It’s always a sad state of affairs to discuss whether your pet snake is on the verge of dying or not. After all, these reptiles are quite independent and don’t express any major signs of discomfort or pain, unlike other pets. Due to this reason, you have to be extremely knowledgeable on matters related to sickness and death in snakes.
The most common signs that may signify a dying snake include:
- Breathing problems
- Abnormal posture
- Scale-related issues
- Sudden weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Unusual discharge
- Feces-related issues
To further know about these signs and how you can find out whether your pet snake is dying or not, read on. We also show you what you can do when you notice these signs and when you should definitely visit a vet.
Table of Contents
What Are The Signs of a Dying Snake?
As mentioned earlier, snakes don’t express a lot of emotions, including pain. It might be because these reptiles have adopted the art of not showing their weaknesses.
However, despite not expressing pain, it’s imperative to note that they do feel the pain as their brain contains the parts responsible for sensing it. Due to this reason, you can always lookout for signs that signify that your pet snake is either dying or is severely sick.
Let’s take a look at all the signs of a dying snake:
Breathing issues are one of the major signs of a dying snake. You can come to know that if your snake is straining to breathe or is breathing by keeping its mouth open.
Apart from these, you may also hear your snake gasping for air or wheezing loudly. This can signify a severe respiratory infection, requiring quick medical attention.
Keep in mind that the typical cause of breathing issues in snakes is related to bacterial infection or mouth rot.
According to VCA Hospitals, if your snake has breathing problems, it may also experience other symptoms such as the excessive amount of mucus in the mouth, lack of appetite, nasal discharge, and lethargy too.
Typically, if your snake has breathing issues, it can only cause your pet’s death if it’s extremely severe. So, look out for the intensity of breathing problems.
If it keeps on increasing, you can try treating it with the help of antibiotics or nasal drops, after consulting with a well-trained vet.
Your snake’s posture can speak a lot about its health. Thus, an abnormal posture is a major cause of concern.
If you notice that your snake cannot move comfortably and moreover, when you put them on their back, they cannot go back to their position, you need to stay alert. This might be a sign of IBD or Inclusion Body Disease, which is an extremely fatal condition.
Another way to gauge if your snake has IBD or not is to check whether they “stargaze”. By stargazing, we mean that the snake keeps staring in the upwards direction for a prolonged and unhealthy amount of time. It may also not move at all.
Note that there are no available vaccines or medicines for IBD today. Moreover, the survival chances are extremely low due to the high level of fatality here. So, if you suspect that your snake has IBD, take it to a vet immediately.
Scales play various vital roles in your snake’s body. It aids in the body’s protection and moisture retention too. Therefore, if your snake is suffering from several types of severe scale-related issues, you need to get concerned. After all, scale diseases in snakes are quite common and can affect your snake adversely.
Let’s take a look at some severe scale diseases:
Septicemia or Sepsis is a type of bacterial infection in snakes. In this disease, your snake might develop abscesses beneath its skin. Moreover, you might find red or pink spots on your snake’s belly.
Note that ‘septicemia’ might be silent. So, this disease isn’t as noticeable as others in some cases. Additionally, sometimes, the condition can get so worse that your snake’s vet might recommend euthanasia to ease your pet’s pain.
- Mouth Rot
Although Mouth Rot isn’t a disease itself, it’s an underlying problem that allows bacteria to live and grow in your snake’s mouth. Thus, causing a lot of problems, such as painful swellings around your snake’s mouth. You may also find redness in gums.
- Mite Infestation
If you don’t keep your snake in a hygienic environment, they may fall prey to mite infestation. Due to this, their scales may develop bumps. Moreover, you can find mites on your snake’s body, mainly the head, with a naked eye too.
Apart from these three main scale-related diseases, Cryptosporidiosis Infection and Egg Binding (Female Snakes Only) might be present too. So, if you notice any abnormalities, swelling, or redness on your snake’s scales, visit a vet immediately.
Sudden Weight Loss
Do you notice your snake losing its weight extremely rapidly? Keep in mind that a healthy snake is around four to five pounds. Now, this may differ depending on the type of snake.
Yet, if you find that your snake’s bony spines are becoming more prominent day by day, there is an underlying issue present. Moreover, if they continue losing weight, they might suffer from fatal illnesses.
Lack of Appetite
Snakes aren’t very fond of food. Therefore, there are going to be instances wherein a snake might stop eating completely or eat very little. These instances are typically around the time of molting, also known as premolt anorexia in snakes. So, you need not worry during this time.
However, if you find that your snake’s appetite is reducing day by day for no reason, then it might be suffering from some diseases. Usually, snakes lose their appetite if they are suffering from:
- Mouth Rot
- Intestinal Parasites
- Respiratory Diseases
Keep in mind that sometimes, if your snake has become old, it may stop eating without any reason.
Any type of discharge in snakes is harmful and fatal enough to kill them. Therefore, if you find any signs of discharge, you need to take immediate action.
Discharge in snakes can be anywhere around their eyes, nose, and mouth. Generally, it looks like a ‘bubbling discharge’. Also, if your snake is suffering from Mouth Rot, it may release a pus-like substance with the consistency of cottage cheese.
Hence, if your snake has an abnormal discharge, it could be because of diseases, like Mouth Rot.
Weakness and Fatigue
Prolonged weakness and fatigue in snakes can signify a larger issue at hand. Typically, snakes do spend a lot of time hiding and in solitude. But, it’s necessary to observe if there are any unusual patterns in your snake’s routine.
Given below are some steps to follow if you want to gauge your snake’s condition:
- First, try to pick up the snake. After picking up, snakes get into a specific position. Note that this position depends on their type. If you notice your snake going limp, it means that they’re fatigued.
- Next, you can try to observe your snake’s routine and hiding time. For instance, if your snake used to spend a few minutes in hiding, but now spends hours not coming out, then you may want to see a vet.
You can try ruling out some issues that might be causing extreme weakness in your snake. For example, try adjusting the temperature of their surroundings so it’s hot enough, feed them nutritious food, and check for any underlying diseases.
Dehydration can become a severe issue in reptiles, like snakes. Therefore, it might also be a sign of your snake dying due to increased intensity.
If your snake is dehydrated, you may find several noticeable symptoms. One of the main ones is their eyes. Dehydrated snakes have hazy, sunken, and cloudy eyes whereas a healthy snake has clear and vivid ones. Moreover, if you feel like your snake’s eyes look unusual, you may want to get them checked for dehydration.
You may also look for some skin-related symptoms. For instance, dehydrated snakes may have extremely wrinkled and dry skin. You will also find flaky layers on their skin that show that your snake wasn’t able to shed its coat off completely. Your snake might also be extremely inactive and lethargic.
Most pet snakes defecate once in 3 to 7 seven days. However, if you notice some abnormalities here, such as severely increased or decreased defecation, it is a cause of concern.
Additionally, also look out for watery stools (caused due to infections, stress, or diet changes) or unusually red stools (a major indicator of fatal GI tract issues). Hence, consider consulting a veterinarian immediately.
If you had a pretty active snake that has suddenly started isolating itself, it can also be a sign of dying. But, it’s best to visit a vet first and rule out your doubts before assuming that your snake is nearing death.
It’s probable that your snake might just be hiding normally or is stressed due to some other reasons.
What to Do If You Find Out Your Snake Might Be Dying?
If your pet snake is dying, you may find yourself confused and saddened regarding what you should do next. Should you let them live and cherish their last moments? Or, should you ease their pain and let them go by getting them euthanized?
In this situation, you need to keep two things in mind. First, the severity of the disease, and second, the survival chances. Often, there are diseases, like IBD, that are too severe to cure. Moreover, they can cause extreme pain to your pet snake.
Now, the pain can get to the point that your snake might stop eating or resting properly. They may also lose their will to stay active and suffer from painful complications.
So, in the case of fatal, painful, and incurable diseases, it’s best to take your snake to the vet for euthanasia.
On the other hand, if the disease isn’t affecting your snake too painfully, you should let them be. In this case, you and your pet snake will get time to spend with each other. Additionally, there is no guilt factor involved here, unlike euthanasia.
The table below will help you know which is the better option for your pet snake:
|Might be painful in the long run||Pain-free and quick|
|Suitable if your snake isn’t in too much pain||Suitable if your snake is facing severe and painful symptoms|
|No guilt factor involved||Owners may feel slight guilt here|
|You get to spend more time with your pet snake.||You might get to spend less time with your snake.|
So, depending on the above-mentioned points, try to decide which one is more comfortable for you and your snake.
Can Snakes Die Suddenly?
It’s possible for snakes to die suddenly. There are several reasons involved here but most of them are related to the snake’s environmental conditions and the hygiene there.
Given below are some of the major reasons why a snake might die suddenly:
Reason 1: Improper Cage Temperatures and Size
As a pet snake owner, you need to be extremely mindful about where you keep them. So, if you’re keeping them in a cage, you need to take note of two major things:
- Cage Temperature
A proper cage temperature is necessary to keep your snake fit and healthy. On the other hand, extremely high or low cage temperature can cause digestion issues in your snake and can lower their immunity too.
Note that a snake’s cage requires two areas with separate temperatures. One side should be cool and have a temperature between 76 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Whereas, the basking or warm side should have a temperature between 87 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cage Size
Typically, a 20-gallon terrarium is perfect for most juvenile snakes. But, if you keep them in an extremely confined space or make them share one cage with other snakes too, they may get stressed.
Continual stressful conditions may cause sudden deaths in snakes too. So, ensure that your snake has comfortable living conditions.
Reason 2: Infections
Most of the time when snakes don’t express any pain, the owners may not check their bodies or stools for any diseases. This may cause the situation to escalate and cause the snake to die suddenly. Today, several severe infections, such as scale rot, can get fatal, if untreated.
Reason 3: Toxicity
Sometimes, toxic fumes can cause the snake to die suddenly. Now, these toxic fumes can come from anywhere. For instance, if you have cleaned your snake’s cage, the bleach solution or other chemicals might have stayed inside.
Additionally, it’s also necessary to check the type of wood or substrate used for the cage. Certain wood types, like eucalyptus, cedar, and pine give out aromatic fumes, causing sudden death in snakes.
Reason 4: Old Age
Typically, a snake may live between 13 and 18 years if they’re in captivity. So, if your snake has crossed that mark, chances are that it may die suddenly due to not eating or being active enough.
How to Differentiate Between a Dead Snake, Brumating Snake, and Sleeping Snake?
It may come off as surprising but many snake owners get confused between a sleeping snake, brumating snake, and dead snake. However, the best way to differentiate between these three is by how your snake reacts.
A brumating snake often goes to its hiding spot during the winter months. During this time, they will lay extremely still and even if they do move, the movements are quite slow and lethargic.
Moreover, most snakes don’t prefer eating anything when they’re brumating. Also, if you touch them suddenly, they may look startled and confused.
A lot of times snakes use sleeping as a tactic to hunt. Therefore, it may get difficult to know whether or not your snake is actually sleeping. Yet, there are three ways to know that. These include:
- If you approach the snake, they would let you come closer than usual without reacting.
- Your snake will be startled or surprised when touched.
- If you pick up your snake, it may look lost. It may also coil around you in a specific position.
The major difference between a brumating snake and a sleeping snake is that after you touch them or wake them up, the former one will go back to being inactive whereas the latter one will stay active.
Now, keep in mind that a dead snake is totally unresponsive. So, even if you try to wake them up a little, they won’t respond in any way. Also, after you pick them up, they’ll stay limp instead of coiling around your arms.
The table below also gives quick differences between a dead snake, a brumating snake, and a sleeping snake:
|Category||Brumating Snake||Sleeping Snake||Dead Snake|
|Responsiveness||Medium – Will respond slightly to touch||High – Will respond properly to touch||No responsiveness|
|Body Shape||Coiled if you pick them up||Coiled if you pick them up||Completely limp|
|Reaction||May be surprised or confused if you wake them up suddenly||Surprised or confused||No reaction|
What to Do After a Snake Dies?
After a snake dies, there are mainly two options snake owners can consider – burial and cremation. A burial is a suitable option for those having permission to do so whereas cremation is more flexible and quick.
Let’s understand each option in detail:
You can consider burying your snake in the backyard after it dies. But, there are a few things to remember. First of all, if you don’t have any legal rights to that land, you need to ask for the owner’s permission. If they allow, only then you can bury your snake there.
Moreover, when you’re planning to have a burial for your snake, you need to get a non-biodegradable casket and place your snake there. Next, dig a proper hole and place the casket deep inside the soil.
It’s essential to follow the above instructions as dead snakes have a very strong odor that can lure in other predators.
Another great option if your snake has died is cremation. It’s quite flexible and doesn’t involve taking any permission. All you need to do is contact your local vet as they might be aware of local cremation grounds.
Now, cremation is also of two types. One is communal cremations where your snake will be cremated with other pets. Hence, you won’t get the ashes. But, if you want to remember your snake by something, opt for personal cremation to get the ashes too.
The prices may vary here depending on the type of cremation.
Can You Bring a Dead Snake to the Vet to Find Out the Cause of Death?
You can bring a dead snake to the vet to find out the cause of death. This process is known as necropsy.
In necropsy, your veterinarian can examine your dead snake to find out the cause behind its death. Once done, you will receive the snake’s body for its burial or cremation.
This procedure isn’t very expensive and may help if you’re planning to get a new snake too. So, you’d know what to do and what not to do.
What to Do With an Old Snake Tank If You’re Getting a New Snake?
If you already have an old snake tank, you may want to consider reusing it. But, there are a few things to remember:
- It’s best to avoid using the same old snake tank if your snake died of infections due to bacteria, parasites, ticks, or mites. Unhygienic living conditions can harm your new snake.
- You may use the old snake tank if your old snake didn’t suffer from any such infection. Still, be sure to clean the tank thoroughly.
- If your previous snake died due to toxicity in the cage (because of cleaning agents, chemicals, or aromatic wood), avoid using the cage. Instead, get a new one and ensure that it isn’t harmful for your new snake.
Thus, reusing the old snake tank for your new snake depends on the situation. If your old snake suffered infections, it’s best to prevent using that tank again.
Although snakes don’t show any pain, they can still experience it. Thus, you can make out their habits and know whether your snake is dying or not. If you feel like they are, take them to a vet immediately. Only a well-trained vet can rule out your doubts and help you decide your next move.