Snake Coughing

Did you hear what you thought was a cough coming from your snake enclosure? Can snakes even cough? What caused it?

As a snake owner you want to provide your pet with the best care, so it can be worrying when you hear what sounds like a cough coming from your pet.

Continue reading below to find out about snake coughing and potential causes, helping you make necessary adjustments and rectify any problems quickly and effectively.

Can a Snake Cough?

To set the record straight, snakes do not have a diaphragm, which means they cannot cough.

This is why snakes are susceptible to pneumonia and respiratory problems because when their lungs fill with fluid, they cannot clear their lungs, making it hard for them to breathe.

Taking into account that it could not actually have been a cough you heard coming from your snake enclosure, it could have been one of two sounds you may have heard. The first is more like a sneeze, which is a quick exhale of air. The second is more of a gurgling noise.

Why Does My Snake Cough?


If you have a dry substrate in the enclosure, particles can get into the air and irritate your pet’s throat and lungs, which can cause your pet to exhale the particles out of their lungs, making it sound like it is coughing.

Respiratory Infection

Captive snakes are prone to respiratory infections, which means they have too much mucus in their mouth.

Signs often include lethargy, lack of appetite, nasal discharge, wheezing, and making gurgling noises, which could be confused as a cough.

Most respiratory infections are caused by bacteria.

How to Treat and Prevent Coughing

Veterinary Treatment

If you have heard what you think is coughing and/or sneezing from your snake’s enclosure, your pet has maybe been a little sluggish, not hungry, and has mucus or bubbles coming from its mouth when it breaths, then it’s recommended to seek urgent veterinary treatment to diagnose if your pet has a respiratory infection and ensure it receives treatment quickly.

Keep the Enclosure Clean

Most respiratory infections are caused by bacteria, which grow in warm and damp areas.

Keeping your snake’s enclosure clean with daily spot checks and providing clean and fresh water daily, combined with monthly deep cleaning can keep bacteria at bay.

Reduce Irritants

Select your substrate with care, avoiding those that are too dry and will have particles which can irritate your pet’s throat and lungs.

Choose coconut husk or cypress mulch, which doesn’t have dry and loose particles to cause unnecessary problems.

Monitor Temperature and Humidity Levels

You need to ensure you provide your pet with the right humidity and temperatures to reduce any coughing or sneezing.

A humidity of between 50% and 60% will reduce the risk of your ball python’s throat and lungs becoming dry and irritated.

Temperatures should range as follows:



Warm side

80ºF – 85ºF

Cool side

75ºF – 80ºF

Basking area

88ºF – 92ºF


Knowing why your snake could be “coughing” can help you eliminate the cause. The most common reasons are irritation in the throat or a respiratory infection. One can be fixed easily, while the other needs veterinary treatment.

Providing the correct substrate, keeping the enclosure clean, and providing optimum humidity and temperature levels can help reduce the risk of hearing “coughing” sounds coming from your pet snake.

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