Signs of Illness In Snakes

Snakes are very beautiful and fascinating pets. However, they aren’t very easy to read, especially for people who have never had snakes before. You’ll have to keep a close eye on your scaled pal, and watch for signs of illness. A local Marin County, CA veterinarian lists some common ones below.

Scale Condition

Healthy snakes have smooth, shiny scales, with no lesions, scabs, or sores. Keep an eye out for mites, which look like tiny black or red dots. These bloodsucking parasites are typically found on a snake’s head.

Respiratory Issues

If you can hear your snake wheezing or gasping, you may have a sick reptile on your hands. Your pet should breathe quietly through his nose. Mouth breathing is another red flag.


Discharge from a snake’s eyes, ears, nose, or mouth is a definite warning sign. If the discharge looks a bit like cottage cheese, your scaled pet may be seriously ill. This is often a sign of infectious stomatitis, or mouth rot, which is a very painful mouth infection.

Weight Loss

Your snake should feel firm and supple. If you can feel your pet’s bones, and/or notice him getting skinnier, he could be sick. A lack of appetite is also a red flag, except in snakes that are about to shed.


Discoloration, swelling, and/or inflammation are all indications that something is going on with a snake. Swelling on the lower part of the body in female snakes can be a sign of egg binding, which can be very dangerous.

Trouble Shedding

When your snake sheds, his old skin should come off in one piece. If you find pieces of skin in your snake’s tank, or see old skin stuck to him, contact your vet.


Healthy snakes should be alert and responsive to stimuli. Your pet should also put his tongue out frequently to gather information about what’s going on around him. A snake that is just resting listlessly in his tank may be ill.


The term stargazing is used to describe the way snakes sometimes sit when they’re sick. Snakes that are ‘stargazing’ often look unusually stiff, and/or hold their heads and necks as though they are looking up.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your snake, contact us, your Marin County, CA veterinary clinic, right away. The sooner an issue is caught and treated, the better!

Comments are closed.