Snakes - VCA Animal Hospitals
VCA WEST LOS ANGELES ANIMAL HOSPITAL
AVIAN AND EXOTICS PET CARE LIBRARY
The Ball python (also known as Royal python)
(Python regius) is the smallest nonvenomous African
species of python, and is one of the most popular
pet snakes in North America. Generally bred in
captivity, these terrestrial snakes are very
popular as pets due to their docile temperament.
Selective breeding has produced Morphs (genetic
mutations), resulting in a variety of different colors
and patterns. The Ball python gets its name from its
tendency to coil into a tight ball when threatened.
Other popular pet snakes include Corn, Milk, and
Garter snakes and the Kingsnake.
Snake Care and Husbandry
Diet selection will depend on the species and natural
habitat of the snake. Most common pet snakes can be
maintained on small mammals as a primary diet
source (e.g. pinkies, mice, or rats). When deciding
how often to feed your snake, we recommend waiting
until your pet defecates from its previous meal before
feeding the next meal. In juvenile snakes this is usually
less than a week, and in adult snakes the typical range
is 7-21 days. Prey items should be fed killed, and most
Classical Corn snake or Red rat snake
snakes can be trained to readily accept killed prey.
Live prey items can injure your snake and should not be
offered. Offer fresh water daily in a large, shallow bowl with adequate size for the snake to soak its
entire body in.
Milk snake or milksnake
(Lampropeltis triangulum nelson)
Enclosure: A snake enclosure should be designed
based on the natural habitat of the snake. For example,
an arboreal species (e.g. Green Tree Python) will require
more height and adequate climbing areas, whereas a
terrestrial species (e.g. Ball Python) will benefit from a
larger ground area and hide spots. Glass aquariums can
usually be found in shapes and sizes to accommodate
the needs of most snakes. A fine mesh screen top that is
well secured should be adequate to keep your snake in
the tank. Misting the cage and/or soaking the snake,
going into shed, will be beneficial.
Soaking should be done 2-3 times a week.
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1900 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025 | Ph 310.473.2951 | vcawlaspecialty.com
Snake Care and Husbandry
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Temperature: Snakes are ectothermic, meaning they rely
on environmental temperatures to regulate body temperature.
We do not recommend the use of under-tank heading pads
or heat rocks. These can be the cause of serious thermal
injuries to pet snakes. A safer option is to use incandescent
heat bulbs of variable wattage to create a temperature gradient
in the enclosure. One section of the enclosure should be
towards the high end of a snake’s optimal temperature range,
and the other towards the lower end. Lights should be kept on
Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)
for 12 hours per day. Red or blue heat bulbs can be used to
maintain nighttime temperatures as needed. Temperature ranges of some common species are listed
below. It is debatable whether or not snakes require or benefit from full-spectrum UV lighting. However,
we recommend that the heat bulbs purchased for your pet snake do provide full-spectrum light (e.g.
mercury vapor bulbs). UV bulbs need to be changed approximately every six months – even if heat and
light are emitted, the UV rays will not be sufficient after six months of use.
Emerald tree boa
Daytime Temperature Range
Nighttime Temperature Range
Humidity: Enclosure humidity should mimic the natural environmental humidity of the snake.
For desert species, 30-50% is adequate. Fro subtropical species, 60-80% is ideal. In tropical species,
a humidity of 80-90% should be maintained. A humidity hide box lines with sphagnum moss can be
constructed to help increase humidity for some snake species. Environmental temperature and humidity
gauges should be in place in multiple locations with the enclosure.
Substrate: Newspaper, paper towels and indoor/outdoor carpet make the easiest to clean
substrates. We do not recommend particulate substrates as they tend to mold when misted, and can
also dry out the skin and cause difficulty shedding.
Yearly examinations are recommended for snakes to help
prevent disease and husbandry-related problems. A
majority of health problems in snakes are caused by a
suboptimal environment. Metabolic bone disease,
impactions, respiratory infections and reproductive
problems can be readily addressed with veterinary
guidance. It is also important to check newly purchased
snakes for pre-existing conditions and for internal and
Eastern kingsnake or common kingsnake
(Lampropeltis getulus californiae)
If you have any questions or concerns about your pet snake or would like to schedule an appointment
for your pet, please call VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital at 310-473-2951.