0208 943 2303   info@alpha-vets.co.uk
24h Emergency Service 0208 783 2850


How to care for your snake

Snakes are fascinating pets and we’re pleased to say that we welcome them with open arms at our veterinary surgery. A snake vet from our specialised team can provide consultations for your pet, as well as a weight clinic and health checks. You’ll be matched with a highly qualified snake veterinarian and they’ll be able to offer advice on anything from nutrition and husbandry, to sex determination.


Please call our regular telephone number:  0208 943 2303 (Alpha Teddington); 01372 460107 (Claygate) during office hours and speak to one of our receptionists who will help book you for the correct consultation appointment.

Please remember to inform our receptionists how many pets you will be bringing. Each pet will need to be scheduled individually for a consultation to allow the vet time to properly examine each pet and discuss its problems.

Please note that our staff who answer the ‘Emergency Call’ number outside of office hours are unable to book regular day time consultations.

Here is a guideline to the different types of consultations we normally provide:

  • Regular Consultation: This is our standard 15 minute consultation with the vet for an animal with a new health problem, a problem that has recurred from some time ago, or an ongoing problem.
  • Second Opinion Consultation:  If your pet has been to see another vet for this problem (within the last year) and you would like our opinion on the problem, then we need to read the previous medical record, blood results and x-rays etc. We can then learn what medicines have been used and what the original vet found on examination. We need to do this in order to properly understand your pets’ condition and provide you with a good second opinion. As this takes time to arrange the consultation must generally be booked at least one day in advance. As this is a more complex and time-consuming procedure, we normally schedule for you to spend 30 minutes with the veterinarian and we charge a higher fee.
  • Walk in Consultation:  If you come in without an appointment booked we will try our best to fit you in; however you may have to wait for an hour or even longer if the vets are busy. Of course if your pet’s life is in danger we will assess their condition and may admit them into the hospital while we make a vet available. The Walk in Consultation is generally scheduled for 15 minutes with the veterinarian but is charged at a higher fee than the Regular Consultation.
  • We strongly advise our clients to try and make an appointment, as we are often fully booked or very busy. We do not want your pet to become stressed if they have to wait a long time.
  • Referral Consultation: This is when another vet has asked you to come and consult with us as they feel we have more expertise with snakes or with your snake’s specific problem. In these cases the other veterinarian will directly fax us a ‘Referral Letter’ and your snakes medical records. Afterwards we will also inform your original vet of the outcome of the case. This also requires the extended 30-minute consultation.

Once you have made the appointment please make sure that you, or whoever is bringing in the pet, has all the information as follows:

  1. How long your pet has been sick for and what symptoms it is showing.
  2. What food your pet is fed on, including any snacks and supplements.
  3. Any medicines that may have been given to your pet (please bring in the packets or containers).
  4. What is the origin of your pet and what animals has it been in contact with.
  5. What are the urine & faeces (poop usually like and what are they presently like.
  6. That the owner or a decision maker will be available on the telephone if they cannot come in.

Please note that to sign a consent form (for example for an operation or if you pet needs to be admitted into hospital) legally it must be someone over the age of 18 years old to sign.

We require payment for the services provided immediately after a consultation. If your pet does unfortunately need to be admitted to hospital or for surgery you will be required to pay a deposit. To try and make it more convenient for you we do accept payments by cash, cheque, debit and credit cards.

And don’t forget to collect your  ALPHA CARD – our free loyalty card that gives you 1% back on everything you spend with us! You collect points on your card, which you can redeem against any of our services or products! The card is free to all clients, and we even give you 500 points (=£5) to get you started! Ask at reception for more details when you come in.

Health Checks

We recommend health checks for your newly acquired snakes and, from then on, yearly health checks.

Our health checks aim to create awareness of optimum feeding and home care as well as diagnose and treat any existing health problems early in the disease process.

Our health checks include a full physical examination where your vet will examine your snake from nose to tail for outward signs of disease.

At additional cost further tests are available such as;

  • Faeces (Poop) examination – examining for internal parasites. A fresh sample brought in at time of consultation is useful.
  • Blood work – A blood sample to aid in determining the health status of your snake.
  • Further imaging such as x-ray and ultrasound imaging.

You will be asked a series of important questions about your snake including:

  • Its origin (breeder, pet shop, wild caught).
  • Housing and fixtures (aquarium tank, desert or tree dwelling set up etc.).
  • Is it kept with other snakes? Any new additions recently?
  • Were any quarantine procedures used? (I.e. was the snake kept separate for a period, before being introduced to your other snakes).
  • Bedding or substrate used (e.g. Sand, wood chips).
  • Environmental conditions including temperature gradients (high and low measurements, day and night) and lighting used (brand and spectrum provided).
  • Water source provided (drinking and soaking).
  • Diet, including content and frequency of feeding. Live prey? Frozen? Stunned?
  • Last shedding.

It is a good idea for you (or your representative in the consultation) to have thought about these issues and checked that you know as many details as possible before your visit.

Husbandry and Nutritional Advice

Husbandry is essentially the ‘care’ that you provide for your snake and includes housing, bedding (substrate), hides (caves, plants etc.), heating and lighting.

Each species of snake (and there are approximately 3000 recorded) has very specific husbandry needs and it is important that you know these requirements. Don’t worry, we can help!

If you don’t know the species the vet can help you identify in the consultation.  If it is an unusual species we may have to take some photos and do some research after the consultation.

The vast majority of problems we see are related to problems with husbandry.


Areas you need to consider, and which can be discussed further with your vet are:


  • Housing– Is he/she tree dwelling, a desert species, ground dwelling, a water snake?
  • Substrate – this is the ‘bedding’ used. Some types can look nice but actually be quite irritating or even poisonous to your snake. Your snake may even eat bedding material which can cause internal blockages. This is something we see quite often.
  • Hides– most snakes do not like being out in the open or exposed. They need to be able to choose from a selection of hides in areas of appropriate temperature and humidity. If they cannot hide/rest then this can lead to stress associated and reproductive diseases.
  • Heating– Snakes are ectothermic; they are almost completely incapable of generating body heat and require appropriate environmental temperatures to achieve body temperatures necessary for metabolism (movement, digestion). A range of temperatures (the preferred optimum temperature zone or POTZ) is desirable so that your snake can chose a comfortable area.  Again, it is important to know the type of snake you have in order to determine what temperature range to provide.
  • Lighting – Diurnal snakes (those active during daylight) need exposure to full spectrum UV lighting (UVA = 400-315nm, UVB= 315-280nm) to support vision and crucial physiological processes such as calcium absorption. Not all UV bulbs are created equally – recent studies have shown that many bulbs on the market do not meet minimum requirements for UV emission. We recommend regular replacement of UV bulbs, every 6 months, as well as monitoring of UV output with a UV meter if possible (we have one, your bulb can be checked during the consult)
  • Humidity – Is you snake from a desert or rainforest environment? Humidity requirements will vary drastically. Inappropriate levels can effect hydration, skin health and shedding.


Snake Nutrition 

Again, this subject is very species dependent.


Frequency of feeding is very important as snakes are often overfed in captivity.

Young, growing snakes may need feeding every 2-3 days, small to medium adults weekly, and very large species as little as 4-5 times per year!

Ask your vet to suggest an appropriate feeding schedule for your snake.

Captive diets often need supplementation to provide balanced nutrition (for example, calcium and vitamin D3). This can be discussed in detail during your consultation – it is important to understand that, whilst supplementation is often necessary, it needs to be done under veterinary guidance as overdoses are possible and potentially very serious.

Food items used depend on what species of snake you have. The items need to be of good quality and free from disease.

We usually do not recommend the feeding of live prey for many reasons, one of which being the potential for injuries to your snake caused by live prey items such as rats and mice. There are also welfare considerations for the poor prey!

Sex Determination

Knowing the sex of your snake is important – it can have a big influence on how you need to care for him/her and well as determining certain disease processes he/she is susceptible to (for example female snakes developing follicular stasis or egg binding)

The sex can usually be determined fairly easily at the clinic.

Your vet can safely, cleanly and effectively determine sex using a technique called probing. A specifically designed metal probe is inserted in the vent (the hole through which poop is passed) and by doing this your vet will be able to determine whether you have a boy or a girl. This whole procedure can be completed without sedation and whilst you wait.


Please see our ‘Home Care’ section for further information on Salmonella in reptiles.


Your vet may need to hospitalise your snake either for a short period of a day or two whilst investigations are underway or for longer periods whilst treatment is undertaken.

We have a designated exotics room (our ‘hot ward’) which contains facilities to optimise your snake’s environment, providing the conditions essential to recovery.  As with all reptiles, snakes are ectothermic, or cold- blooded, relying entirely on environmental conditions and warmth to drive their metabolism.

Correct environment is the most influential factor in raising a healthy happy snake.

Whilst in hospital you snake and its environment are frequently monitored and treatments are provided by our team of Veterinary Surgeons and Registered Veterinary Nurses.

We carry a large selection of food items. If however, your snake has unusual dietary preferences that your vet still sees as suitable you may be asked to bring some food in for the duration of its stay.

Weight Monitoring

Yes, it is possible for your snake to get fat!

In fact, it is quite common for snakes in captivity to be overweight owing either to being fed too muchtoo often or simply eating the wrong type of food items.

The good news is we can help you with advice to try and get your snake in more appropriate condition.

To help avoid obesity issues we recommend regular weighing and measuring of your snake so that your vet can determine his/her BODY CONDITION SCORE – that is, a quantitative assessment of weight to size and body fat to muscling) This can be done during the physical examination.

Learn more about your pet

You can download our PDF documents for more information.

Cushings Syndrome

Guinea Pig – Feeding


Cat – Moving House

Exotic – Critical Care

Cat & Dog – Bereavement

Remember, you can contact us anytime!