Olive oil on snakes? is it OK in small amounts?

Advice please.
Olive oil on snakes? is it OK in small amounts?
I respect the guy in this video massively and follow his mite PREVENTION strategy.
The only bit i m concerned about is the olive oil. I did use oil in the beginning, but have moved away from that part recently.
At about 11 minits

Please lets not talk about gavin is right or wrong, just and thoughts on olive oil on snakes.
I kind of think a little fruit oil its ok, but I feel other oil may be bad, like petroleum products.
No definite knowledge, please advise.

One of my snakes with olive oil on arrival. As you can see from my fingers. She was fine and is now thriving. but is there a risk?

Butter pastel rescue with some scale damage between eyes, ID thanks to this forum.


I’ve done it with olive and vegetable oil but as @t_h_wyman pointed out to me in the past, it strips the natural oils from their skin. Dawn dish soap works well though.


I am unable to watch the video here (firewalls) so I cannot see Gavin’s technique which would likely impact my full opinion.

That said, I have spoken with Gav a few times and I know that any info he puts out is well meant. That does not mean he cannot be wrong and on a few occasions he and I have exchanged ideas around mistakes.

I personally do NOT advocate oil of any kind being used as a mite treatment. As Don notes, there is a risk to the animals using oil. I could caveat this six ways from Sunday but until I see/hear what Gav has to say I am not going to throw in on his video.


@t_h_wyman I know you cant see the vid, he was just wiping them with a bit of oil on a paper towel so any mites would come off on the white paper towel so one could see if there were any mites.
It seemed to make sense in the beginning… but…
@ballornothing and @t_h_wyman
Thanks for confirming my doubts
I did stop a while ago as I had similar suspicions as i learned more.
Thanks for the clarification, mild soap is the way forwards for me I guess.


Yeah, I watched the vid while I was WFH yesterday.

The method Gav is using here I do not take issue with. He is using a very little bit of oil (a bit more than I would but still minimal) on the towel and the mechanical action of the rubbing to check for mites, not as a standard long-term treatment for them. The small quantity of oil on the towel acts as a bit of an adhesive to help secure any mites he wipes free and also acts to smother those he gets off so that they do not go running off and infecting the rest of the house/facility.

So, in this context, it is not harmful. It is still not my preference (you can get a very similar effect by making a solution with Dawn dish soap and water and spraying that on a towel) but we all have our quirks :upside_down_face:

My major concern with the idea of using oil as a mite treatment is when people slather their animals in oil or literally bathe them in it. And they repeat this action every five to seven days for the eight to twelve weeks we are told is needed to break a mite breeding cycle.


Agreed, this was just a mite identifier for me not a treatment. Prevention is safer than cure.
No problem = less need for chemical treatment. With the caveat of quarantine, as issues can arise later.
But as I said, I also agree now I am a little wizer, there are safre ways, which I now practice, especially if your less experienced than Gavin,
e.g Dawn dish soap (or UK product equivalent),
To be honest, in the beginning when I used a little too much oil due to inexperience, i had a few shed problems.
In my humble opinion, better not to risk it if your not totally experienced,


Having never dealt with mites personally, why is oil bad for snakes (or is it just bad for ball pythons)? Wouldn’t dish soap be worse for stripping the natural oils from their skin?


If I remember correctly the oil actually displaces the natural oils of their skin, therefore removing it.


That’s what I was thinking, but wouldn’t dish soap do the same thing since it’s the best type of soap for removing oil?


If I am being honest, I am worried about that too. I have found that @t_h_wyman is a trustworthy source. Though, if he could, I too would like if he could explain why Dawn is better for the snake.


Yes, I definitely trust his expertise! I wasn’t trying to dispute it at all, especially since I haven’t actually had to deal with mites myself. Just hoping he could share some info. :slight_smile:


I know you weren’t trying to cause problems, and your not. Personally, I never want to experience mites but if I have to, I would want to know how to treat them and why does the treatment work. I get it, it is like choosing if you will take different types of medicine to avoid different side effects.


I know we are talking about soap now but, I just wanted to clarify, the oil was just a little on a kitchen towel to identify mites as an initial quarantine precaution for new snakes. not a treatment.
For treating mites I would never have used oil, you would need to much to be safe and it does not deal with the housing.
and I am not sure dawn soap on its own would treat a whole collection and all the housing.
For that personally I would try predator mites first.


A fair question and I certainly do not take it as an attack or a shot at my integrity. At the end of the day, I am just another person like everyone else here. I know I am fallible and I would much rather have people ask how/why I came to a certain viewpoint than have everyone blindly swallow everything I say as if it were gospel. All I really ask is that when you do challenge my viewpoint, that you come with the intent in engage in a collegial conversation and not a “YoU aRe WrOnG sTuPiD bEcAuSe YoUtUbE vIdEo ToLd Me!!!” attitude :grin:

Now, that out of the way, let us get back to the matter at hand. How Dawn is better than oil.

When people are using oil, as I noted above, there is a tendency to just coat the animal in the stuff. And then they throw the animal in its cage/tub/enclosure with that thick coat of oil on them. The oil is then absorbed through the scale where it mixes with then natural oil layer that is found under the skin. So in effect, what happens, is that the volume of fluid under the skin increases dramatically - think of a water balloon that has just enough water dripped into it to make it take shape versus one that gets filled from a garden hose. Now, also consider that the molecular chemistry of the treatment oil is radically different from the biophysiologic chemistry of the natural oil under the skin. Specifically, most vegetable oils are on the acidic side. This change in chemistry typically results in the matrix that anchors the skin to degrade more rapidly that normal, sending the animal into premature shed. It can also destabilize the not fully developed underskin so that it is less resilient than it should be after the shed.

As for the Dawn, we have all seen the commercials, they use it to wash baby ducks after oil spills. So we know it is safe… :upside_down_face: :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

But seriously, the surfactants in Dawn have been specifically designed to work against exogenous oils while minimally disrupting endogenous oils. Add to that that when you wash with Dawn, you are rinsing the animal clean afterward and not leaving it coated in a thick layer of soap. Since the soap is washed off, there is nothing left behind to screw up the animal’s skin


Excellent answer! Thanks!


That is why I love having you on this forum. Always ready to explain and help.


It’s great to be on a community that has educated members, and where civil honest communication takes place that benefits everyone, not just the original poster.


Snakes do not have pores, meaning it is impossible for them to produce oil to protect the skin. All body functions require a mechanism there simply isn’t one for this in snakes.

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I am going to assume you read the first paragraph of my last post and are not just being pedantic here

Firstly, production is done by glands not pores. Pores are used to excrete material.

Secondly, when I say “oil” I do not mean literal oil. I am using a generalized term that most people in the hobby, who do not have advanced degrees in biology/anatomy/biochemistry, can readily understand to describe the fluid that exists as a thin, practically molecular level, coating underneath the scales. I could certainly have used the more biologically correct phrase of ‘the stratum granulosum has a lipid-rich film composed primarily of interstitial fluid-derived lymphatic-type fluid with a somewhat oily slickness’, but that is a pain to type out repeatedly and, more importantly, would lose my audience.

Thirdly, I never said this oil was to “protect the skin” so not sure why that is part of your argument against me.

Fourthly, macro photography is a wonderful thing


Yes, i read this entire thread. My longtime gripe with people and snake keeping is to project human traits onto their animals that is why I mentioned the essential oil on snakes. All one has to do is grab some tissue and wipe down there snakes to see there is no danger of stripping an oil that is not there. If there was natural oil what you didn’t want to strip away on a snakeskin wouldn’t Dawn be the worst thing to use of anything.

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