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08 Pet Snake Dying Signs: Symptoms & Basic Treatments

Owning pet snakes quires more responsibilities than it would for cats and dogs. And, snakes have become popular pets amongst reptile lovers. Even so, most snake pet owners cannot tell when their pets are ill or dying. 

Unlike cats and dogs, snakes do not show emotions or even signs of pain. Therefore, it is your responsibility as a snake owner to identify any sign of illness or death. 

For these reasons, we came up with this article to help you identify those danger signs even as a beginner. 

Also, we will tell you how to deal with a sick or dying snake and even how to keep them happy and free from illnesses.

08 Pet Snake Dying Signs

08 Pet Snake Dying Signs
08 Pet Snake Dying Signs

Snakes are quiet, non-sentimental, and slow-moving animals that rarely show any sign of pain. Therefore, for you to identify their ailing signs before it’s too late, you must familiarize yourself with their usual behaviors. 

Understanding your snake’s eating habits and their overall activities is the only way to know when they are sick quickly. Sick snakes are likely to stop feeding and being less active. 

Therefore, it is critical to provide good husbandry and report any behavioral change of your snake to an exotic vet.

Here are danger signs that might indicate that your pet snake is dying.

  • Scale condition and swelling
  • Unusual posture and movement 
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Discharges
  • Declined appetite and weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Unusual bowel movement 
  • Lethargy

How to tell if Your Pet Snake is Sick?

Snakes are good at hiding their weaknesses. Thus, it may be difficult to tell when they are sick. 

How To Tell If Your Pet Snake Is Sick?
How To Tell If Your Pet Snake Is Sick?

In most cases, the snake only shows sickness symptoms when the illness is already advanced. 

Therefore, it is critical to closely observe them and report any slight change in their behavior or appearance. 

Even so, several signs can help you to identify a sick snake. Here are some of the symptoms that you could notice from a sick pet snake.

Signs of a Sick Pet Snake

  • Stargazing 
  • Mouth breathing 
  • Discharge 
  • Shedding problems 
  • Unhealthy scales 
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy 
  • Lack of appetite 


Stargazing is when your snake starts to have a stiff or unusual posture, like admiring the sky. Stargazing is a sickness symptom that indicates illness in snakes.

Thus, you should immediately report stargazing to your pet vet. 

Mouth Breathing 

Your snake should always smoothly and quietly breathe through its nostril. Change in breathing, such as breathing through the mouth, is a dangerous sign indicating your snake is suffering from respiratory infections.

Respiratory infections are critical in snakes as they can quickly kill them if not treated early.


Discharge from the nose, eyes, or mouth is a symptom of health issues in snakes. Discharge in snakes can indicate mouth rot or respiratory infections in snakes. 

Therefore, you should never assume any discharge in snakes as it can end up killing your pet.

Shedding Problems 

Shedding problems, also known as dysecdysis in snakes, is a danger sign that can indicate poor husbandry in snakes. 

Typically, snakes should shed their skin in one piece. Otherwise, shedding issues can be caused by stress, over-handling, mishandling, mite invasion, or bacterial infections.

Therefore, it is your responsibility as a pet snake owner is to identify the underlying reason for shedding issues in your snake.


Snakes have beautiful, smooth, and shiny scales. Thus, scabs, lumps, or lesions in their scales can be a sign of severe problems.

For instance, red or brown spots can be a sign of mite invasion. And, even though mite invasion is treatable, it can still be fatal if not left unattended.

Weight Loss

Weight loss is another red alert in pet snakes. Your pet snake should always look healthy and robust. 

Loss of weight is an advanced sign of sickness in snakes.


Lethargy is a common sign of sickness in snakes. Unfortunately, lethargy is common in all illnesses in snakes.

Therefore, you can not tell the specific illness your snake is suffering from when they appear lethargic. 

Therefore, it would be best to call your exotic vet quickly so that they can help you identify the underlying cause.

Lack of Appetite 

Just like humans, snakes are also likely to lose their appetite when they are sick. 

Therefore, you should know how much your snake eats for you to notice a decline in their appetite.

Even though shedding can also cause loss of appetite in snakes, you should be able to differentiate between a shedding or a sick snake.

Can You Treat a Sick Pet Snake?

Can You Treat A Sick Pet Snake?
Can You Treat A Sick Pet Snake?

Some illnesses in snakes are fatal, while others are treatable. However, it would help if you treated them all during the initial stages, or otherwise, they become fatal.

Luckily, you can eliminate most snake illnesses by providing proper hygiene, suitable substrate, adequate temperature and humidity, and a suitable diet.

Most illnesses in snakes come as a result of poor husbandry. Therefore, ensuring your snake’s cage setup is as per requirements, you indirectly provide treatment to your snake.

Additionally, you should provide fresh and clean water to prevent dehydration. It is because dehydration is also another cause of illnesses in snakes.

However, since most snake illnesses in snakes exhibit symptoms during the advanced stages, it would be great to take them for medical checkups regularly.

The Ill Symptoms That You Can Treat At Home

Several ill symptoms can be treated at home without taking your pet snake to a vet. 

However, before deciding whether to treat your snake at home, you should always consult a vet as some health issues can be life-threatening. 

Mouth rot

Mouth rot is a common health infection in reptiles, including snakes. Mouth rot symptoms include gum reddening and swelling, severe loss of appetite, discharge around the mouth, and erosion in the mouth lining.

Luckily, mouth rot can be treated at home but only during the early stages. Mouth rot is directly associated with poor husbandry. Thus, all you have to do is improve your snake’s living conditions.

Providing a suitable diet, proper hygiene, adequate temperature and humidity, and a stress-free environment can guarantee a mouth rot-free life to your snake.

However, if you know your snake is suffering from mouth rot and it’s in the advanced stages, you should immediately consult a vet.

You can use Vitamin C and injectable antibiotics to treat mouth rot. However, Severe cases of mouth rot may require surgery. 

Shedding problems / dysecdysis

 During shedding, snakes tend to get moody and restless. It even becomes worse if it’s experiencing shedding issues. 

Lack of proper shedding can lead to ill health in snakes. To ensure proper shedding in your snake, you should increase moisture in their cage during shedding. 

And, if your snake is experiencing dysecdysis, you can place it in a damp pillowcase that has a wet towel. 

Additionally, it would help if you placed the damp pillowcase in a warm environment. High moisture and temperature will easily help the snake to shed quickly.

Pest Invasion

Pest invasion, especially mites, is also common in pet snakes. Sometimes, pet owners innocently buy substrate contaminated by mites. 

Mite invasion can cause scabs, lesions, and lumps in your snake’s scales. To avoid significant damages to your snake’s scales, you should quickly eliminate the termites in your pet’s cage.

You can follow these steps to eliminate mites in your pet snake

  1. Get a secure plastic tub and a reptile relief chemical to eliminate the mites.
  2. Put your snake inside the tub and liberally spray it using reptile relief
  3. Let it stay for at least 15-20 minutes for the mites to die
  4. Treat your snake’s enclosure
  5. Rinse off your snake with clean water, and then soak it in fresh, clean water for at least 20 minutes. 
  6. Make sure to replace food and water dishes and any other accessories. 

When You Need a Vet?

When You Need A Vet?
When You Need A Vet?

Some illnesses are life-threatening and should be treated by an exotic vet doctor. Unfortunately, these illnesses symptoms only exhibit during the advanced stages. 

As a result, they cause death or need for severe types of treatments by a vet doctor. Doctors use several methods to treat pet snakes. 

Respiratory Infections

Snakes suffering from respiratory infections may go through radiography, blood tests, and culture tests to identify the underlying causes. 

Snakes with mild respiratory infections are given oral or injectable antibiotics, and nose drops.

However, severe cases may require intensive care such as fluid therapy and force-feeding. 


Septicemia is a severe health condition that requires emergency treatment.

Septicemia can cause acute loss of appetite and lethargy. Treatment of septicemia may also involve force-feeding and fluid therapy.

Parasite invasion

It requires a microscopic fecal examination to determine the drugs needed to treat parasites. 

Most deworming treatment only requires oral or injectable medication. However, another severe parasite problem, such as cryptosporidiosis, is difficult or rather impossible to treat.  

How to Help Prevent Sickness in Pet Snakes

Always Clean their Tank

Mouth rot, pests, parasites, and most other snake infections are a result of dirty habitat. Therefore, to keep your pet snake free from those infections, you must observe maximum cleanliness. 

Use reptile detergents to eliminate pests and bacteria from your snake’s cage. 

Proper Diet

Diet is essential in all living things. What we eat makes us, and so it is for snakes. Understanding your snake’s diet is critical to keep them healthy and happy. 

All snakes are carnivorous. Thus, their diet should consist of meat. Rodents, birds, amphibians, fish, and small mammals complete your snake’s diet.

Snakes use venom or constriction to kill their prey. But, it would be best to offer frozen and thwarted rodents to prevent possible injuries. 

You might also like: best non-venomous snakes as pets.

Buy Their Food from Trusted Sources

The last thing every pet owner would wish for is feeding their pets with contaminated food

Contaminated food can cause harm to your snake and, even worse, kill them. Therefore, it would be best to only get your snakes, mice, and rodents from a trusted source.

Poor Hygiene When Handling Them

Snakes carry salmonella bacteria that can be transmitted to you during handling. Also, the bacteria can transmit from one snake to another.

Therefore, you should ensure to thoroughly wash your hands with soap before and after handling your snakes.

Quarantine Your Pet Snake

Most snake infections are contagious. Thus, if you bring in a new snake, you should isolate it from others to prevent the spread of pests and diseases.

If you notice one of your snakes is suffering from health issues, you should isolate it to prevent it from spreading to others. 

Proper Temperature, Humidity, and Lighting

A suitable habitat will keep your snake healthy and happy. Your snake’s cage should have a thermal gradient setting to provide your snake with a cooling and warming temperature.

Proper heating will help your snake stay healthy. Excessive heating can stress your snake, while too little heating can cause respiratory infections.

Snakes are ectotherms. Thus, they bask in the sun and then move to low places to cool off their body temperatures. 

Additionally, 12-hour lighting can be good to keep your snake active. It also helps to simulate the day/night cycle, especially for nocturnal snakes.

Humidity is also essential for pet snakes. Each snake requires a different percentage of humidity depending on its natural habitat.

It is, therefore, necessary to know how much humidity your snake would require to stay healthy and happy.

Humidity also helps during shedding, and thus your snake requires more of it during shedding.

Generally, proper heating, lighting, and humidity will guarantee a healthy, happy pet snake.

Wrapping Up

Snakes make excellent pets to snake enthusiasts. But, keeping them healthy and happy can be challenging, unlike cats and dogs. 

Therefore, it is critical to take your time to learn more about them before taking one to your home.

Luckily, snakes are hardy and live healthy and happy in your home with proper care. 

But, since snakes barely show any ailing signs during the early stages, you can quickly lose them if you are not careful.

Therefore, keep their habitat clean and report any minor change in their behavior or appearance to a vet doctor immediately.

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