How Do I Know If My Snake Is Dying? (+ How to Help)

Wondering if your snake is dying? This guide is for you!

Snakes don’t show pain as humans, cats, or dogs do. Unfortunately, this means you can’t use pain as a measure to know whether your snake is dying or not.

Your snake can communicate to you it is not doing well and could be dying. The best way it does this is through a change of habits. If you know your pet snake well, you can tell when things are not right by looking at him.

Should you suspect that you’re your snake is in danger of dying, don’t hesitate to see your vet. This animal expert will help you quickly identify what could be wrong with your pet.

They will also help you to come up with the best way forward.

is my snake dying

How Do I know My Snake is Dying?

Although some experts contend that snakes can display some emotions, these reptiles cannot express pain.

Because of centuries of evolutionary necessity, snakes have probably learned it’s best to hide emotions that may be perceived as a weakness.

Feeing pain and expressing it are two different things. Although snakes may not show pain, studies show the part of the brain responsible for sensing pain is active in these reptiles.

This means that your snake will give you a signal to indicate that things are not right whenever it is in pain.

By closely observing the behavior and habits of your pet snake, you can tell when it is dying or gravely ill.

You should acquaint yourself with these signs and how to deal with them before you bring the pet snake into your home.

Do this by reading up on snake health, sicknesses, and remedies. Talking to your vet beforehand is also prudent to clearly understand what to expect from your pet.

Snakes always send subtle signs before they die. Actually, most snakes take time to die after they fall ill.

This means you have enough time to take interceptive measures and save your reptile, if this is possible.

However, you must be alert to identify these signs once they manifest.

Signs That My Snake is Dying

#1 – Breathing Problems

This is one of the most common signs that your snake is unwell. A snake with breathing issues keeps its mouth open most of the time.

You’ll also hear the sounds of labored breathing – such as wheezing and gasping. This tells you that your pet cannot get enough air into the lungs, and may be on the verge of death.

Snakes experience breathing problems for various reasons, including respiratory infections.

If the labored breathing is accompanied by excess mucus secretion, you may be looking at possible mouth rot disease.

Other complications accompanying breathing problems include nasal discharge, general body weakness, and loss of appetite.

Issues related to breathing should not be taken lightly. If they remain unattended, they will likely cause your pet’s untimely death.

A quick visit to the vet will quickly unravel the cause and intensity of the breathing issues. The vet will then make a medical intervention with the correct mix of antibiotics and other medication.

#2 – Discoloration of the Belly

This points to a severe blood disease caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Your vet will examine the pet snake for sepsis and/or blood poisoning and come up with the proper medical intervention.

#3 – Failure to Stick Out the Tongue

Snakes use their forked tongues to smell the world. They can tell a lot about what’s happening around them by sticking out their tongue every so often.

The tongue enables your pet to smell out prey and predator. Something is seriously amiss if your pet snake is not using the all-important organ.

It indicates that your snake is fatigued, weak, or unwell.

#4 – Abnormal Posture

How does your snake slither around? Has its ‘gait’ changed? Does it stay in a curled position for an unhealthy length of time?

A change in your pet’s posture points to some abnormality.

For example, suppose the snake keeps gazing fixedly at one position for too long (stargazing). In that case, it could suffer from Inclusion Body Disease, IBD.

IBD is one of the highest disease killers of snakes both in the wild and at home. This is why you should not take an abnormal posture in your snake lightly.

#5 – Problematic Shedding

As snakes keep growing, they continuously shed their skins. However, this process is supposed to be problem-free and last not more than a couple of days.

Don’t hesitate to talk to your vet if you realize something abnormal with your snake’s shedding.

This is more so if the skin is peeling in isolated patches. This sign communicates a serious medical problem your vet will help you decipher.

#6 – Wearing a Dead Look

This is a sign that your snake has a serious bacterial infection. The eyes look hazy, dead, or cloudy. Talk to your vet before the problem becomes too much for your pet.

#7 – Scale-Related Issues

Scales are your pet’s number one protection against the outside world. They shield the snake from the vagaries of nature.

Scales also help your pet stay moist, an essential aspect of its existence.

Scale diseases cause the snake to lose this protection. They expose the snake to all kinds of attacks and infections.

If scale-related issues are not handled in good time, they can give rise to life-threatening conditions.

#8 – Mouth Rot Disease

Mouth rot is not a disease, per se. Instead, it is a health condition that promotes the growth of harmful bacteria in your snake’s mouth.

If left unchecked, mouth rot can cause many problems in your pet. For example, this condition is responsible for mouth sepsis, inability to eat, bleeding gums, and weight loss.

#9 – Septicemia

This is a bacterial infection that is more commonly referred to as sepsis. This disease causes your pet to develop abscesses under its skin.

You need to be very keen to identify this problem as it often goes undetected. If you see some pink or red spots on your pet’s belly, have it examined by a vet for septicemia.

#10 – Mite Infestation

This is not a disease but an attack by parasites that gives rise to diseases. Mite infestation happens when your pet snake lives in squalid conditions.

This problem is responsible for scale-related infections such as egg binding and cryptosporidiosis.

#11 – Red and Black Spots

This is a bacterial infection that indicates your snake is silently suffering. You’ll notice these spots around your pet’s eyes and mouth.

If you don’t see them in good time, you may discover this infection when your pet has already changed some aspects of its behavior.

It becomes more aggressive, refuses to eat, and has eye problems.

#12 – Swollen Jaw or Gums

This is a sign of a viral or bacterial infection that could be life-threatening if left unattended. Talk to your vet about the proper treatment for this condition.

#13 – Unexplained Weight Loss

Snakes do lose weight considerably under certain conditions. For example, if your snake is shedding or undergoing brumation, you expect it to keep off food.

This means it will lose some weight.

However, if the weight loss is sudden and unexplained, you can be sure something is seriously wrong. So take immediate corrective measures before things get out of hand.

#14 – Loss of Appetite

Snakes can go for a number of days without eating. However, the particularly big snakes take very heavy meals at once, and you can expect them to go for weeks without needing another meal.

However, if your snake loses all interest in food, it signals that something is not right and could be dying.

Loss of appetite in snakes points to problems such as mouth rot, respiratory diseases, and intestinal parasites.

#15 – Egg Binding

This is a problem that happens with female snakes only. It manifests by the swell of the lower half of the snake’s body.

Your pet may also lose appetite and have difficulty moving about because of her swollen body. Again, urgently call in the vet on this one.

#16 – Abnormal Discharge

Any form of discharge points to a health complication that requires immediate attention. For example, discharge from the mouth, eyes, and nose could signify mouth rot.

The best course of action when you see discharge in your s, the best course of action to take is to seek your vet’s immediate intervention.

#17 – General Weakness

Does your snake pet behave lethargic, weak, and fatigued? This animal is trying to communicate something important about its health.

A close observation will help you pinpoint the exact cause of the problem. For example, try to see its hiding time and other routines.

Usually, snakes don’t like hiding all the time, unless something is seriously wrong. Also, try picking up the snake.

Does it feel limp and unenergetic? This shows something is draining your pet’s energy. A quick visit to the vet is highly advised.

#18 – Dehydration

Your snake becomes dehydrated when it lacks adequate moisture. Likely, the temperatures have been too high, forcing this reptile to lose too much water.

Dehydration also indicates that you’ve not given your snake enough drinking water.

A dehydrated snake changes many aspects of its physical outlook to alert you that things are not right. For example, the skin becomes wrinkled, dry, loose, and flaccid. In addition, it loses its turgidity as a sign it is not well moisturized.

Also, you’ll realize that your snake’s eyes are sunken and withdrawn. As a result, they look hazy, cloudy, and out of focus.

Dehydrated skin has trouble shedding off its skin successfully. As a result, some patches of skin may come off while others remain unshed.

Because of inadequate water consumption, your snake becomes generally weaker and lethargic.

#19 – Feces-Related Issues

Depending on the species and size of the snake, it should go to the toilet every 4 to 8 days. Anything longer than this points to a health abnormality that needs to be handled urgently.

You should also be concerned about whether your pet snake passes running or red stool. This is a sign of gastrointestinal infection and may worsen if left unattended.

#20 – Sudden Isolation

Being cold-blooded, your snake likes being close to the source of heat most of the time.

Of course, this reptile hides every now and then when it wants to cool off, but it’s not normal for it to remain hidden for long periods.

A snake that resorts to sudden isolation is trying to communicate something important to its owner. Take the time to understand this pet and what it is going through.

#21 – Lethargy

Usually, this is the first sign you get to know your snake is not well. This reptile becomes weak and unable to move whenever it has a serious medical issue.

This means that lethargy is not in itself a medical condition. Instead, it alerts you that your snake needs closer medical evaluation by an expert vet.

Your snake could also be sluggish if it’s not getting enough heat. As such, check on the enclosure’s lighting, heating, and humidity equipment before doing anything else.

You may realize the snake starts moving normally once again as soon as you sort the temperature again.

What to Do If My Snake is Dying

The process of death is not easy for any living creature. Often, it is even harder for those left behind if they cannot reconcile with the circumstances of the death.

You may feel lost, confused, and saddened by the death of your pet snake. However, the process of dying will hit you harder if you have become accustomed to this particular pet.

How you behave during your snake’s last moment is as vital to the snake as it is to you. For example, how do you help this reptile cope with death?

Do you sit with him as the disease worsens daily and continues ravaging him? Do you allow this snake a natural death and choose to mercy-kill?

The answers to these questions depend on the severity of the snake’s disease and your personal beliefs.

Many people still believe that natural death is the only option. However, more and more keepers are beginning to appreciate the place of euthanasia in animal care.

Getting your pet snake euthanized means you are at peace to let the pet go because you’re helping this snake lessen the pain and suffering.

As any vet will tell you, not all cases of sick snakes should be euthanized. For example, suppose the disease is not so severe. In that case, the chances of recovery are high, and the snake should be assisted fighting it out.

Again, if the disease is mild, the snake may not be in too much pain to warrant euthanasia. Experts and opinion leaders opine that euthanasia should be reserved for ‘hopeless cases.’

If the disease is untreated, painful, and likely to end in death, there’s no reason to prolong your snake’s pain and suffering.

Ask your vet to carry out the euthanasia and save your pet from further suffering.

You may also want to consider going through a counseling session to help you understand and embrace what euthanasia entails.

Counseling is important as it helps you assuage any feelings of guilt that may bother you after the fact.

Don’t choose a method that would force you to betray your moral, ethical, and religious beliefs, as this would be counter-productive in the long run.

Natural Death or Euthanasia: Which is Better for My Snake?

You may opt to euthanize your snake because the process is quick and free of pain. This is advisable for cases where the vet tells you natural death will be painful and taxing on your pet.

The natural method of death is only suitable if the snake won’t experience too much pain. But, on the other hand, euthanasia works if the snake is seriously ill with painful complications.

You may feel guilty after euthanizing your pet snake. This is more so if you feel there’s something more you could have done to save his life.

No guilt is experienced when you allow your snake pet to die a natural death. Furthermore, you get to spend more time with your pet before he leaves this world.

Choosing a natural death or euthanasia for your pet depends on these factors. But first, you have to decide what works best for your pet snake and go for it.

Of course, it would help if you got some advice and guidance from an expert vet.

Can My Snake Die Suddenly?

Yes, snakes do die suddenly because of old age, accidents, poor hygiene, and living conditions. Here’s a look at some reasons your snake may die suddenly:

Poor Living Conditions

If the snake’s enclosure is poorly constructed and equipped, your reptile may encounter an accident leading to its death.

As such, you must ensure that everything is in its proper place at all times. In addition, ensure that the cage temperature, lighting, and humidity are just right.

When these things are set right, your snake grows happy, strong, and healthy. However, if they are poorly done, your snake will likely succumb to accidents and life-threatening conditions such as dehydration.

Your snake enclosure should have a cool side and a side where the reptiles can bask.

Furnish your snakes with an enclosure commensurate with their number and size. The snakes become stressed and may behave erratically if the tank is too squeezed.

Life-Threatening Infections

Your pet snake may die suddenly from a life-threatening infection. You can avoid or minimize infections to this animal by practicing good snake husbandry.

Take it upon yourself to regularly check your snake’s stool and body for diseases. If infections are left untreated for long, they are likely to turn fatal.

Toxic Fumes

Snakes are highly susceptible to toxic fumes. This is the more reason you should keep your pet in a hygienic environment.

Avoid exposing your pet snake to chemicals, solutions, and paints that produce dangerous fumes.

Be particularly careful about keeping your pet in the same room as eucalyptus, pine, and cedar because these woods exude fumes poisonous to your snake.

Old Age

All living things get old and die. While some creatures take long or short to die, a snake in captivity lives to be 13 to 18 years old.

When your snake’s time is up, accept this fate and allow your reptile friend to move on to the next phase of his existence.

Sleeping Snake, Brumating Snake, and Dead Snake: the Differences

If you are new to snake keeping, you may worry that your brumating snake is about to die.

Many first-time keepers also fail to distinguish between a sleeping snake and a dead one. If you are one such person, this section is dedicated to you.

How Do I Know My Snake is Sleeping?

Snakes feign sleep to fool prey and hunt them with ease. As such, it may be hard to tell for sure whether your snake is sleeping or not if it is not moving.

However, you can tell that the snake is not dead because it will react when you get closer. A sleeping snake also acts surprised or startled when touched.

If you pick a sleeping snake, it will look confused. You can tell by its reaction that it was not expecting to be picked.

How Do I Know My Snake is Brumating?

A brumating snake responds slightly to touch. This snake slightly stirs itself when you touch it but immediately goes back to the sleep-like state after you leave.

A brumating snake may coil itself around your hand when you pick it. This reaction can be attributed to the snake’s vulnerability and unease because of the brumation process.

How Do I Know My Snake is Dead?

Your pet snake remains unmoving and unresponsive no matter how much you coax it. It is completely limp, and you’ll realize it has lost the ability to support its body when you pick it up.

My Snake is Dead; what Should I Do?

When the death of a beloved pet happens, there’s nothing you can do to revert the situation. Instead, you need to accept the inevitable to find closure.

One of the most important things you’ll have to deal with is how to move on after the death of your pet. How do you deal with grief?

What do you do with the dead snake? Can you determine the cause of death?

Handling Grief After the Death of a Pet Snake

If you are very attached to your pet snake, its passing may affect you significantly. You’ll need help to come to terms with this eventuality.

You should always know at the back of your mind that all living things die at some point. This will ready you to accept the death of your pet snake when it happens.

Also, you may join an appropriate support group for counseling. Some grieving keepers also find solace in replacing the dead snake with a new one as soon as possible.

Talk to a counselor to discover what will work for you.

Burying Your Dead Pet Snake

The burial of your dead pet snake can be as elaborate or as simple as you’d like it to be. Some keepers like it simple and straightforward to lessen the mourning period and find closure faster.

Whichever way you choose, ensure that the burial is environment-friendly. This would entail using a biodegradable casket.

Also, don’t bury your pet just about anywhere with little regard for other people. If necessary, seek permission from animal services or other authorities to conduct the burial in your chosen spot.

Creating Your Dead Pet Snake

More and more keepers are turning to this option because of its convenience. It is easy, safe, and does not create environmental issues.

Your vet can advise you on the best crematorium for your pet. However, if you’d like to keep your snake’s ashes for remembrance, you may do a personal cremation.

How to Determine the Cause of Death

It is normal to be curious about what caused your snake’s death. The best-placed person to help you with this is your vet.

The vet performs a necropsy procedure, revealing the cause of your snake’s death. Once this is established, the body will be handed over to you for burial or cremation.

Should You Get a New Snake?

This is a personal decision that you have to make based on your experience with the old snake.

Some keepers find it helpful to get a new snake almost immediately, as this helps them deal with the pain of losing the old one.

Of course, you’re now in a better position to know how best to handle snakes. As a result, you’re better placed to prevent deaths that can be avoided.

You may consider re-using the old snake tank. However, ensure it is thoroughly sanitized before the new occupant comes in.

Get rid of anything that may have contributed to the poor health or death of the previous occupant. After all, you wouldn’t want to repeat the same fatal mistake.


If you intend to have a pet snake, familiarize yourself with the behavior and routine of the breed you have in mind.

This will enable you to react fast when this pet encounters a challenge that may lead to death. In addition, snakes are unique in that they don’t cry out when in pain.

Many would say that these reptiles suffer in silence. However, with good snake husbandry, you’ll know how to handle life-threatening issues whenever they occur.

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