Snake Handling and Restraint

Key Points

  • DO wash hands thoroughly after handling prey species; DO NOT smell like snake food.
  • DO recognize aggression or fear in the snake, indicated by the body held in rigid coils or drawn up in an S-shaped posture.
  • DO use assistants when handling large snakes.
  • DO NOT allow a boa or python to form a complete loop around your neck.
  • DO utilize slow, gentle movements and provide adequate support when handling a snake.
  • DO wear disposable gloves, whenever possible, and always wash hands thoroughly after handling a snake.

Veterinary practices are often more hesitant to deal with snakes than with other pet reptiles, yet for the most part snakes are probably the easiest reptile patients to capture and restrain in clinical practice. This article reviews the defense mechanisms of snakes as well as transport, restraint techniques, and potential complications . . .

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Bays TB. Handling and restraint and venipuncture of exotic animals. Proc Annu Conf 65th Convention Canadian Vet Med Assoc; 2013.

Bradley TA. Basic reptile handling and restraint. Proc Annu Western Veterinary Conference 2002.

Cannon M, Johnson R. Handling and nursing reptiles (What’s normal & what’s not). Proc NSW Division Regional Conference 2014.

de Vosjoli P. Prevent stupid accidents with boas. In: The General Care an
d Maintenance of Red-Tailed Boas. Advanced Vivarium Systems; 1990.

Eatwell K. The reptile consultation. Proc Annu British Small Animal Veterinary Congress 2013.

Hernandez-Divers SJ. Diagnostic techniques. In: Mader DR (ed). Reptile Medicine and Surgery, 2nd ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier;2006:490-532.

Mader D. Reptile handling and husbandry. Proc Annu Western Veterinary Conference 2009.

Pizzi R. Husbandry and handling of snakes. Proc British Small Animal Veterinary Congress 2006.


Further reading

Ballard B, Cheek R (eds). Exotic Animal Medicine for the Veterinary Technician, 3rd ed. Ames, IA: Wiley Blackwell; 2017.

Bassert JM, Thomas J. McCurnin’s Clinical Textbook for Veterinary Technicians. St. Louis: Elsevier Health Sciences; 2017.

Boyer DM, Ettling J, Flanagan JP et al. Venomous reptile handling. J Herpetol Med Surg. 13(1):23-37, 2003.

Centers for Disease Control. Take care with pet reptiles and amphibians. Centers for Disease Control Web site. April 3, 2017. Available at Accessed September 28, 2017.

Divers SJ. Clinical approach to tortoises and turtles. Proc ExoticsCon Main Conference 2015:543-544.

Johnson R. Serious reptile practice – How to tame a tiger snake, and more. Proc Annu Conf Australian Veterinary Association 2013.

Mitchell MA. Managing the reptile patient in the veterinary hospital: Establishing a standards of care model for nontraditional species. J Exotic Pet Med. 19(1):56-72, 2010.

Nugent-Deal J. Reptile physical exam, capture, restraint and venipuncture Techniques. Proc Annu Conf Amer Board Veterinary Pract 2011

Tynes VV (ed). Behavior of Exotic Pets. Ames: Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.

To cite this page:

Pollock C. Snake handling and restraint. Sep 29, 2017. LafeberVet Web site. Available at