Why Do Ball Pythons Yawn? Is it Normal?

When a ball python yawns, you may be overwhelmed by how cute it is, but is it normal and safe?

Many snake owners wonder whether this condition should be cause for concern. 

After all, we all want to make sure our little reptiles have a long, healthy, and happy life.

As a general rule, yawning is normal behavior for most ball pythons, and it usually occurs before or after eating. Repetitive yawning outside of these conditions could be a sign of respiratory disease, especially if paired with wheezing or mucus. 

If you think you have cause for concern with your pet snake, here are a few things you should keep in mind about yawning. 

ball python yawning

Is Yawning Normal Behavior For Ball Pythons?

If you catch your ball python yawning, this behavior is perfectly normal from time to time. 

It does not necessarily have to be a sign of disease. 

Ball python owners should keep an eye on this behavior, but it does not always mean a trip to the veterinarian is in order. 

Most often, this behavior occurs either before or after eating. 

Your pet snake can open their mouth wide to consume its meals and help along the process.

Contrary to popular opinion, their jaws do not detach. 

Each side of the lower jaw moves entirely on its own. 

After opening wide to consume a large rat, they may have to reposition their jaws. 

Opening wide through yawning helps these friendly snakes to get comfortable once more. 

However, this snake species will also open wide if anticipating a large meal coming its way. 

They may yawn when they are starting to get hungry. 

They might start this behavior when you begin going through the process of feeding them. 

This allows their lower jaw to move into a more comfortable position to accommodate a tasty rat being tossed their way. 

Other times, your ball python may simply be yawning to get his body moving. 

Because they spend large portions of the day just lying around, a yawn is a quick way for them to start moving their body once more. 

When Is Yawning Dangerous In Ball Pythons?

While some yawning is perfectly normal behavior for your pet snake, there are times when you have cause for concern. 

Seeing them yawn from time to time is fine, but something might be wrong if it occurs regularly outside of feeding time. 

Respiratory Infections In Ball Pythons

A respiratory infection is one possible cause for concern. 

When they cannot get enough air into their lungs through their nostrils, they may open their mouths wide in an attempt to breathe.

During this type of yawn, you may even notice there is a slime-like substance inside their mouth. 

If you also notice some popping, clicking, or wheezing sounds while your snake is breathing, these are clear signs of an illness.

We have a separate article covering wheezing in ball pythons if you’re having issues there.

The respiratory disease needs to be addressed by a veterinarian. 

This is not something likely to simply run its course over a couple of months. 

You must be proactive and take them to get treated immediately. 

Conditions within the terrarium often cause a respiratory infection. 

If their enclosure has an improper temperature or humidity level, it can spark illness. 

Inclusion Body Disease In Ball Pythons 

While a local veterinarian easily treats some respiratory disease, some conditions are fatal. 

One reason your ball python may be yawning more often is because it has Inclusion Body Disease.

Inclusion Body Disease is a progressive illness which can pass from one snake to another. 

While the exact cause of the illness is unknown, most veterinarians agree it is likely to be a viral infection. 

Inclusion Body Disease (IBD) often leads to secondary infections such as bacterial, fungal, or blood infections, which ultimately cause the most harm to the snake. 

This disease weakens the immune system and makes these types of infections far more common. 

In ball pythons, most will die from neurological symptoms a few weeks after diagnosis. 

A few signs of IBD in pythons include: 

  • Difficulty breathing (which leads to yawning)
  • Swollen mouth
  • Poor body condition
  • Skin disease
  • Lethargy or lack of activity
  • Constipation

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should consider seeking professional veterinary help. 

While nothing can treat Inclusion Body Disease, medication and treatment can help secondary infections. 

You should help your snake to live out the remainder of its days as comfortably as possible. 

Remember Inclusion Body Disease is relatively rare. 

In most cases, your snake yawning is relatively harmless. 

However, if you notice these symptoms together, you should be concerned. 

What Should I Do If My Ball Python Keeps Yawning? 

As long as your snake is yawning surrounding meals, you are perfectly fine to let them keep on doing what they are doing. 

A yawn every once in a while is perfectly acceptable. 

You should only be concerned when it happens frequently and is paired with other symptoms. 

Many snake owners wonder whether they can do anything to relieve symptoms on their own. 

After all, taking your snake to an experienced reptile veterinarian is quite expensive. 

Some believe in treating respiratory infections at home using eucalyptus essential oil and steam. 

While home treatments may help alleviate the symptoms, they do not necessarily treat the underlying cause, which is often bacterial. 

Most of the infections you encounter are going to be caused by bacteria. 

This is why so many veterinarians will prescribe antibiotics as the first line of treatment. 

We always recommend a trip to the vet first.

If you notice the symptoms of an infection brewing in your snake (such as mucus, popping, wheezing, or clicking sounds), then you should always take them to the veterinarian right away.

It is always best to treat them for a bacterial infection right away to prevent the issue from becoming worse or even becoming fatal. 

While it may be expensive, your snake’s life could be at stake if you do not treat it properly.  

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