Every creature currently alive will die.
We die. Some of us are killed, some die of old age, some die in tragic accidents, some die from disease and some die at their own hand.
It’s the same with animals. (Apart from the suicide. Animals rarely kill themselves.)
Sometimes the cause of death is readily apparent.
But other times it is a mystery.
If your snake dies for no apparent reason, it is only natural to wonder: “Why did my snake die?” It is also important.
Was it your fault? If it was a preventable death, knowing the cause will help prevent the same thing from occurring again with a future pet.
So let’s dive in and try to find out exactly why your snake died.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Did My Snake Die?
- 2 What Can Cause Snake Death?
- 2.1 Nutrition
- 2.2 Illnesses, Diseases, And Infections
- 2.3 Environment: Your Snake And Its Surroundings
- 3 Why Did My Snake Die: Final Thoughts
Why Did My Snake Die?
Death is inevitable. But some deaths could have been prevented. That is why it is important to know the cause of death. But first, you want to determine if your snake is dead for real. Some species are known to play dead to fool predators.
Before a creature dies, some things happen to it that lead to the eventual death. And often those things are indicated by symptoms, like seizures in snakes, for example.
Let us say, for example, that your pet dog Lucy died. Lucy probably didn’t just die for no reason. There has to be an explanation: a cause of death. Did Lucy contract some deadly dog disease?
That’s what we want to find out. Why did your snake die?
What Can Cause Snake Death?
Animals (and humans) don’t just die. Some outside factor contributed to their death. These are the possible causes of death for your snake.
- Diseases And Infections
- Old age
We will cover the first two below. When it comes to environment, it is simply a matter of providing the snake a safe and comfortable habitat. We’ll have a brief section on this toward the bottom of the article.
If your snake dies of old age, there is nothing you can do, but if you are reading this article, I’m guessing your snake died long before it reached old age.
If your snake was murdered, you will probably be aware of this, unless it was poisoned by someone. Either way, if someone or something murdered your snake, you have a whole other problem on your hands. Contact the police.
What your snake ingests can end life. First, if it tries to eat something overly large, it could choke. This is rare because snakes have the ability to open their mouths incredibly wide. Some are able to swallow an antelope whole.
What is more likely is that the animal you gave your snake had some disease. Was it certified disease free? This generally costs more, since the food needs to be tested, so many pet owners don’t bother. But feeding your snake contaminated food can kill it.
Another potential issue is overfeeding. I get it, you love your snake. But don’t show your love by giving it all the food it wants. Only give it the food it needs, if you want it to live a long, healthy life.
Illnesses, Diseases, And Infections
This is the most likely cause of your snake’s death. Most snakes die from disease or infection. There are a ton of diseases that can affect snakes and most are still being researched.
Let us check out the most common diseases and infections that kill snakes. Hopefully this will help you identify what killed your snake so early.
But before we dive into the diseases that can cause a snake to die, we need to make sure we know the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy snake.
What Are The Signs Of A Healthy Snake?
A healthy snake has clear eyes, clear nose, and mouth. Body rounded and full. Always active and alert to what is going around it. Eats regularly and has healthy skin. If your snake shows these few signs, then you do not have much to worry about.
If you notice signs such as wrinkled skin, vomiting and discharging in the areas of the mouth and nose, lethargy, unusual feces and a drastic drop in appetite, then you have a lot to worry about. My advice is to visit the vet doctor for diagnosis and treatment if treatable.
Now that we have seen the difference in a healthy snake and an unhealthy one. Let us continue our dive into the diseases that can cause a snake to meet its demise.
Another kind of sickness that affects snakes is indigestion. When a snake takes in food and the food does not digest, it causes regurgitation.
Indigestion is usually caused by cool temperatures. To solve this problem, try to raise the temperature of the enclosure a bit by making use of heating tools, like heating pads. Humidity is also important and you may need a snake humidifier. It is important to always keep conditions in the enclosure comfortable for your snake.
Other causes of indigestion include intestinal diseases, severe internal bleeding and so on.
A blister is a type of outgrowth on the skin. It is usually painful and starts small but increases in size later.
Blisters are common in snakes and typically start on the underside, as the result of environmental factors. Snakes kept in a moldy, grimy, dirty or excessively soggy substrate are at risk of developing fluid-filled blisters, which can be extremely discomforting to your snake.
Luckily, this is easy to avoid. Simply ensure your pet snake does not have to live in a dirty, moldy or overly moist home. Make sure you clean out the feces and urine regularly.
It might seem like a lot of work, but prevention is far easier that trying to cure blisters after they appear.
Blisters start appearing on the underside of the snake and you would only see a few at first. They subsequently increase in number, spreading to the mouth, cloaca, and nose. This can be extremely painful and life-threatening. If the blisters are not treated, death is inevitable.
If you catch the problem early when your snake only has one or two blisters, you can treat them at home.
- Puncture the blister gently with a properly sterilized needle, preferably new
- Use clean cotton wool or gauze to clean off and absorb the fluid coming out
- Clean daily and regularly with cotton wool and hydrogen peroxide
- Apply an anti-infection salve
While treating the blister-infected snake, make sure you separate it from other snakes, because it might be contagious. Don’t try to treat on your own, if the condition has escalated and they are a lot of blisters on your snake’s skin. See a qualified vet for immediate treatment.
Parasites can be a huge problem for snakes, some causing mild discomfort and other potentially leading to death. There are two kinds of parasites: ectoparasites and endoparasites.
Ectoparasites live outside the body, most likely on the skin, while endoparasites live inside the body of the host. Endoparasites are the more dangerous type, because they are not easily spotted.
For this reason, you should always keep a newly acquired snake separate from existing pets, because you don’t know whether it carries a parasite or not.
A snake can get an endoparasite through its meal or from another creature. Unfortunately, if your snake dies from a parasite, there is a good chance you are the one who gave it to him or her.
How Do You Know When Your Snake Is Infected?
When you start seeing signs like disgorging, lack of appetite, or an general unwell appearance, then something is definitely wrong. In order to be sure, take a sample of the snake’s feces to a vet for testing and get a prescription for your snake. One big mistake pet owners make is self-prescribing something whenever their pet is ill. Get a professional opinion.
Small But Dangerous Insects
Don’t underestimate small insects like mites and ticks. If you see small mobile dots on the skin of your snake, those are signs of mites. They are either red, white or black. Getting rid of snake mites can be a bit of a pain.
Get some warm water and soak the infected snake in it for a few hours. If the water turns cold and the mites have not completely come off, prepare another warm bath and re-soak the infected snake until the mites fall off completely. You may need to do this a couple of times before you effectively dispose of the parasites.
Ticks are bigger than mites and also harder to remove, because they attach and hide in between the scales. The best way to get rid of them is to use petroleum jelly. Spread the jelly thickly all over the head of the tick to suffocate it until it lets go of the snake.
Don’t make the mistake of forcefully removing a tick from your snake’s skin. This can do far more damage than the tick itself. Removing a strongly attached tick could cause damage to the skin of the snake, leaving it exposed to infections and diseases. And those can kill.
Untreated Bruises And Cuts
Try as much as possible to check your snake regularly for any cuts and bruises. Leave no cuts untreated. They can get infected and eventually kill your snake.
When you see cuts and bruises on your snake, the first thing to do is clean the surface of the injury with anti-infection ointment. If possible, cover the wound to avoid unnecessary infection. You could also put the snake in a quarantine tank.
Even better than treatment is prevention. Try to find out what injured the snake and then remove that thing (maybe a sharp object) from its enclosure. Or you can change its home entirely.
There are a lot of things that can cause injury to your snake, in addition to dangers within the enclosure: a rat bite, injury as a result of frozen pinkies or bone crushed and so on. Whatever caused it, find and get rid of it, if possible.
IBD In Snakes
IBD, otherwise known as Inclusion Body Disease, is a very deadly disease that affects many snakes, mostly boas and pythons. There is no particular cure for this dangerous disease.
If your snake has IBD, the best thing is to separate it from other snakes as fast as possible for about 90 days, so as not to infect the others. Seal any opening in the quarantine zone to avoid any contact with the outside.
How Do You Know If Your Snake Has IBD?
There are different signs that indicate whether your snake has IBD, but the most common ones include neurological disturbances such as not righting itself when on its back, “star-gazing,” unresponsiveness, regurgitation, asymmetrical dilation of pupils, and paralysis. Call a professional and reputable vet with experience with this kind of disease to come take a look.
Septicemia In Snakes
This deadly disease is caused by bacteria. Sometimes you might not see any signs or symptoms. The only way you know there is something wrong is when the snake dies or when it is already too late to prevent death.
Sometimes when a snake is suffering from an infection, it makes it susceptible to other invaders like bacteria. They creep in, because its defenses have been weakened by the infection.
What Are The Symptoms To Look For?
What the bacteria do is damage the snake’s organs and cause hemorrhage, which results in “petechiae”. These are are tiny purple, red, or brown spots on the skin. Once you start seeing petechiae, call a vet ASAP.
Other possible signs to look out for include red swollen skin, sluggishness or no movement at all, fever, or abscesses.
The most common way to avoid this dangerous and deadly disease is by prevention. You can prevent septicemia in snakes by ensuring absolute cleanliness. Clean the surrounding environment and home of your snake regularly, removing any leftover food, feces or urine.
In addition to hygiene, you also want to stay vigilant and always be on the lookout for any symptoms or signs. Even then, they are easy to miss. If your snake dies from septicemia, do not beat yourself up. It happens a lot and it is not your fault (unless you failed to keep the enclosure clean of course; then you should beat yourself up).
Respiration infections occur in snakes in the same way they happen to humans. When you start hearing a whistling sound when near your snake, it definitely has a respiratory tract infection (RTI). Other signs include coughing, sluggishness, runny nose, wheezing and a clicking sound when breathing.
A respiratory infection can also cause issues when eating. Snakes do not choke on their food under normal circumstances, but if they are suffering from a respiratory infection, it could happen.
When you see signs of RTI, the first thing is to increase the temperature of the snake’s environment or enclosure to speed up or induce the response of the snake’s immune system. When you do this, the snake’s system starts to fight against the illness.
Also move the snake to a new location that is less noisy. It should also be warm and comfortable. In most cases, this leads to almost immediate signs of recovery.
If the illness persists, call an experienced vet for proper diagnosis. He or she might decide to take samples of blood to test for bacteria, to improve the accuracy of any diagnosis and prescription.
How Do I Prevent RTI?
Study the behavior of your snake. Like humans, snakes differ in their personality. Some snakes need a quiet environment while some can cope with a noisy one. Place your pet in its home depending on its personality.
Keeping your snake in a dirty, moldy, too cold or too hot environment can also cause respiratory infections. Above all, cleanliness and alertness are the top means to keep your pet snake in the best of health.
Whenever there is any issue relating to shedding (also known as ecdysis), it is most likely a problem with hydration. An inadequately hydrated snake, may retained unshedded skin on its eye caps or tail. Make sure that you raise the humidity immediately when you sense that your snake is going to shed.
Snakes can also experience shedding problem, because of a wound that occurred in the past. If you notice any retained skin after shedding, make sure you remove it. Failure to remove the skin might lead to blockage of blood flow. This can result in your snake losing its tail.
How Do I Know My Snake Is Sick?
Anorexia is a common sign of sickness in a snake. When your snake lacks appetite or involuntarily decides not to eat, you know that something is definitely wrong. Most sick snakes will not eat and have practically zero enthusiasm for sustenance.
Snakes that haven’t eaten for a drawn-out timeframe (weeks to months) will seem dried out, with indented eyes, held bits of skin from deficient shedding and dry, sticky saliva in their mouths. They will lose weight, which results in loss of muscle along their chest area and makes the hard spines of their vertebrae increasingly noticeable.
Before you conclude that your snake is definitely suffering from an illness, etc., you should know that there are other conditions that can cause anorexia in snakes
- Snake is in pre-shed condition
- Latter stages of pregnancy
- Younger, smaller snakes generally feed more than older, larger ones
- Obese snakes occasionally engage in self-imposed fasts
- Newborn or freshly hatched snakes may not feed until they have undergone their first shed, usually 10-14 days after birth
- A disorder associated with the breeding period or the imposition of captivity on freshly acquired highly strung species
- Hibernation or attempts to hibernate
After you have successfully ruled out these conditions, you can confidently conclude that your snake is sick. A fun fact about snakes is that they are very picky about when they want to eat. You have to know the particular time your pet snake likes to feed or else it might not eat.
Environment: Your Snake And Its Surroundings
The environment where your snake is housed plays a huge role in its health and well-being. You need to provide it a proper habitat.
Before being acquired by the their owner, most snakes came from a different environment. When first arriving in their new home, they might find it hard to adapt and become lethargic, isolated and sick because of the unfamiliar environmental conditions.
The best thing you can do is find out where the snake came from and try as much as possible to replicate the same environmental conditions artificially. This can help speed up your snake’s adaptation to its new environment. Failure to do this could even lead to death in some cases. Snakes are sensitive.
Why Did My Snake Die: Final Thoughts
We have covered the possible reasons why your pet snake might have died and ways you can prevent the same from happening again in the future.
Despite their reputation, snakes are sensitive creatures and can have a hard time in captivity. Some have even been known to try to swallow themselves whole. Read “Why Do Snakes Eat Themselves?” for more on that strange behavior.
If you follow the guidelines above, you will give your snake the best possible chance to live a long and healthy life.
The most important thing you can do is provide the best possible habitat. Never neglect the environmental conditions of your snake’s enclosure. The incorrect temperature and humidity can kill. Also make sure its home is clean.
The other big thing is to always be alert and vigilant for signs of illness. If you notice any symptoms out of the ordinary, call a trustworthy and reputable veterinarian to come check it out.