How to Tell If Your Snake Is Dead: Tips for Snake Owners

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Are you a snake owner trying to figure out how to tell if a snake is dead? Snakes are generally hardy animals, but they can expire suddenly and without warning. It can be difficult to tell if a snake is dead, especially when you are a beginner and don’t know what to look for. To definitively answer the question of how to tell if a snake is dead, we’ve put together this guide to help snake owners recognize the signs of death in their pet snakes.

What are the Signs of a Dead Snake?

What Are The Signs Of A Dead Snake?

Signs Description
Lack of Movement A dead snake will show no signs of movement or response when prodded.
Cloudy Eyes A dead snake’s eyes will become cloudy, dull and lifeless.
Limp Body A dead snake will have a limp, lifeless body that does not move when touched.
Rigor Mortis Rigor mortis, or stiffening of the muscles, will set in shortly after death.
Lack of Appetite A dead snake will not have an appetite and will not respond to food.
Absence of Breathing A dead snake will not be breathing and will not move its body when attempting to breathe.
Decomposition A dead snake will begin to decompose shortly after death. It may become discolored and emit a foul odor.

How to Examine a Snake for Signs of Death

How To Examine A Snake For Signs Of Death

1. Physical Examination

Check for visible signs of injury or illness, such as skin abrasions, open wounds, bruising, discoloration, swelling, or any other signs that may indicate the snake is unwell. Look for signs of rigor mortis, which is stiffening of the body, and signs of decomposition, such as bloating, discoloration, and an unpleasant odor.

2. Checking for Vital Signs

Check for signs of life such as movement, a heartbeat, and breathing. Open the snake’s mouth and look for the fangs, which should move in and out if the snake is alive. Feel for a heartbeat by placing your finger on the snake’s heart, which is located on the left side of its body, just behind the head. If the snake is alive, you should feel a pulsing sensation. Lastly, observe the snake’s breathing by watching the movement of its sides. If the snake is dead, there will be no movement.

Determining the Cause of Death

Determining The Cause Of Death

  • Check for external signs of injury such as puncture wounds, cuts and abrasions.
  • Examine the body carefully for any discolorations on the skin.
  • Check the eyes and mouth for any unusual color or secretion.
  • Check the nostrils for any signs of fluid discharge.
  • Observe the body for any changes in the color or texture of the scales.
  • Feel for any changes in temperature.
  • Take note of any unusual smells.
  • Check for any signs of rigor mortis.
  • Examine the body for any signs of internal organ damage, such as discoloration or swelling.
  • Check for any signs of bleeding or parasites.
  • Perform a basic autopsy to determine the cause of death.

What to Do After Finding a Dead Snake

What To Do After Finding A Dead Snake

Action Description
Use gloves Wear gloves to pick up the snake and place it in a plastic bag.
Identify species Identify the species of snake to determine if it is venomous or not.
Dispose properly If the snake is not venomous, place it in a plastic bag and dispose of it in a garbage bin. If the snake is venomous, contact animal control for safe disposal.

Common Diseases that Could Affect Your Snake

  • Respiratory Infection: This is one of the most common diseases seen in snakes, and it can be caused by a variety of factors, such as an unclean habitat, poor nutrition, or a weakened immune system. Signs of respiratory infection include difficulty breathing, wheezing, excess mucus, and open-mouthed breathing.
  • Mouth Rot: This is an infection of the mouth that often appears as a white or yellowish discharge around the snake’s mouth. It is caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Parasites: Parasites, such as mites, ticks, and worms, can be found on the skin of snakes and can cause a variety of problems, such as anemia, loss of appetite, and weight loss. A visit to the vet is needed to diagnose and treat the issue.
  • Inclusion Body Disease: This is a deadly virus that affects boas and pythons and is incurable. Symptoms include lethargy, weight loss, and neurological issues.
  • Scale Rot: Scale rot is an infection of the skin and scales caused by bacteria. It is often seen in snakes that are kept in unclean habitats and can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Stomatitis: This is an inflammation of the mouth that is often caused by poor hygiene and can cause the snake to refuse food. It can be treated with antibiotics.

How to Prevent Your Snake from Dying

  • Ensure the snake is kept in an appropriate habitat, with the correct temperature and humidity.
  • Handle the snake gently and regularly to reduce stress.
  • Provide a safe and secure place to hide.
  • Provide a healthy diet of live rodents and/or frozen-thawed rodents.
  • Keep the habitat clean and regularly check for parasites or other signs of poor health.
  • Provide a clean water bowl for drinking and soaking.
  • Monitor the snake’s activity levels, appetite and behaviour.
  • Take the snake to a qualified reptile vet for regular check-ups.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs that a snake is dead?

A dead snake will often appear limp and lifeless with its mouth slightly open. Its eyes may be slightly sunken and its scales will be dull in appearance. The snake may also have a strange odor and its skin may become cold to the touch. In some cases, its tongue may be protruding from its mouth or its head may be slightly discolored. If the snake is not responsive to stimuli, such as prodding or tapping, it is likely dead.

What should I do if I think my Snake is Dead?

If you are certain that your snake is dead, it is important to handle it with caution. Wear gloves and use a long, sturdy object to move the body away from the enclosure. Dispose of the body properly according to your local regulations. It is important to monitor your remaining snakes for signs of illness and contact a veterinarian if any issues arise.

What should I look for to make sure my snake is still alive?

Check the snake’s eyes, they should be clear and moving. Look for signs of movement, such as undulating body movements or tongue flicking. Check the nostrils for signs of breathing, and check the tail for signs of muscle contractions. Feel the body for warmth, as a snake’s body will cool quickly after death. Finally, smell the snake for any foul odors.

What are some of the Things to Consider When Determining if a Snake is Dead?

Check for breathing and signs of life. Look for movement of the tongue, eyes or body. Check the temperature of the snake. Feel the body for any rigidity or stiffness. Check for any discoloration of the skin. Observe the presence of maggots or any other signs of decomposition.

Is There Anything I Can Do to Revive a Snake if it Appears to be Dead?

If a snake is not responding to stimuli and appears to be dead, there is unfortunately very little that can be done to revive it. The first step is to check and make sure that the snake is indeed dead by feeling for any sign of a heartbeat or movement. If there is no heart beat or movement, the snake is most likely deceased. There are some methods that may help revive a snake, such as gently warming the body, but these are not always successful and should only be done if the snake is still alive.


To determine if a snake is dead, check for signs of life such as eye movement and breathing, feeling for a pulse, and checking for reflexes. If the snake appears to be dead, examine it for signs of decomposition including discoloration and odor. If there are signs of decomposition, the snake is likely deceased. If the snake is not showing any signs of life and there is no indication of decomposition, it is important to consult a reptile veterinarian to confirm death and determine the cause.

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