corn snake

Corn snake diseases: common health problems found in corn snakes

Corn snakes are a type of small North American Rat Snake. They are generally healthy, hardy creatures that make relatively low-maintenance pets. But, like all pets, corn snakes can develop illnesses or conditions that need care, treatment and attention.

Let’s look at the signs and symptoms of some of the most common corn snake problems, and how to care for a sick corn snake. If you suspect your corn snake is suffering from any of the conditions outlined in this article, visit your specialist reptile or exotic vet.

Stomatitis in corn snakes

Stomatitis, commonly known as mouth rot, is a common condition caused when bacteria in the mouth gets into an open wound and causes infection in the lining of the gums and mouth.

Symptoms include swelling or colour change in your corn snake’s mouth and gums, white, frothy discharge, or frequent rubbing of the mouth and not wanting to eat.

If you suspect mouth rot, consult your specialist reptile vet for advice, and be sure to keep your corn snake’s tank and water supply clean in the meantime.

Mites in corn snakes

Mites are tiny black parasites that live on corn snakes and feed on their blood. They lay their eggs in the substrate of your snake’s tank, and are usually spotted around the eyes, mouth and under their scales.

If you spot mites on your corn snake, bathe the snake in warm water and thoroughly disinfect the tank and its contents using an insecticide that is designed and licenced for snakes, to kill and stop the mites breeding. You will need to repeat this process several times. If the mites persist, make an appointment with your specialist reptile vet.

Constipation in corn snakes

The digestive process varies according to the size and metabolism of your snake, but once you’re used to their pattern you’ll quickly notice any changes in how often your snake poos. Signs of constipation include bloating, lethargy and loss of appetite.

If you’re sure you’re dealing with a constipated corn snake, bathing your reptile in warm water for around 15 minutes a day will encourage defecation. If this doesn’t work – or if you spot any swelling in the last third of the snake (towards its tail) – take your snake to your specialist reptile vet, as they may have a blockage in their digestive system, which will require veterinary treatment and in the worst cases, may require surgery.

Skin conditions in corn snakes

Corn snakes can suffer from a number of skin conditions, including pus-filled blisters, abscesses caused by infected wounds, cuts and grazes, and problems with shedding. If your corn snake shows any signs of a skin condition, consult your specialist reptile vet.

Internal parasites in corn snakes

Internal parasites can be passed on by contact with infected snakes, or from eating poor quality prey. Symptoms include regurgitation/vomiting, loss of appetite and lethargy. Your specialist reptile vet can prescribe a worming treatment or medication to eliminate them.

Regurgitation/vomiting in corn snakes

Regurgitation/vomiting can be a symptom of a number of conditions, including stress, internal parasites, and being handled too soon after eating. Don’t handle your snake for at least 48 hours after they have eaten, to avoid interfering with the digestive process.

If your snake regurgitates their food more than three times in a row, stop feeding them and contact your specialist reptile vet for advice.

Respiratory problems in corn snakes

If you notice your snake having difficulty breathing, your pet may have contracted a respiratory illness. This is often caused by inadequate temperatures within the tank/vivarium, and correcting these temperatures will sometimes help.

While minor respiratory infections and breathing problems may correct themselves, always consult your specialist reptile vet if the problem continues.

“Stomatitis is caused when bacteria in the mouth gets into an open wound and infects the lining of the gums, mouth.”

Signs that your corn snake needs veterinary care

Contact your specialist reptile vet if you suspect your snake is suffering from any of the conditions in this article, or if your pet displays any of the symptoms below:

  • changes in behaviour
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy
  • difficulty breathing
  • wrinkled or retained skin
  • abnormal wee or poo
  • regurgitation/vomiting or weight loss
  • lumps or swelling
  • swelling or discharge from the eyes or nose

Want more information on corn snake illnesses?

For advice and treatment of corn snake diseases, speak to a specialist reptile or exotic vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.

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