A study done by the US Department of Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation reveals that you are nine times more probable to die from being struck by lightning than to die of venomous snakebite. However, if you are planning to add a pet snake to your family, it is a good idea to put in place safety measures that guarantee your family is safe while interacting with the pet.
The big question that most beginners ask is, “Will my pet snake bite? Like other home pets such as dogs and cats, pet snakes are generally not aggressive, but they can bite if not properly handled or feel threatened. With a pet snake, it’s highly unlikely that its bite will be venomous. Common pet snakes like a rosy boa, corn snake, and children’s python are popular for their docile and calm nature.
In this piece, we will review the safety measures to take when handling a pet snake and other tips for safely caring for your pet.
Safety tips for pet snake owners
Consider the species’ temperament.
When it comes to pet snakes, the best safety measure lies in choosing the ideal species that offer the least risk. Don’t just rush and bring the reptile home. You should first undertake thorough research on available species and identify the least aggressive one. It is best to steer away from aggressive species such as a black racer or reticulated python unless you are an experienced snake handler. Go for a gentle snake that won’t be interested in nibbling your fingers. If you prefer handling the pet often, go for the tamer options like corn snake, rosy boa, or California Kingsnakes.
Use the right housing.
Before bringing home the snake, ensure you have set up an ideal terrarium or vivarium to keep the reptile safe. The ideal snake house should be secure to prevent the pet from escaping into your living space. It should have a sliding lid that you use to safely feed the pet without exposing your fingers to it. As a rule of thumb, once the snake grows to more than twice the house’s length, move it to a bigger house. You should ensure you have included all essential requirements in the house, including the right substrate, temperatures, and hiding places. This will prevent the pet from being stressed and thus aggressive.
Practice safe feeding
One of the leading causes of snake bites is hunger. Before bringing the snake home, research the specific species’ dietary needs, and strive to feed it regularly as directed. You also need to set up a separate area in the vivarium for feeding. Ensure the area is quite because sakes tend to feel vulnerable and threatened when feeding. A noisy area may raise its survival instincts and make the pet to be aggressive. You should also avoid offering the snake food directly from your hand as the snake can strike the food and end up biting your hand on accident.
Consider using tongs to place snake food inside its housing. Alternatively, you can put on sturdy hand gloves when feeding or handling the pet. Typically, Snakes are fed on live or thawed rodents. Some species are fed only once in 14 days, while others require more feeding. A well-fed pet is quiet, calm, and docile to present low safety risks to the owners and the family.
Learn about safe handling
A pet snake can present a lot of safety risk if not properly handled. Before you bring home the reptile, you must learn how to handle it. You should also find out if the particular species you are interested in tolerates a lot of handling or not. Additionally, most snakes aren’t excited to get close to human beings, and you must approach it slowly when touching it. They are also scared of you, especially during the first few days in your home. To acclimate the reptile to your presence, you need to get your timing right before handling it. Pick the middle part of the snake’s body and hold it gently on your palms. If you are using tongs, apply them just below the neck and make sure they are not injuring the pet. Don’t pick the snake from its tail as this may result in a bite.
The following are other essential tips to handle snakes safely:
Wash your hands before handling
It is crucial to thoroughly clean your hands with soap and water before handling your pet to remove any food scents. Snakes use their sense of smell, and if it mistakes your hand for food, it can bite. Besides, when you wash your hands, you also reduce the chances of transferring parasites and harmful pathogens to the snake. It is advisable to use both your hands to hold the snake, with one hand located one-third of the way down its body and the other under the remaining quarter
Let the snake get accustomed to you first
If you recently adopted the snake, you need to spend some time training it first to get used to you before handling it. If you are housing the snake in a transparent glass vivarium, you can let the hands rest on top of the house for two to three minutes twice each day. After a few days, move the hands inside the housing and let them rest for a while. The pet will gradually get used to your scent and learn that you present no threat.
Make sure the snake is aware of your presence.
Unlike dogs, you can’t talk to the snake to announce your presence. Snakes can’t hear human beings. The best way to let the snake know of your presence is through scent. Use a consistent brand of cologne that enables the pet to identify you quickly. Don’t make too much noise to announce your arrival as this may startle the pet and cause it to strike.
Move slowly and predictably.
To avoid surprising the snake, avoid fast movements. Move slowly when within striking distance from the pet and avoid strange angles. Approach the pet from the sides rather than from above.
Don’t pick a hissing snake.
When the snake is feeling threatened or fearful, it may resort to hissing. When the snake is hissing, it is not the best time to handle it. The ideal moment to handle the pet is when it looks a bit tired. However, avoid handling it when it has just eaten.
Invest in protective equipment.
Before you bring home a pet snake, it is advisable to invest in protective gloves and boots. The gear will come in handy when handling non-venomous but snappy pet snakes. Protective boots will also help if the snakes get on the ground and become aggressive to bite your feet. Another critical equipment to invest in before you bring home a pet snake is the snake hook. A snake hook helps you hold the snake safely while inside the cage or outside.
Stay attentive to the pet when handling.
Snakes are sensitive and emotional creatures. It is important to be alive to their temperament when handling the pets. Young snakes can display some fear when handled. It is advisable to stay as calm and confident as possible when handling pets. When returning the pet to its cage, lower it in gently, head first. Place it on a substrate or a branch and let it move in on its own. Ensure you secure the lid firmly because snakes are great at escaping.
Consider the shedding factor.
Snakes naturally shed their skins to enable them to acquire healthy new skin. Although the snake needs to shed, this process is quite stressful for the pet. Before you bring home the reptile, get to know the signs it is about to shed to ensure the process goes smoothly without incidents. The rule of thumb is to avoid handling snakes before, during, and after shedding. During this time, the snake will likely be more stressed and aggressive to bite. If you must handle it, do so gently to prevent the delicate skin from tearing off. You should also provide cage accessories like rocks or driftwood to help the pet rub off the old skin. Besides, provide a shallow dish of water for the pet to soak itself and enable a less painful shedding process. Avoid handling the pet if you notice the following signs of shedding:
- Eyes that turn cloudy or bluish
- An old skin that looks dull or hazy
- If the pet is hiding more than usual
- If the pet’s appetite is decreasing or it has refused to eat at all
- If it is more aggressive and defensive
- If it is seeking out rough surfaces on the enclosure from where it rubs itself. The pet may also look for water to soak in.
Children and pet snakes
When planning to adopt a pet snake, one of the critical factors to consider is the presence of children in your home. It is vital to research the pet that you intend to buy and join local forums to get advice on suitable species for your children. Some of the children-friendly species include corn snakes and ball pythons. Once you have brought home the pet, educate the children on proper handling. Never let the children handle snakes unsupervised. Also, ensure you supervise the children when they are feeding the pet.
Most importantly, children under five years or those with weak immune systems should never contact pet snakes. Just like other reptiles, snakes carry harmful bacteria called salmonella that can cause severe illnesses in humans. You should teach the child the importance of washing hands with warm soapy water after handling the reptiles.
Know the signs of a snake that is about to bite.
When handling a pet snake, it is crucial to be familiar with the symptoms the snake is about to bite. The following are the warning signs:
- A snake that wants to strike will coil up first
- The snake may flash its mouth open, and shake or rattle the body
- Others may rise up to take an S shape before they strike
- Change of moods from being calm to being aggressive
- species are quite unpredictable and may strike without showing any of the signs above
What to do when bitten
According to the US Department Of Wildlife, Ecology, and Conservation, there are 7,000 snake bites in the United States each year. However, less than two percent of snake bites happen to snake owners. Typically, half of all bites from venomous snakes are dry bites or bites that lack venom. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter whether the snake is venomous or not; it is imperative to call the poison control immediately after a bite. The following are vital things to do when bitten by a pet
- Unless you know the snake species 100 percent, assume it is poisonous and seek medical attention as soon as possible. You can dial 911 or any nearby emergency medical services call number.
- Keep still and calm. You should aim at having a low pulse that slows down the spread of the poison. Lay down calmly or sit with the bite below the level of the heart.
- You can also wash the bite with clean, warm water and antiseptic soap. Afterward, cover the wound with a dry clean cloth.
- Although a bite from a non-venomous snake has little effect, the wound can be infected with salmonella bacteria, which will pose serious health problems. To prevent salmonella spread, rub the wound using alcohol or benzoyl peroxide. You can also use Neosporin or ideal antibacterial cream to disinfect the wound.
- In case you cannot get to the hospital right away, apply appropriate first aid.
What not to do if bitten
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC released a list of things to avoid when bitten by a snake:
- Don’t wait for symptoms of poisoning to appear before seeking medical attention.
- Do not attempt to pick up the reptile or trap it after it has bitten you. it may strike again and again
- Don’t apply a tourniquet to the bite area.
- Don’t cut the wound with a knife or razor blade.
- Don’t suck out the venom.
- Don’t immerse in water or apply ice to the wound.
- Don’t drink caffeinated beverages that may raise your pulse.
Snakes and other pets
Before you bring home a pet snake, it is essential to consider how safe the pet will be from other existing pets like dogs and cats. It is essential to determine if the snake will present any safety risk to the other pets. Typically, a snake will go out of its way to avoid other pets at home when they spot one. However, pets like dogs or cats are curious by nature. They also possess natural hunting instincts that make them go after the snake. When at home with your pets, take the following precautions to ensure neither of the pet is harmed:
- Keep pets strictly in their separate enclosures or housing. To avoid bites and injuries, don’t house a snake with other pets.
- Feed pets in their separate areas. Most pets, including snakes, are aggressive when feeding, and they can easily fight.
- You can socialize dogs and cats but never try to socialize snakes with other pets. Snakes lack emotional appeal and cannot cultivate connections with other pets.
- When a snake is within the dog’s vicinity, keep the dog on a leash to easily control his actions. If the dog starts to bark at the snake, pull it gently away and out of sight.
How to determine the pet has been bitten.
It is advisable to be aware of the signs that indicate your pet has been bitten by a snake to help you take appropriate measures that will save the pet from poisoning and infections. Although symptoms may vary depending on the snake species and the amount of venom injected, contact the nearest vet immediately if you notice the following signs:
- A sudden weakness, fatigue or collapse
- Trembling, twitching and shaking of muscles
- Unsteadiness and weakness in hind legs
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Excessive drooling, salivating or frothing in the mouth.
- Dilated pupils
- Respiratory distress
- Bloody urine
Many pet owners expect to see a bite wound that confirms the snake has bitten their pets. Well, in most cases, there is little notable pain or swelling that shows the bite wound. If you are unsure whether the pet has been bitten, contact your vet rather than delaying treatment.
What you should do when a pet is bitten
To minimize damage and spread of poison, do the following when the snake bites your pet:
- Stay calm yourself and keep the pet as calm as possible. Limit the pet’s activity to lower his heart rate, and prevent the poison from spreading fast.
- If the pet was bitten on the neck, remove its color.
- Where possible, ensure you keep the position of the bite below the heart level.
- Don’t suck out the poison or treat the wound with ice, tourniquets, alcohol, or cold packs.
- Seek vet care immediately and remember to give out the right details of the snake species
Frequently Asked Questions about Snakes and Their Safety.
Is it dangerous to keep snakes?
A pet snake is an excellent companion. However, before you pick one, ensure you have considered important factors such as its temperament and care needs. Contrary to what most people believe, most varieties of pet snakes are not dangerous. As long as you are willing to meet their requirements, snakes are a great addition to your family. In general, most non-venomous pet snakes kept as pets are gentle and do not bite their owners unless they are provoked.
Will my pet snake bite my guests?
Although most pet snakes are docile and non-aggressive, they can bite your guests if they don’t handle them properly. Before you let your friends handle the pet, take them through the vital handling tips. You can also ask them to put on protective gear that protects from bites.
Are snakes scared of dogs?
Snakes are afraid of other bigger creatures, including the dogs. However, unless they are provoked, they will not go after the dog. When the dog comes into the snake’s vicinity, hold him off using a leash and lead him away from the reptile.
What can I give to my dog after a snake bite?
Give the dog 1mg/pound of body weight of Benadryl. You can also give the dog any ideal pain medication from the vet. Do not give the dog aspirin as this will worsen the bleeding. Afterward, take the dog to the vet immediately.
How long after bite will the dog show symptoms?
Your dog may exhibit a snake bite symptoms within 1 hour to 24 hours after the bite occurs. However, if you suspect the dog has been bitten, don not wait for the symptoms to occur. Call your vet immediately and do as he directs.
Can my pet snake escape from its cage?
All snakes are excellent escape artists. When they get out of the cage, several unpleasant things can happen. They can get hurt, get lost, or bite humans and other animals. It is the mission of the pet snakes to escape from their confines and go hunting. Most snakes are nocturnal, and at night, they want to hunt for food. Ensures you secure their housing and make their enclosures escape-proof.
Although most non-venomous snake species commonly kept as pets are gentle and present little safety risks, all snake species can still bite if they are startled or excessively hungry. A starving pet snake may lash out to grab a prey when feeding and accidentally bite your hand. Snakes can also bite when they are shedding or when they have an underlying illness. With all these tips, we have provided you with all the critical information that you need to prevent snake bites and how to handle any cases if they arise.