Signs of Illness in Snakes

Snakes are quite interesting creatures. If you have a pet snake in your Upper Arlington home, you likely have realized that determining a snake’s overall condition can be quite tricky to an unpracticed eye. Like any other animal, these captivating creatures are vulnerable to specific diseases and illnesses. Sadly, many of the snakes you find at trade shows or in pet stores are not in the best shape to begin with, and an unhealthy or distressed animal is always more susceptible to infection or disease.

Just as the old adage says, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. The best thing you can do for your snake’s well-being is to make sure your scaled pet has a proper habitat. Snakes require very specific environmental conditions to remain healthy. Their habitats must have the correct amount of humidity, heat, and light. They also need the proper ‘furniture’ for their species. Cage decorations are not one size fits all. Some snake species want logs, others want water, and some will want hiding places. Make sure you do research on your snake’s specific breed to ensure his habitat is ideal for his species.

Snakes are very sensitive to temperature changes. An environment that is even slightly too warm or too cold can affect them adversely. Snakes can also burn themselves on heat lamps, or get infections from stagnant water. They may suffer from parasites, and can develop fungal infections if their shedding cycle becomes abnormal. Snakes in poor conditions are also much more prone to stress and anxiety.

Here are a few things to watch for.

  • Lethargic/Listless Behavior
  • Reduced appetite
  • Change in color
  • Dark patches in skin, or dulling of color
  • Hiding more
  • More active at unusual times
  • Aggression
  • Change in tongue-flicking
  • Change or abnormality in shedding or shedding cycles
  • Change in feces and urates
  • Swelling in tail, back, or jaw
  • Shakiness
  • Difficulty getting off ground
  • Lumps, bumps, scabs, blisters.
  • Mouth staying open or emitting discharge


If your snake is displaying any of these symptoms, you’ll want to contact your vet immediately. Some snake illnesses, such as Mouth Rot and Blister Disease, are fairly easy to treat if caught early, but can be difficult to combat if allowed to progress. A good rule of thumb to follow is that any type of abnormal behavior or change in routine is a cause for concern. Because several snake diseases share symptoms, you should contact your Upper Arlington vet immediately if you notice any unusual behavior in your scaly pet.