Snake Mites (Ophionyssus Natricis) - Page 2

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Snake Mites (Ophionyssus Natricis)

By: Dr. Ray Wak

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Mites can generally be identified with the unaided eye. If mites cannot be found with the unaided eye, your veterinarian can use a magnifying glass or low powered microscope to visualize the mite. You can also run a damped gauze sponge down the skin of the snake and examined it under a low power microscope.

Consult a parasitology book to identify the mite to the species level. Ophionyssus adults have four pairs of legs, and short body hairs. A number of different species of mites have been identified on reptiles but they all are treated similarly.

Snake mite infestations have been known to cause hypersensitivity reactions in some lizard species. These reactions appear as red, inflamed or necrotic areas distal to the mite bite. On histological examination, a vasculitis occasionally with thrombosis of the vessels is noted.


A number of insecticides are effective in killing adult mites. Few, if any, are effective in killing the mite eggs, so multiple treatments are needed to kill mites as they hatch from the eggs. The timing of the treatments is important to make sure that the nymphs are killed before they become adults and lay eggs.

Some flea sprays and powders are effective in killing adult mites. Products designed for controlling human head lice have also been effective in killing mites. As the mites (like fleas) spend most of their time off the snake, treatment of the environment is critical to kill adult mites and larvae as they hatch from the eggs.

Organophosphate insecticides must be used cautiously as toxicities may occur. Signs of toxicosis include loss of muscle tone, ataxia, loss of righting reflex, hypersalivation or paralysis.

Never use Ivermectin in turtles as a toxic reaction may occur.

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