Treating Cuts and Scrapes Pet Snakes

Sometimes even pet snakes can get into trouble and injure themselves just like any animal. Of course prevention is always better than a cure, so firstly make sure that there are no protruding nails or screws anywhere in the enclosure that they might catch themselves on whilst climbing. Snakes do manage to squeeze into the most unlikely of places, so can often end up somewhere you thought was out of reach which is why you must always completely seal off access to anything remotely dangerous to them! Heat lamps can cause burns, and anything like staples or nails used to hold up the enclosure furnishings, and even sharp splinters of wood can cut, scrape or pierce your snake’s skin and put them at risk of infection.

One of the most common causes of wounds in pet snakes however, actually comes from their food source. Rats and mice can fight back, and in the wild would not normally be confined in such a small space with their predator so would naturally try to flee and escape. It has even been recorded that mice will sometimes chew and nibble on a snakes tail if left for a long period of time in the enclosure, if for instance the snake was not hungry! If you feed live rats or mice to your snake and frequently notice that they have cuts and scrapes it may be time to switch to pre-killed food.

If your snake has managed to acquire a cut or scrape you need to keep it clean to prevent it getting infected. Depending on how deep the wound is it is really your own judgement whether to visit a vet or not. As a general rule, if the snake has any kind of burn or a deep flesh wound then consult your vet as they can go into shock due to the loss of fluids from the body and it can be difficult to tell with reptiles if they are feeling ill. If you are confident that it is only a graze or superficial wound then you can clean it up yourself at home.

You need to clean the area with saline solution (slightly salted water) and preferably apply some antiseptic solution onto the area before releasing the snake back into the enclosure. A syringe filled with solution to squirt at the wound is a good method for ensuring any debris is washed away without causing too much discomfort to the snake by wiping at it. If you must wipe the area, make sure that you use a gauze swab instead of cotton wool as it will not leave any fibres in the wound. Most human first aid kits contain gauze swabs, and eye cleaning pods contain saline solution in a squeezable bottle. Most vets or pet stores sell ‘purple spray’, which is an antiseptic spray for protecting wounds from infection when bandaging is impractical. It is a somewhat difficult and rather pointless process to attempt to bandage a snake to prevent dirt from entering the wound, a waterproof plaster or band aid would do the job but you must make sure that it is one with a low level of adhesive so as not to damage the surrounding scales on its removal. Personally, unless it is a particularly deep wound I would leave it open to the air with a simple coating of antiseptic spray. Before you release your snake back into its enclosure, swap any substrate such as bark chips for some newspaper until the wound has healed to prevent unnecessary grit and debris from entering the wound.

You may also need to help your snake during the shedding process as chances are that it will take a fair amount of time to heal and so will still have some damaged skin attached. Shedding will help remove the damaged layers of skin and so the scarring should eventually fade.

This article is of course intended as merely a guide, and should not replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian. If you are at all concerned about the health of your snake, please arrange a visit to your vet before attempting any home-treatments.