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Pet Snakes provides easy to understand, practical information and facts to help the new snake owner take care of their animals. At Pet Snakes we want to provide information that will help you enjoy your reptile more than ever.

What to do if your pet snake is sick

Every pet gets sick at some point and snakes are no different. The fact that they can easily live in excess of 20 years means they have a lot more time to get sick than many other animals. If you recognize that your snake has become sick it is important to know what to do.

A sick snake needs immediate attention
A snake can’t communicate with us by way of verbalization, and it doesn’t have a body language that we can understand. This makes it important to take action promptly because there’s a good chance it has been ill for a while.

If you’re not a vet don’t pretend to be
Most people like to take a wait and see approach when it comes to medical issues. Both with themselves and with their animals. If your snake is sick your first step should be to contact your veterinarian for guidance. Be sure to offer the following information:

  1. The age of the snake (as best as you know it)
  2. Species of the snake
  3. Approximate length and weight of the animal
  4. Last meal it had (date and what was eaten)
  5. Last time your snake shed
  6. Last time it went to the bathroom

The vet will very likely ask you additional questions about the snake’s appearance and behavior so it is best to make the call while observing the snake. Then do what the vet tells you to do. If you are told to bring it in trust their judgment as a professional and take it in. If you don’t trust them then you might want to start looking for a different vet now before you have to deal with a sick pet.

What to do when the vet isn’t in and your snake is sick
Maybe it is the weekend, or a holiday. Could be your vet is just taking a vacation. Whatever the reason if you can’t get in touch with them you can either try contacting another vet or handling the problem on your own. Contacting another vet is the best course of action and most towns and cities (in the United States) have a system in place where certain vets are on call for emergencies after hours and on holidays. The downside is that you will normally pay a little more than a regular visit during working hours.

If you find it necessary to deal with the illness yourself there are some things that you can do to help. First of all your safety comes first. Observe safe handling rules. In other words do NOT put yourself at risk trying to work with a large snake without help

  • Make sure the snake is in a quiet area
  • Double check temperatures and humidity in the cage
  • Don’t handle your pet more than necessary
  • Observe the snake for further signs of illness
  • Don’t feed it, but make sure it has fresh clean water
  • Be patient because the snake will probably be uncomfortable and defensive

Indications your snake may be sick
These are some common indications that your snake is possibly sick. Remember, unless you are a veterinarian you shouldn’t presume one way or another but these symptoms should make you take notice. These are also not the only symptoms you may see. Just some that are common.

  • Wheezing and/or saliva around the snake’s mouth: Indication of Respiratory Infection (RI)
  • “Star gazing”; This is when the head and neck of the snake is raised nearly straight up as if they were looking at stars: Indication of Inclusion Body Disease
  • Incomplete or patchy sheds. A healthy, properly kept snake will shed in one piece: This doesn’t indicate a specific illness just a general concern
  • Blisters or abscesses: Infection and/or scale rot

As a final word please note that none of the advise you find in here, or anywhere else online is an appropriate substitute for a trained, qualified professional. This is meant to give you a starting point, but as quickly as possible get your vet involved and follow their guidance in caring for your sick pet snake.

  • chris

    question my normal burms head has swollen to triple the size what would this be an indicator of . the head swelled he regurjitated his last meal then returned to normal size then swelled once more, then 2 weeks later swelled agin after feeding his head swelled agin he has regurjitated.and is still large

  • PetSnakes

    We don’t give medical advise. Best I can tell you is contact a vet in your area that deals with exotic animals. Good luck.

  • alexous

    my snake isnt eating at all. But just shedded. should i schedual an appointment wit the vet?

  • emma

    i need help quick and the vets closed. Whats happend is my baby corn snake 1 foot long escaped and tried to get under the laminate flooring and got his head stuck. He started to die and turn over then i manadged to free him and now he can move but his heads floppy and he cant move it at all! But he keeps openind his mouth wide and i havent nnticed him breathing for neally an hour now. I dont know what to do and i dont know whats wrong with him?

  • PetSnakes


    If he’s not moving, not breathing, and his mouth is wide open he may not have made it. Sorry.

  • jennfer

    We got a baby corn snake 3 weeks ago friday. We have been feeding it pinkies one time a week. This week he as not moved around a hole lot and almost 48 hours later he still as a big knot in his body. then he regurjitated a small piece of something i am not sure what it is. the knot in his body is a little bit smaller but is still there. could he be sick?

  • PetSnakes


    Yes your snake is definitely sick.

  • amanda

    i heard something weird in my room and i look and my ball python had his mouth wide open and was making sounds…
    i think he was gaging..
    but im not sure. hes probably about a year now, but ever since i got him he’s only been able to shed all the way once… and i’ve noticed his eyeballs have never been slits, theyre round.
    has there been something wrong with him since i got him?
    and whats happening to him now…

  • hilary

    my missouri science teacher’s albion corn snake just came out of hibernation and yesturday my teacher tryed to feed him a mouse but the snake wouldnt eat it. he hit the mouse on the table 3 times and the snake still didnt eat it. and today my teacher tried to feed his snake but he still wouldnt eat.he shedded before my spring break.

  • snakelover

    Make sure humidity is 50-70% and temp 82-87 degrees F

  • courtney

    My snake ate last sunday, and still has not used the bathroom. He is swollen and tomorrow is his feeding day. What do i do?

  • Tedwardo

    is someone there

  • Jennaturd

    My snake is breathing very hard and is shedding still for almost 2 months. I fed it last month and need to feed it again, hopefully it eats. And my snake is moving alot.I don’t know if its eyes are suppose to be purple, cause they were the same color as its skin. If wondering what the skin color is then look up a python snake cause that is what my snake is.

  • Melissaheagy

    i have a ball python about 5 years old yesterday he was holding his head up mouth open so i think RI so i got him a heat light warmed his cage to almost 87 moved him away from any drafts today he is looking better soaking up the heat but i can feel him wheezing when i hold him will he be better with time and warmer cage or do i need to take him in to a vet if a vet is needed can he wait a few days

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