. Your first step should always be staying in contact with sellers incase if problems occur. Remember to understand that we are dealing with live animals and things can happen from stress of shipping and other potential mishaps.
Here at Imperial Reptiles & Exotics we pride ourselves on our customer service and the health of our animals. We have our incoming process down to a science, this way we minimize any potential issues. Every animal is dealt with as needed when entering our store and only listed on our sales outlets when we trust the health of the animals.
Mite infestations are usually quite obvious. In the worst case scenario, the reptile will have mites visibly crawling all over the body. Mites vary in color, depending on the species and how recently it has taken a blood meal. The snake mite may be either black or tan, depending on the sex of the mite and its age. The lizard mite and the chigger are usually red to orange in color.
Mite-infested animals will usually have a dull, lackluster appearance. The mites tend to accumulate in areas of the reptile’s body that afford the most protection from the environment, including under the chin, or gular folds in snakes; the eardrums of lizards; under the scutes, the peri-ocular regions around the eyes and inside the skin folds around the cloaca.
Female mites lay eggs (up to 90 in number), off of the host, and in the cracks and crevices of the terrarium. This is why cleaning the infested animal’s environment is so important in mite control.
Treat animals severely debilitated from concurrent disease, or from a mite-related anemia with resulting weakness, first before attempting to treat the mites. If a snake is anemic and dehydrated from blood loss, it would be prudent to have a veterinarian administer fluids or perform a blood transfusion, if necessary, prior to treating the animal for mites. It is also a wise idea to start the animal on antibiotic therapy because mites can potentially carry many reptile diseases.
Mites and ticks can cause havoc in any reptile collection. The parasites are easily diagnosed and, with the right plan, can be exterminated. Given that some of the suggested treatments can be just as toxic to the patient as they can be to the pests, it is wise to get advice from someone with experience before trying to treat your animals by yourself the first time. And whatever you do, don’t sue your veterinarian if you don’t follow instructions.