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Reptile Mites, Oh My!

Updated: Nov 7


Reptile mites can be a huge problem, especially if left untreated. Most things you read online, will tell you that reptile mites are a lot like ticks. This is true when you're looking at them for what they do to your reptiles. I however, like to compare reptile mites to fleas for dogs and cats. It can start with just one or two and before you know it, there are hundreds of them. There are over 250 species of mites that can affect your reptiles and most of them have the same type of life cycles, treatment options and reproduction cycles. In this post, I will be discussing all of this to help you be better prepared and prevent mite infestations within your collection.


Lets start by going over what mites are, what they look like, and what issues they cause. Mites are a blood sucking parasite, they are only about the size of a pencil tip but can be seen by the naked eye. Out of the 250 species of mites, there are 3 that are the most commonly found on captive reptiles.


These 3 types are, snake mites (these do not only affect snakes), lizard mites (these do not only affect lizards), and chigger mites (grain mites). Snake and lizard mites are parasitic in their adult form, chigger mites are only parasitic in their larvae stage. Snake and Lizard mites appear as black, dark red, or grey in color. Chigger mites as larvae are white in color (this is when they are parasitic), as adults they are a bright red color. Even though adults aren't parasitic you should still be worried if you see them, because where there are adults, there are babies.


Mites can have all kinds of negative affects on your reptiles over time. If left untreated they can be fatal. Mites have been known to cause issues with shedding, loss of appetite, anemia and infections. Mites are very painful for your pet and may also cause behavioral changes.


I'm sure by now you're saying, "well how do I know if my reptile has mites?" That's a great question! It's pretty easy to tell if your reptile has mites, but lets talk about where you can look.

You're going to want to inspect both your reptile and it's habitat. On your reptile the key places to look are around the face (eye folds, ears, and skin on the neck), the scales on the stomach and the folds at their joints. In the habitat one of the main places you'll see mites are in the water dish. A lot of the time reptiles will soak to ease the discomfort and the mites will drown. You should also look on any real wood you have in your habitat because mites like to lay their eggs there. Occasionally, you can see mites walking around the habitat but, you really have to pay attention.


If you see that your reptile has mites, what should you do? Well, there are a few different ways to treat mites. There are mite treatments you can purchase and even more natural or simple "DIY" treatments. However, the first few steps you should take are always the same.


As always, if this is a new pet they should be in a quaratine habitat which makes identifying, preventing and treating easier. You can learn more about the quarantine process by reading our other blog post or purchase one of our pre-made quarantine habitats. If this isn't a new pet, you'll have to either use a quarantine habitat or set up their habitat as such.


The first step in treating your reptile for mites is to remove your pet from the habitat. Once out of the habitat, you should soak your reptile in warm water. Secondly, remove all décor and soak it in hot water. After the décor has soaked for a bit you'll want to wash it. You'll want to throw away all substrate and immediately discard. I recommend vacuuming the habitat as well to get as much up as possible. Mites can spread like wildfire, so you don't want to take any chances. From here you'll want to disinfect the habitat.


After the habitat has been cleaned, you should put down paper towels or newspaper and only put in basic décor that is plastic. You'll then want to place your reptile in the quaratine habitat, in a quaratine area. You'll have to clean the habitat daily. Treat your reptile daily, or every few days depending on what treatment you use. Treatments will last anywhere from 14-30 days and quarantine should last an additional 30-60 days to ensure you've gotten rid of the mites. Mite eggs take about 13-19 days to hatch so, this gives you time to ensure there won't be any more popping up. You'll want to disinfect, or vacuum the area the habitat is in. Wash your hands and change your clothes after you come into contact with your quaratine pet, especially if you have other reptiles.


Why use paper towels and plastic you ask? What a great question! Mites can live in the substrate and it would be very expensive and wasteful to use normal reptile substrate, Plus, it's easier to spot the mites on paper towels or newspaper. Mites also can burrow into wooden fixtures and cages, even with soaking and washing them, eggs may survive leading to reinfestation.


There are dozens of treatments you may read about that can treat a mite infestation, I however, have only had experience with three different kinds of treatments. The first treatment option we will discuss is JurassiMite Wipes and Spray. As with any product you use, it is very important that you read and follow all instructions on the packaging. This is a commercial product that can be bought at pet stores and online very easily. I think using the wipes on snakes are best, it makes the treatment process seemless. The spray works best for all other species. This product can also be used to treat the habitat, you'll just want to rinse with water. The second product I've used to treat mites is Miracle Care Reptile Mite Spray. This product can be used on both your reptile and it's habitat. Directions for use are clearly labeled on the back of the product. When using these two products, I would follow the intial steps above. Then, I would do treatments every other day. Following a schedule like the one below for 3 weeks.


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Reptile

Mite Treatment per directions

Soak in luke-warm water

Mite treatment per directions

Soak in luke-warm water

Habitat

Spray down the empty habitat with the mite treatment and then rinse with water.

Spray down the empty habitat with the mite treatment and then rinse with water.

Spray down the empty habitat with the mite treatment and then rinse with water.

Spray down the empty habitat with the mite treatment and then rinse with water.


The third treatment option I have personally used is Iodine mixed with water. Iodine can be bought at just about any store that sells first aid treatment. You'll want to add about 15 drops per gallon of water. Essentially, the water should be tea colored. While your reptile is soaking you can clean their habitat with a bleach and water mixture. You should get a spray bottle and label it a bleach. You'll want to do a 10% bleach to 90% water mixture. Once sprayed and wiped down, you'll want to rinse and let it air our before setting it up and placing your reptile back into it. The habitat should not smell like bleach once you've finsihed cleaning it.



Identifying that your reptile has mites and treating them is important. But, what could you have done to prevent this in the first place? How can you make sure it doesn't happen again? Did you do something wrong? I know it can feel like you failed your pet when they get sick but mites can come about a few different ways. Mites may be on your pet when you first get it. They may come from used decor, a cage you bought from someone, an unsanitary cage, feeders, and it's even been documented that mites can be found in commercial reptile substrate. Each of these situations commonly happen in the hobby but, you can prevent mites by making sure you're cautious in each situation.

Let's break it down a little. When getting a new pet, no matter where you get it from, you should ALWAYS quarantine them, and always away from the other reptiles you own. Quarantining is a very easy process, and is best to be done in a plastic habitat with paper towel substrate and plastic decor. If you want to learn more about quarantining, check out my other blog posts. This process will allow you to identify, and treat potential mites. All while keeping your other reptiles healthy. When it comes to mites and your feeders, you really only have to worry about this if your reptile eats rodents or poultry. The best way to avoid receiving mites this way, is to only buy from reputable businesses. Read reviews and inspect the feeders.


With the other three scenarios (buying used items, unsanitary cages, and buying substrate) the prevention is all very simple. Clean any new or used items you recieve or buy for your reptiles. My go to is soaking them in hot water and srubbing with Dawn and a tooth brush, rinse it very well, and you shouldn't have issues. Unsanitary cages are bad for reptiles in general so a good way to prevent this is to spot clean your reptile's habitat every day. You should also be changing substarte once every month, or two. Keeping the habitat and decor clean will prevent more than just mites! When buying new substrate, a lot of people will actually freeze it for about a week prior to using it. Freezing the substrate, freezes the mites and kills them off. You can also bake certain substrates and decor on a low temperature, keep in mind that items should not be kept in heat too long and should be watched at all times to prevent fires. Both methods are equally effective in killing mites that could be in the substrate.


I hope this post has helped you start to understand mites and your reptiles a little better. Thanks for reading! If you want more information subscribe to our blog for updates and our social media.



Reptile Cove LLC is a reptile education company and is not a veterinarian practice. No person employed by Reptile Cove is a Vet nor do they claim to be one. All of these posts are written based on research and hands on experience with reptiles. We are only here to help share our knowledge and are not responsible for any outcomes. Please always follow the instructions given on any product you use.

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