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The Proper Way to Handle a Monitor Bite

Discussion in 'Monitors' started by fyreangyl, Mar 2, 2013.

  1. fyreangyl

    fyreangyl Active Member

    What is the Proper Way to Handle a Monitor Bite

    Hello everyone,
    You've all been so helpful but I have another question. Its about the proper way to handle a monitor bite.

    My Savannah Monitor, Cthulhu, is quite chill and mostly just puffs or the occasional tail whip, maybe resorting to a half hearted nip if he's really not happy, that's when he's in his enclosure or out and about in my room.

    However that being said I realize it is just a matter of time until he tags me. Especially since I feed him in a separate tank and I suspect from his behaviour that he is still in feeding mode until actually removed from the feeding tank and put in his enclosure. I have been bitten by my iguanas once or twice before, but they never really hung on, which I understand that monitors will do.

    So I was wondering what the best way to remove a monitor lizard's mouth from my tender person, when/if I do get bit, in a way that will not harm my sav? I'm afraid prying his mouth open with feeder tongs or something like that could injure him, and I would like to know what to do before it happens and I make a mistake that could hurt my Cthulhu.

    thank you,
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2013
  2. riderx4life

    riderx4life Well-Known Member

    My buddy got bit by his and it seemed to take forever to heal!!! But of luck not getting bitten!!
  3. fyreangyl

    fyreangyl Active Member

    thanks Riderx but I'm not so much worried about how much it will hurt or how long it will take to heal ( I'm sure it will hurt a lot and take awhile to heal due to the bacteria in their mouth's, though I did see a National Geography special that said some species of monitors might actually be venomous). but about how best to handle the situation safely for my monitor. Also I'm kinda hoping the answer is not just let them nom on you until they let go, lol.
  4. AdamL8

    AdamL8 Elite Member

    Might I ask why exactly you feel the need to remove the monitor from it's enclosure during feeding? There is no reason to do this and all it does is create unnecessary stress on the animal. These guys aren't meant to be played with so you should rarely come in to a situation where you may get bit. Try tong feeding him while he's still in his enclosure. That will help you build trust with the monitor without the forced handling. If you do end up getting bit then chances are that it will have been your fault. When monitors bite they tend to hang on for dear life and shake their heads. You're going to bleed and it's going to take a while for the monitor to let go. Waiting it out is probably your best option although no matter what you do it is going to hurt.
  5. fyreangyl

    fyreangyl Active Member

    Thanks Adam,
    I had been told feeding them in a separate place helps them to not associate hands in their enclosure with food. And he honestly seems to like coming out, when I ring his yellow bell my most of the time he'll crawl onto my hand and then off into his feeding tank (The bell because my boyfriend had just done an intro psychology course and wanted me to try that instead of target training. I got a bright yellow one because I think target training is the way to go. As he seems to respond more to the color then the sound I'm probably going to switch to a tennis ball on a stick and see how that goes).

    It's been about 3 weeks since I since is started feeding him in a separate tank and he now seems quite content to just watch me when I'm cleaning his cage, changing water and what not. He's hasn't lunged at me in his enclosure a single time since I started feeding him in a separate tank. I left him alone and fed him in his cage the first week and he was definitely stalking any hand put in the enclosure, even went for my boyfriend once or twice early on. That behaviour has stopped since I started feeding him outside his enclosure (I think the fact that I let him out of his cage for an hour or so when I get home from work and he can roam around and interact with us or not as he chooses has also helped. I say letting him out as I leave the door open and he can chose to come out or not and he is also able get back in if he desires.)

    I thank you for your advise to just letting him hang on until he gets tired if I should get bitten, and if he shows signs of getting stressed, not wanting to eat and/or not wanting to come out I will re-evaluate my feeding method.
  6. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi, I agree that feeding in a separate enclosure is both stressful and unnecessary, as is the forced handling.
    As far as a bite from a Savannah monitor goes, they have very powerful jaws, but their teeth being mainly blunt will not cause the damage a sharp toothed species will. I was caught a couple of times by my (late) 230cm Ornate monitor (blunt toothed), I thought if he`d got me properly he would have broken a few bones in my hand. I have also been bitten by my 180cm Asian Water monitor, he caught me full on the thumb, and a year later it`s still slightly painful to the touch, but I think that may be due to nerve damage. You say some species are venomous, as far as I`m aware, it`s quite possible ALL Varanids are to some degree, though that needs further research.
    The only way to get them off is to pry open the jaws, though in my case it resulted to damage to my other finger and thumb, I was alone at the time, couldn`t get anything to wrap around my fingers to open his mouth, he must have held on for over 30 seconds, badly lacerated, it bled profusely for many hours after, I expect due to the venom (it contains an anti-coagulent).
    I`m not sure what benefit venom has to the adult blunt toothed species, because when taking vertebrates (such as rodents), they often just crush the skull, which would mean the animal dies very quickly (I`ve never fed live vertebrate prey myself), though it would be of benefit to younger animals which still have the sharp dentition.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2013
  7. Rakoladycz

    Rakoladycz Elite Member

    When I had my Savannah, he bit me twice. Once when he was juvie size and once at about where he topped out. The latter definitely being the worse. He clamped down on my finger and would not let go for a long time. I basically held him while he held on to me. The entire time he would flex he jaw muscles harder and try to trash.

    After a few minutes he let go, but I had long term damage. He hit a nerve or something in my finger that would send burning pain up my arm through my elbow to my shoulder. Certain movements would irritate it and I would feel it for up to a year.

    My fix for the after bite was rinse with alcohol. I had no issues with infection or anything else. Most monitors from what I know don't really have to much effect on people. Potentially some anti-coagulation and stinging pain. Most of the damage definitely seems to be from the teeth. This is why I don't like to classify monitors as venomous.

    Bob Fry is the man with the study. His site is

    A central role for venom in predation by Varanus komodoensis (Komodo Dragon) and the extinct giant Varanus (Megalania) prisca. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 106(22):8969-8974.
  8. fyreangyl

    fyreangyl Active Member

    Murrindindi, I will rethink my feeding program, based on the advise I have received, although with disappointment. He was doing so well with coming out onto my hand/arm once he knew it was feeding time and often will approach me or my boyfriend while he's out in the room ( watched of course) not really to be held or petted, but seems to be rather indifferent of us, crawling over a foot or leg if its in his way to his favourite spot on the lowest shelf of my bookcase.

    Will the substrate be an issue with impaction if he eats a lot of dirt? (I have an approx 50/50 topsoil sand mix, probably a bit more of the topsoil then sand.)

    Rakoladycz, thank you for the article and the advise
  9. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi again, if the monitor is fully acclimated I don`t have a problem with "outside" time, just that to deliberately feed outside the enclosure isn`t really needed, but you can do it that way if you wish, bearing in mind they lose heat quite quickly.
    So long as the conditions support the monitor, swallowing bits of substrate is of no importance, it will simply pass through.
    Just for clarification`s sake, it`s Bryan Grieg Fry, not "Bob" (unless it`s his twin brother that Randy was talking about)!? ;)
    Do you have any very recent photos of the monitor?
  10. jarich

    jarich Elite Member

    On the contrary, not only will there be no risk to impaction, but a bonus to nutrition in my opinion. Have you ever noticed what they do when they grab prey? The push it into the ground, rub it in the dirt and smash it about. Soil is full of nutrients and minerals too, and it has been suggested these may play an integral part in their diet.

    You can still do both, feeding inside and outside. I bring mine out for feeding 'treats' to work with it, and then feed normally inside the enclosure.
  11. fyreangyl

    fyreangyl Active Member

    Oh don't want to do anything harmful to him and if feeding in separate place isn't good it isn't good. I turn up the heat when he has outside time and he is seems to be very good at going back into his enclosure when he get cold or bored I put a ramp up when he's out now to make it easier for him to get in and out. these pictures are from a couple weeks ago ( please note the repti carpet is only on his basking shelf (there's a rock on the other side but he seems to prefer the carpet for some reason) and I am building him an 7X4X4 adult enclosure but was interrupted by the massive amount of snow we got up here in New England (my roomates frown on power tools and saw dust in the living room) I had originally planned for a hatchling, and have a 4x4x2 set up, but saw Cthulhu at a pet store specializing in reptiles and fell in love he a little over a 14 inches or so, I think as he ( or she) doesn't really like to sit still to be measured and supposedly about a year old
    lizard1.jpg lizard2.jpg
  12. Rakoladycz

    Rakoladycz Elite Member

    You are correct, brain fart.
  13. fyreangyl

    fyreangyl Active Member

    Thanks jarich! That seems like a great compromise :)

    this video is from the other night (if it works, that is)
  14. Adrenaline101

    Adrenaline101 Active Member

    My young goulds monitor bit me a few weeks ago ( very sharp teeth) and it is still healing. The twisting and clenching of the teeth is one of the big killers. Anywhere but the fingers would be a lot better I'm assuming due to sheer nerve ending count.
    I had to just let him take his time letting go, the more I pulled the tighter he clenched, I found setting him down with my other hand calmed him down ( was taken out to weigh him).
  15. fyreangyl

    fyreangyl Active Member

    thanks Adrenaline101, good to know
  16. jarich

    jarich Elite Member

    Nice video, its movement and 'poise' seems good.
  17. MicahC

    MicahC Elite Member

    This doesn't really have much to do with this but, do you still have any iguanas? And how bad is an Green Iguana bite? I got bit by mine when she was just a babe and it didn't really do much at all except for maybe a few little tiny scars...
  18. fyreangyl

    fyreangyl Active Member

    MicahC, no he passed a couple years ago but we had a good 7 or so years ( not sure how old he was when i got him as he was a rescue) he bit my once when I first got him and once years later, but he didn't really hold on or anything either time. so it was just a little bleeding.
  19. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Something you might keep in mind and I do not know how well it would work with a monitor.
    With a snake that bites and holds you can take a cloth with alcohol on it and place it over the nostrils.

    Micah an adult iguana can send you to the ER!
  20. Snatantula

    Snatantula Banned User

    That is a TERRIBLE way to get a snake to release.( ABSOLUTLEY TERRIBLE ). The best way to get a snake to release its bite is to hold its head under WATER or squeeze it rite behind its head and push forward.

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