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Animal Care Hospital

1146 Blairs Ferry Rd NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

Signs of Sickness in Snakes

February 15 2018

Do you have a pet snake? Reptiles can make very pretty and fascinating pets. However, our serpentine friends aren’t as outgoing or expressive as some other pets, so it can be hard to tell when they are sick. As your Marion, IA vet, I’m happy to care for snakes. Read on to find out about some symptoms of illness in snakes.


Stargazing, in the world of reptile care, doesn’t mean a sudden interest in astronomy: it’s a term for stiff, unusual postures. Your pet may hold his head awkwardly, as though looking at the sky. This can be symptomatic of several different medical issues.

Mouth Breathing

Snakes should breathe smoothly and quietly through their nostrils. Mouth breathing, and/or ragged, gasping breaths, can all be signs of illness in snakes.


Discharge from the eyes, nose, and/or mouth can definitely be red flags in snakes. Gums that look inflamed or discolored can also be a warning sign. You may also notice a cottage cheese-like discharge in the mouth of a sick snake.

Shedding Problems

Snakes should shed their skin all in one piece. If your pet’s old skin is in pieces, or if you notice old skin stuck to your snake, your scaled pal may need medical attention.


Healthy snakes have smooth, shiny scales. Lesions, scabs, swelling, and lumps can all be signs of sickness. If you notice your pet has small, brown or red dots, your serpent may have mites. Although mites are treatable, they can be a sign of poor diet or conditions, which can of course both contribute to medical problems.

Weight Loss

Weight loss is often a sign of sickness in our animal companions. Healthy snakes should look and feel supple and robust. If your reptilian pal looks bony, he could be sick.


Snakes should be alert and responsive to sounds and motion around them. If your pet snake is just resting listlessly in his tank, he could be sick.

Lack of Appetite

As you probably know, snakes shouldn’t eat every day. How much and how often your pet feeds will depend on his age, size, and breed. However, if your serpent seems uninterested in eating when he should be due for a meal, he may be sick.

Do you have questions or concerns about your snake? Please feel free to contact me, your local Marion, IA vet, anytime!