How Long Can Snakes Hold Their Breath Above And Underwater?

Are you interested in learning more about your snake and its bodily functions?

Have you read about snakes who can spend time underwater, and you’re wondering how it’s possible?

Breathing is something snakes have to do, just like us, but you might wonder:

How long can snakes hold their breath?

Snakes can hold their breath for up to several minutes if they are relaxed and not exerting any extra energy. Some snakes can hold their breath underwater for 10 minutes or even as long as an hour. 

This idea of pausing their breathing is just one interesting trait snakes have.

Continue reading as we dive even deeper into the question.

how long can snakes hold their breath

How Long Can Snakes Hold Their Breath?

Have you ever had a contest with a friend to see how long you both can hold your breath?

Humans don’t usually make it very long in this game before they need to take a good deep breath.

On the other hand, Snakes are pros when it comes to holding their breath.

Depending on what’s going on and what snake species it is, the length of time could range from a few seconds to several minutes.

If a snake is calm and feels relaxed, it will be able to hold their breath as they sit in their cage for several minutes.

Holding their breath is especially important in the wild.

Snakes who spend a fair amount of time in the water can hold their breath underwater to avoid predators.

Anacondas can hold their breath underwater for up to 10 minutes.

Sea snakes, who rarely spend any time on land, often will stay underwater for anywhere from 30 minutes to around two hours before having to return to the surface for another breath. 

How Do Snakes Breathe?

You might be wondering if the snake has lungs or some other kind of organ playing a part in its respiratory system.

They do have lungs.

Some snakes have two longs, one on the right and one on the left.

Most species of snakes, however, only have one lung in their body, a righthand lung.

The right lung in the snake is long, but the length does depend on the species.

In some species, the right lung extends past the middle of their torso. 

The left lung is much smaller than the right lung in snakes who do have them.

If the snake has a very small or doesn’t have a left lung, they get help from the tracheal lung. 

For us, breathing is dependent on the diaphragm, as it is the primary muscle used to inhale and exhale air. 

Snakes don’t have a diaphragm.

This might make you wonder how they breathe in and out.

Snakes expand and contract their rib cage to inhale and exhale.

When they expand or contract their rib cage, the muscles around the ribs move to assist the breathing process.

How Do Snakes Breathe When Eating?

When you read more about how a snake eats, you will learn that it opens its flexible jaw around large prey. 

Sometimes, the prey entirely or almost completely blocks their airways when they do. 

These animals have nostrils and can breathe through them, but they won’t breathe in enough air when they are eating.

During feeding, the tracheal lung helps the snake to keep breathing.

The tracheal lung’s opening extends outward when the snake is eating, shifting towards the side of the mouth, creating a pathway to their lungs.

If you have a snake and have watched closely while they eat, you might have seen a hole or tube at the side of the mouth.

This is a small opening to the tracheal lung, or glottis, as it is commonly known.

Once the airway is cleared, the glottis goes back into its usual place, and breathing returns to normal.

This ability to shift their organs linked to their respiratory system allows them to breathe even when something is in the way. 

The glottis is also responsible for the hissing sounds you hear coming from snakes.

Inside the glottis is a small piece of cartilage.

When the snake forcefully breathes out, the cartilage vibrates, creating the iconic hissing noise you think of when it comes to snakes. 

Respiratory Infections In Snakes

Understanding how a snake breathes and how often it breathes will help you as the owner assess if there is a health issue.

Snakes, unfortunately, often contract respiratory infections.

If you notice the snake wheezing or gasping for breath, you will need to take a closer look and contact a veterinarian.

But these aren’t the only signs of respiratory distress.

Snakes typically use either their nostrils or their mouths for breathing, and usually both together if they want to get a large gulp of air.

A snake may have a respiratory infection if you notice the snake breathing strictly through its mouth.

It is essential to know how your snake breathes when healthy, calm, and relaxed.

This will help you identify if there is a problem.

Look for whistling sounds, crackly breathing, or more deep and forceful breathing.

Mucus coming from the mouth or nose is common as well.

Snakes are highly susceptible to respiratory infections, but they most commonly happen if the enclose is too cold. 

When it is too cold, the snake will have a tough time fighting off the bacteria causing respiratory infections.

Treatment involves antibiotics, so if you think your snake has a respiratory infection, the sooner you get it to the vet, the better off your pet will be.

The vet will identify what is causing the infection and will create a treatment plan.

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We hope you now have a better idea of how long a snake can hold their breath.

Breathing is something snakes must do to survive, but these animals can pause their breathing, holding their breath for varying amounts of time, depending on the need.

Whether they are relaxed or hiding from a predator, being able to hold their breath is a fascinating trait.

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