Have you often wondered to yourself, “Did my snake just make a clicking sound?”? Chances are, she probably has. I’ve heard it in my own ball pythons, but a clicking sound is often heard in most breeds of pet snakes.
Most snakes are relatively calm when it comes to showing any signs of illness. They can’t cry in pain or give you a look that says, “I hurt.” And because of this, it’s essential to be aware of all signs of illness in your snake and seek treatment if necessary.
If you hear her clicking or producing breathing noises, she could be suffering from a respiratory infection, but not always. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons a snake might produce a clicking sound.
Does my Snake have a Respiratory Problem?
Unfortunately, snakes can succumb to respiratory problems. Their respiratory system is relatively complicated and requires close attention.
Most breeds of snakes have only one functioning lung, usually the right. However, pythons and boas are the exceptions.
Snakes also don’t have a diaphragm muscle that separates their chest from their abdomen. They use the muscles in their ribs and body wall to move air in and out of their lung or lungs.
Anytime you hear labored breathing or a clicking sound when your snake breaths, it could be because she is suffering from an upper respiratory illness. This could be caused by a virus, a bacteria, or a fungus, and if left untreated, it could take their life.
Snakes who are suffering from a respiratory illness will often have mucus in their mouths, and you may be able to hear gurgling sounds as well. She may present as lethargic with a loss of appetite in addition to this.
Often, certain pathogens can carry a disease from other reptiles, so it’s important to remember to wash your hands when handling different snakes. If the humidity or temperature in your snake’s enclosure isn’t correct, that can also lead to an overgrowth of bacteria, causing breathing problems.
Could it Be a Parasite?
Sometimes, it’s a parasite that affects your snake’s breathing, causing it to make a clicking sound. A parasite known as rhabdias bufonis is common in reptiles and amphibians and presents as worms in the respiratory tracts of snakes.
Another type of parasite is called pentastomids which can also cause a clicking sound in your snake. Preventing this also calls for good husbandry in your encloser and a proper temperature and humidity.
Could it be Having a Tough Time Shedding
Your snake will frequently make a whining or clicking sound if they are preparing to shed. Shedding can be a stressful event for snakes, but it’s not a cause of concern if you hear them clicking. We don’t understand why they do this, but the sounds should subside once your snake has completed her shed.
Often soaking your snake in about an inch of lukewarm water for a few hours every day as they prepare to shed is helpful. This will keep them well hydrated, so they shed more comfortably.
In addition to making a clicking sound before a shed, they can also make it after a shed if things don’t go so well. Usually called a “bad shed,” it means that your snake may have dry patches of skin remaining on his face if he has not shed correctly.
This usually shows up around the head and neck or sometimes as a stuck eye cap. The clicking sound you are hearing could be from a piece of shed that has clogged his nostrils, which will also force him to gape with his mouth open.
A bad shed is not a cause for concern, but your snake may need a little help if the extra skin is bothersome. Usually, a soak in warm water will help loosen it, or even placing him in a damp pillowcase or towel will help him remove the stuck shed.
If you find that your snake is continuing to click or wheeze for more than a week after their shed, it’s best to get it checked out by your veterinarian.
Just a Noisy Breather
Sometimes, there is no real reason for a clicking sound other than your snake is just a noisy breather. Snakes have an organ in their mouths called a glottis, which is a little tube that opens and closes as they breathe.
Sometimes, it makes a small clicking noise as your snake draws her breath in through her nostrils via the opening in her upper jaw. My own pet snake is notorious for doing this, and she is perfectly healthy.
When to Take Action
If you strongly feel that your snake’s clicking sounds are due to a struggle to breathe, then it’s essential to take action. Immediately make sure your snake’s temperature and humidity are in order, and make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out anything life-threatening.
Once your veterinarian has given your snake a physical exam, she may take nasal samples and even a blood sample if it is believed the snake is ill. Luckily, it’s reasonably easy for a veterinarian to give you medication to treat your snake’s respiratory illness if that is the cause for the clicking.
Give your snake plenty of rest, and do not over-handle your snake as it recuperates.
Snakes are fascinating little creatures and bring joy to many people. But they have different anatomy, so knowing why your snake makes a clicking sound is crucial to their survival.