What Is Scale Rot and How to Handle it in Your Pet Snake?

Pet Type


August 5, 2021

Snakes — most people tend to be fearful of them. They do not fall under your typical pet category of a cuddly pet. Still, many snake owners would be happy to tell you that snakes are highly intelligent animals who can understand and respond to their owners’ voices.

They can be gentle, beautiful animals, but they have specific dietary needs that need to be met to keep them healthy and happy. Before you bring a pet snake home, there are some things that you should consider.

Choose a Good Beginner Snake

The first crucial step in deciding you want a pet snake is to conduct your research on them. Research the type of snake you want, such as pythons, king snakes, gopher snakes, or corn snakes. Most of these snakes tend to remain small, and the largest size they can reach is five feet. These snakes can make good pets because they are gentle and do not mind being handled.

Poisonous and other dangerous snakes are not recommended as pets. They can be extremely dangerous to you or your family members.

Housing for Your Pet Snake

Before you bring a snake home, you need to get your house ready. It would be best if you had an enclosure in your home that is big enough for a snake. You can opt for a large reptile aquarium with a tight mesh top for your pet snake enclosure. Snakes can easily escape from the tiniest of holes, so make sure that it is secure.

The body temperature of the snakes often tends to adjust to the environmental temperature, but they require a hot zone along with a basking zone in their tank. You can also regulate their body temperatures easily if you have a glass aquarium.

In addition, they might also need direct ultraviolet light to maintain vitamin D on their skin, which helps in the absorption of food. If your snake’s enclosure has a lot of humidity in it, then it can be dangerous for your snake’s scales.This is why many of the owners complain of scale rot in pet snakes. So to avoid this, make sure that the humidity levels are set according to the needs of the snake.

Along with that, snakes also need some bedding in their enclosure. Butcher paper, newspaper, or even cloth are suitable bedding materials. You can also use carpet as bedding as it is easier to clean. In their enclosure, they would also need a hiding space where they can feed and feel secure.This is where a hollow overturned log can come in handy in the aquarium. Make sure also to put branches in the aquarium so they can climb on them when needed.

Additionally, never use coarse bedding for your snake as it can be extremely unhealthy for your snake and also lead to scale rot.

What Is Scale Rot and How to Handle it in Your Pet Snake

Scale rot is a bacterial infection that is commonly seen in reptiles. As mentioned above, it can happen due to high moisture and humidity in the cage or if the cage is not clean enough. Scale rot can turn out to be fatal for your pet snake if it is not treated timely.

You can check for scale rot in your snake by turning the animal on its back. If you notice any reddish or brown ulcers, then that is scale rot. You might also begin to see erosion of the scale and blisters on the underside of the snake if they have scale rot. It is vital to check three to four times a week to determine if they are suffering from such a problem.

Your pet snake can also suffer from a scale rot if the cage is not clean enough. Make sure to not leave anything in the cage that can lead to an infection in your snake. It is recommended to always clean out feces, uneaten foods and shedded skin. Also disinfect the cage regularly and keep a look out for mites and ticks.

In the worst-case scenario, if your snake does end up getting the infection, you will have to invest in an antibiotic ointment for your snake. You can also ask your vet for a reptile wound spray as it is highly effective for scale rot and it is non toxic.

Another way of preventing future scale rot in your snake is by controlling the moisture of the cage. Regulating the humidity of the cage is not an easy task but it is definitely necessary. The rule of thumb to determine the ideal humidity levels in the cage is to replicate similar moisture as the snakes get in their natural habitat.


Snakes are carnivores, and they eat meat. You have to feed them rats or mice, and if this is something that grosses you out, better not to get a pet snake. Like humans, snakes are also picky eaters and they only eat certain kinds of rats or mice. A python only eats frozen rats, whereas others might prefer mice.

Make sure to never offer live animals such as rats to the snake as they can bite the snake and cause serious injury. The size of the frozen rat will depend on the size of your snake, and the requirements might increase as your snake grows in size.

Snakes Can Grow Long

Talking about size, it is best to opt for species that do not have a size larger than five feet once fully grown. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot reduce or limit the size of a snake by confining them in a small place. It is best to buy a tank for your snake pet according to its characteristics. If you know that they will grow six feet long, then it is recommended to buy a tank of 10 feet or longer.

Handling Your Pet Snake

One of the most adventurous feelings of having a pet snake is feeling their muscular body on your hands as they explore your hand. It is not difficult to tame your pet snake, as they often enjoy human interaction and they can be safe around them.

If you buy a pet snake from a reputable dealer who has hand-reared the snake since they were young, then they would be used to the hand. Watch the dealer feed the snake to understand if the snake is healthy and has no mouth or digestion problem. Once your snake gets accustomed to your home, you should handle it for a few minutes each day to develop a bond with the snake.

Dangerous for Kids

Some snakes and reptiles harbor a bacteria called salmonella. This is not a big problem for adults but for children and babies. It can be a significant issue. So if you have kids and a pet snake, then after handling the snake, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and be particular that your kids do not go near the snake. Most experts do not recommend having a snake in the same house as a child younger than five years old. So if you can wait it out, it’s a better choice.

Understand What the Snake Likes

Snakes by nature like isolation, and they do not enjoy large crowds or noises. So it is best to have only one snake in a habitat. And this is why the handling of snakes should also be kept to a minimum of a few minutes each day.

Make sure to never have a snake around your neck, as it can turn out to be disastrous. They are creatures of routine, so it is recommended to have a consistent feeding, cleaning of the tank, and handling routine for your snake.

Know the Commitment

You might be surprised to know that a snake can live for up to 10 years. Some snakes, such as pythons, even have a lifespan of 30 years. Hence before committing, see if you can keep a snake for such a long time in your life. If you have plans to move or have kids, it wouldn’t be wise to get a snake.

Once you have understood the pros and cons of pet snakes, make sure to buy them only from a reputable breeder. When you buy from a qualified breeder, this is what they do for a living, so they are likely going to know which snake is best for you. They will also provide you valuable information on feeding, handling, and taking care of your snake.