The Telltale Signs of Respiratory Problems in Reptiles

If you keep snakes, lizards or other reptiles, it's not as easy to tell if they're unwell as it is with a cat or dog. Many of these creatures spend a lot of time hiding or standing still, making it difficult to spot when something is amiss. One of the more common medical problems faced by reptiles is a respiratory infection. If it's severe or remains untreated, this type of infection can lead to death or can cause septicaemia. 

Respiratory infections are usually caused by environmental factors like excessive damp, incorrect temperatures or poor hygiene, so it's important to fix these problems in addition to seeing a vet. Here are the most common symptoms of respiratory infections so you can tell when it's time to act.

Loss of appetite In reptiles, this is often the first sign of any kind of medical problem. Some species naturally eat infrequently anyway, making it difficult to tell if there's an issue, so it's a good idea to keep a close watch on food habits. If your reptile isn't eating as often as they should or they're refusing food, you should investigate further.

Breathing difficulties This is commonly the first sign of respiratory problems, but you may not notice it unless you're looking for it. If they're experiencing difficulties breathing, reptiles might hold their mouth open in an unusual way, but more often than not, it's the sounds that give it away. Listen out for an audible wheezing sound or any squeaks, pops or clicks that the animal doesn't normally make. If you hear anything like this, you should assume that you have a respiratory problem on your hands.

Discharge from mouth A reptile with an infection will be prone to producing mucous from the mouth. Look for any bubbling or stringy substances. If you have a snake and it's possible to do so safely, gently pull the animal's mouth down at one side and you might clearly see bubbles that would not normally be there. Also, keep an eye on their tongue – the forks can become stuck together during an infection.

Bloating If a reptile becomes abnormally bloated, this is not only an occasional symptom of respiratory infections but also a sign that they may need emergency medical treatment, so don't hesitate to take them in. The same goes for any sudden weight loss. If it's possible to handle your reptile regularly, doing so should help you spot weight changes immediately so you can act accordingly without delay.