Respiratory Infections in Snakes


A golden rule when keeping snakes is careful monitoring of the living conditions. When these are right, the snake should be generally healthy, but even so, it may rarely get a respiratory tract infection (RTI). The symptoms are remarkably similar to those which humans show; bubbling mucus at the nose, wheezing, a clicking sound when breathing and even coughing.

First Aid Treatment for a Respiratory Infection

If you suspect that your snake has a respiratory infection, the first thing to do is to raise the temperature of the environment slightly. This will induce an immediate immune response in the snake and will help start to fight the infection. If the snake usually is housed in a busy part of the house, move it to somewhere quieter and if it usually lives with others, isolate it in its own environment. Give it plenty of warm, dry bedding and monitor it carefully. A good rule of thumb is to treat a snake with a respiratory infection as you would treat yourself; make it warm, quiet and comfortable. 

Further Treatment for Respiratory Infection in a Snake 

Given the treatment outlined, most snakes will start to show an improvement quite quickly. If it doesn’t, then a specialist vet should be consulted and the snake will need antibiotics. The vet will probably take swabs to make sure what bacteria are causing the infection. While these grow in the laboratory, the vet will prescribe a wide spectrum antibiotic to get the treatment under way. If the snake is prone to repeated infections, or this particular respiratory infection proves hard to shift, it may be necessary to take a blood sample. This will tell if the snake has any more serious underlying problems, which, if untreated, could compromise the internal organs. In some cases the antibiotics have to be injected over a long period to make sure that the offending bacteria has been wiped out. Inhalation therapy is also used sometimes; this depends on it being possible in the environment situation available to your snake and can be a very long term procedure.

Preventing Respiratory Infections in Snakes 

Snakes need to be kept in the right environment for their needs. Proper nutrition is essential as is monitoring their general day to day health. Bad care in the snake’s environment; allowing them to stay in unhygienic bedding for example, or keeping them too hot or too cold can stress them, making them more susceptible to all kinds of diseases, not just respiratory infections. Some snakes cannot stand stress from a loud environment. Obviously you have bought a snake as a pet, but apart from other considerations one of the most important is whether your snake is gregarious and will enjoy handling, or whether it would be happier in a quiet environment with no noise or bustle. Snakes are as different as people and it is important to match the snake to where it will be living. But above all, cleanliness and vigilance is the best way to keep your snake in the peak of condition and more able to fight off all infections, including respiratory ones.


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