Have you ever walked in on your snake sitting with their mouth wide open?
Are you worried there is a problem if your snake is sitting with their mouth open?
This is not an uncommon phenomenon, but along with these questions and even more, you might be asking:
Why do snakes sit with their mouth open?
Most of the time, snakes are seen with their mouths closed, but when they do sit with them open, there are various reasons why. Usually, it’s for temperature regulation or to appear larger and more threatening.
Keep reading for even more information on snakes keeping their mouths open.
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How Do Snakes Sit With Their Mouth Open?
Snakes don’t usually sit with their mouths wide open for long periods, but they can use some developed ligaments in their mouth to help when they do.
Snakes sometimes open their mouths as wide as four times their body’s girth but don’t unhinge their jaws.
Instead, they have stretchy ligaments stretching the bottom of the jaw open vertically and horizontally.
It is commonly thought snakes unhinge their jaw, but this has been disproven, yet it is still a common misconception.
The ligaments also help as they take in very large prey.
Why Is My Snake Sitting With Their Mouth Open?
Understanding how they do this is not quite as important as understanding why.
As we mentioned, frequent mouth gaping is not the norm when it comes to these animals.
In this section, we will break down some of the reasons your snake might be doing this and why you need to be paying attention.
Stretching/Preparing For A Meal
Think of sitting in one place for a long time and then getting up.
You probably are a little stiff, and your muscles might not move quickly right away.
A little stretch might be in order.
Snakes are often immobile for great lengths of time during the day and at night, and gaping their mouth, helps get everything moving again.
But stretching isn’t limited to getting everything moving again.
Your snake might just be preparing to take in a meal.
When they are getting hungry and ready to eat, you might notice your snake stretching out those oh so essential ligaments.
This helps them as they prepare to swallow the large prey they are about to take in.
After A Meal
Once the snake has swallowed their latest meal, you might again see them opening their mouths, almost looking like a yawn.
This doesn’t indicate a post-meal sleepy snake, but rather a snake attempting to realign their jaws.
These animals have to eat their prey whole, and opening their mouth sometimes causes discomfort if they have to open wide.
Snakes open their mouths often about 150° degrees, and some go even wider.
A realignment is regularly needed after a meal, so you will probably notice the animal sitting with a wide mouth for a few minutes after consuming their prey.
Think of it like how you often stretch after an exercise to cool your muscles down.
Snakes rely heavily on their mouths, especially their tongues, to inform them of their environment.
Usually, the tongue flicks to gather tiny scent particles from the environment to identify what is going on around them.
When they open their mouths wide, the tiny molecules or even pheromones directly hit the vomeronasal organ, also known as the Jacobson’s organ, on the roof of their mouth.
This is a common reason your snake may be sitting for periods with their mouth opened wide, especially if they are in a new place with new people.
They want to gather as much information as possible.
As cold-blooded creatures, snakes don’t stay at one body temperature.
They change with the environment.
When things get too hot, they must cool down by other means.
This could mean finding shade or going in water.
Opening their mouths is another way to cool down as it lets their bodies lower its temperature.
A Sign Of Sickness
We touched on some of the not so scary reasons a snake might sit with their mouth open, but for owners, you need to pay attention if you catch your snake doing this frequently.
Some of the causes aren’t so innocent.
Snakes occasionally will yawn or sit with their mouth open, but it shouldn’t be a constant occurrence.
Sitting continuously with their mouth open for long periods or frequent yawning is most often a sign of a severe problem.
Your snake may have any number of diseases, but respiratory infections are one of the top culprits.
Other diseases, including pneumonia, infectious stomatitis, mouth rot, and inclusion body disease, also cause the snake to have a gaping mouth.
A snake is susceptible to so many different kinds of bacterial or fungal infections.
They might contract some diseases because of poor husbandry.
Others might result from poor environmental conditions, or sometimes the food they eat.
Snakes who are sick will sit with their mouth open if they aren’t getting enough air, and yawning opens the airways up.
Usually, snakes take in oxygen by breathing in through their nostrils, but the nose gets blocked when they get sick.
If you have had a cold with a stuffy nose, you know exactly what this is like.
When the nose is blocked, the snake cannot breathe normally and opens its mouth to get the oxygen it desperately needs.
We have a post on how snakes breathe if you would like to learn more.
If you notice your snake sitting with their mouth open, it is crucial to monitor the situation to see how frequently this is happening.
Knowing your snake and their habits will be crucial if you want to diagnose a real issue early.
Once you have established this is something serious, contact your snake’s veterinarian and get them an appointment.
Many diseases are treatable if they are detected and treated early, but the longer the disease takes hold, the harder it will be for your snake to recover.
Don’t be afraid to contact your vet if you are unsure because it is better to be safe than sorry for your pet snake’s health.
Knowing why snakes sit with their mouths open is essential, so you know when to be worried.
A snake who sits with their mouth open might be doing so for a variety of reasons, but their stretchy ligaments surely help as they sit there with mouth open wide.
While some reasons it does so are innocent, it is important to watch for the more serious ones and contact your vet if you are concerned.