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Animal Care Hospital
Call us today! 319-378-9000
Call us today! 319-378-9000

1146 Blairs Ferry Rd NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

Choosing a Healthy Snake

January 15 2018

Are you considering adopting a snake for a pet? Serpents can make absolutely fascinating pets, though they of course aren’t right for anyone. If you have never had a snake before, you’ll want to start with one that’s an easy keeper, such as a milk snake or a California king snake. It’s also important to choose a healthy snake. While sick snakes can be brought back to health, it’s really best for first-timers to start with a healthy pet. But how do you spot a healthy snake? As your Marion, IA vet, I offer excellent veterinary care for snakes. Read on for some great tips on choosing a healthy snake.


While snakes actually can become obese, it’s more common to see underweight snakes than overweight ones. Your scaled pal’s body should be firm and robust. If you can easily see or feel bones, the snake may be underweight.


Healthy snakes should have scales that are smooth and shiny. Look for lesions, redness, or sores, especially on the snake’s belly. If you see tiny black or red dots, the snake could have mites. (Note: mites are treatable, but can be a sign that the snake hasn’t been kept in proper conditions.)


Your snake’s mouth should be pink and clean. Drool, pus, swelling, or a ‘cottage cheese’ like substance are all warning signs.


Your snake should breathe quietly through his nose. Mouth breathing can be a sign of illness in our scaled pals. Wheezing and gasping are also red flags.


Reptiles aren’t quite as personable as dogs or cats, so you probably shouldn’t expect your potential pet to curl into a heart shape and give you sad eyes, hoping that you’ll adopt him. What you do want to look for are signs of alertness. Healthy snakes will respond to stimuli, and will be aware of what’s around them. They may also stick their tongues out frequently.


Strange postures and/or movements are often a sign of illness in snakes. A snake that is sitting stiffly, or holding his head or neck in a strange position, as though stuck, is ‘stargazing.’ This is another sign of illness in snakes.

Do you have questions about caring for your snake? I am here to help! As your local Marion, IA vet, I am happy to provide great veterinary care for exotics and reptiles. Please contact me anytime.