Like all reptiles  also garter snakes can become infected with parasites.Pentastomida

Here you find an English article about parasites…

There are too many types of parasites to mention, I think, but these are the most common for our snakes:



# Worms

Trematoda (Flukes), Cestoda (Tapeworms) and Nematoda (roundworms)

Phenomena that may be an indication that the garter snake is infected with this may include:
Refusing to eat and therefore decrease in weight, getting more and more skinnier, vomiting, a swollen rear body (gastrointestinal tract), constipation or even diarrhoea.


Faecal examination by a veterinarian may reveal whether there is a worm infection and if so, what kind of worms there are in your snake. An infection with tapeworm requires another medicine than an infection with roundworms, etc.

Carefully follow the advice of the vet to get rid  of the infection.
Place the animal/ animals in a quarantine terrarium during the treatment and clean their normal terrarium with great precision. Disinfection and a good rinse with water (as hot as possible) is usually sufficient. It is important to destroy the worm eggs (not visible without a microscope) in cracks and crevices.
Throw away objects from the terrarium that can not be properly cleaned. Also clean the quarantine terrarium regularly in this way.

# Ticks


These animals are usually only located on wild caught animals. It is a small animal that belongs to the arachnids. They bite snakes in the skin between/under the scales and suck blood from their host. These ticks can be

removed quite easily. If you do not dare this yourself, go to a vet. Using tweezers, grab the tick as close as possible to the skin of the snake and pull it gently, using a circular motion, out of the the snake skin.
Formerly a tick was first anaesthetized before it was removed. Do not do this! It appears that a tick then quickly inflates all “toxins” in the host. Check if the head of the tick also has been removed out of the snake skin. If not, there may occur a considerable inflammation. If the head is still left, it is advisable to ask the vet to remove it.
Do not forget to kill the tick after is has been removed.  This can be done by burning or with alcohol.

# Protozoans

Infection with protozoa (for example amoebae, flagellates, coccidia, cryptosporidium) can only be determined


through faeces examination.

Symptoms are: vomiting prey after a few days, diarrhoea, very smelly faeces, generally unhealthy impression, refusal of food, dehydration, etc.
Do not cool the faeces and make sure it is as fresh as possible when it is examined. When possible  make an

appointment in advance so the vet can examine the stool immediately after arrival. Some organisms are in fact only visible if they are still alive.

Carefully follow the advice of the vet how to fight the infestation and let the faeces examine post-treatment again. Ask the vet when it is the best time to do.

# Snake mite or reptile mite (Ophionyssus natricis)

An infestation with snake mite can be a recurring phenomenon. Especially if you’re not serious about combating it. When your snake has a few mites this will not be life-threatening and does not do much harm. In a terrarium, which is cleaned frequently, it should not come to a major outbreak of snake mites.  Only when an animal is weakened or ill the mite infestation can manifest itself en masse and it  becomes a real problem. To prevent a lot of misery you better have not one single mite in your terrarium.

Snake mites are so called ectoparasites. A parasite that lives on or in the skin but not within the body. Fleas and lice are ectoparasites. Infestation with an ectoparasite is called an ectoparasitosis. They not only withdraw blood form their host, but they alos can spread diseases. When you have more than one terrarium and you do not work hygienically (cross-contamination between the different terrariums) it is possible to spread diseases to all your terrariums because you spread the snake mites to all your terrariums.

Snake mites...
Snake mites…

A snake mite is about 1 mm in size. They belong, together with spiders (order Araneae) and the scorpions (order Scorpiones) to the class Arachnidae. Mites and ticks belong to the order Acari in this class. They have 8 leggs and are dark-red coloured. Seen with the naked eye they appear to be black pin dots moving across the snake body. Especially on light coloured animals like albino snakes, they are clearly visible.

One female is able to lay several dozen eggs at a time which may hatch, under ideal conditions, after only one day. To become adults, the larvae go through a number of nymph-stages. They are pretty tough critters that are able to survive, if necessary, without food. for months. The development inside the eggs can stop for months if conditions are not right. The moment these conditions are good again (e.g. higher temperature) the development continues. These eggs ale laid in all kinds of places. Because a female snake mite is very small she is able to lay her eggs in every cracks etc. That is why it is necessary that all, not easy to clean, materials must be disposed in an infected terrarium. Only when the mite is adult it is going to live on the snake. In the various nymph stages they live just loose in the terrarium.
When an adult snake mite “sits” on its host it sticks its snout between the scales into the skin and begins to suck blood. They usually remain seated 3 till 7 days at the reptile; females can gather 10 to 15 times their own weight in blood in this period. When the female is completely filled with blood she leaves the body of the reptile and goes looking for a place to lay her eggs.  They can bridge reasonable distances in this way. On their own some metres and when carried by the snake keeper (on a his hands or cleaning tissue, etc.) the distance has no limits.

Eggs of the snake mite...
Eggs of the snake mite…


Regularly check the water bowl, because you often find in this tiny little nymphs of the mite. You can also notice an infestation by the behaviour of the snakes. When they are in the water-bowl for unusual long periods they might have snake mites. They do this to drown them. That is why, among other reasons, it is important that the water bowl is big enough for all snakes to lie in all together. When you take a good look on a snake that is unusually long in the water bowl because it has mites, you often can see a lot of mites on the parts of the snake body that are not under water (often the tip of the nose).
Snakes that are infested with mites can become  inactive and make a dopey impression. The loss of blood can cause this. They will also try to get rid of the mites by scrubbing their body against something because it itches. In the wild snakes loose most of the mites when they shed skin. In the terrarium this does only work when you take out the shed immediately after the snake is ready.

Some people sent me ways how to get rid of snake mites… (This are not MY experiences!)

–  Warning! A fellow garter snake keeper told me that a number of his “water snakes” (Thamnophis, Natrix) died after using an anti-lice shampoo called Loxazol!!!
The active ingredient is pf Loxazol is permethrin. It is very likely that this is the cause of death, but it is not proven. On the forum on there also were some people with very bad experiences with permethrin… Use the search-utility on that forum to find the posts.

–  Empty the terrarium completely, including the backgrounds. Go to the drug store and pick up some anti-lice conditioner (for men). Make a soapy solution and clean the whole terrarium with it. Let it ventilate a while!!
Make a new solution from warm water and anti-lice conditioner and keep the snake in it for 10 minutes. Make syre the head stays out of the water! Rub wit a finger some solution over the head. Be careful!
Decorate the snake with tissue paper, small water-bowl and a hiding-place that can be thrown away.
Repeat all of this after 3 days and your snake will be free of mites. Wait another 2 days and check for mites again. If you cannot find mites (Use a magnifying glass) than you can decorate your terrarium again and place the snake in it.
We did this and the mites were gone and never came back (our snake had many mites on it).

– When your snake has snake mites clean the terrarium very thoroughly. Than you have to treat your snake every day. Do not buy expensive remedies. They are poisonous.
Go to your kitchen cupboard and grab a bottle of salad oil and lubricate your snake with it for a few days. The mites cannot breath any more and die. This remedy does not hurt your snake. Repeat this a few times in the forthcoming two weeks. This kills the mites that hatched before they are adult and lay eggs. Completely animal friendly and without poison.

Other ways to get rid of the mites are:

– From your veterinarian you can buy the product Frontline. Ask the vet what is the best way to use it in your case.
Never spray Frontline directly on the snakes! Spray some Frontline on a cloth and rub it over the snake. Caution for nostrils and eyes.
Clean the terrarium very thoroughly and throw away everything that you cannot clean.
I do not know if Frontline can be bought in other countries but ask your vet!

– You can try Dutchy’s

I have once used salad oil with success myself. All the other ways I have never tried because I never have snakes with mites.

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