Can Snakes Get Cancer? [Signs And Symptoms]

Can snakes get cancer? This question may seem perplexing, but it is one that scientists have been asking for years.

If you have a pet snake, you would be curious to find out about your pet’s unique problems. This includes concerns about its health and well-being. Certain health concerns including cancer can be potentially dangerous for your pet which is why it is integral to find out if snakes can get cancer.

Can Snakes Get Cancer?

Cold-blooded animals, including snakes, can get cancer, likely from environmental factors, including polluted waters and foreign substances. There isn’t much information about how often snakes develop cancer, but we know they suffer from cancer and several other health concerns.

Snakes make an amazing pet, and many people prefer to have snakes as pets for their friendly nature. 

While they lack the intellectual ability to sense human emotions due to which they may seem indifferent but they often ignore people because snakes do not consider humans as a threat. Moreover, they also don’t view humans as food. 

And while many people prefer to have snakes as pets due to this reason, they are often unaware of several health problems, including cancer, that snakes may experience.

After conducting extensive research on several health problems that snakes may experience and working closely with some of the most reputable veterinarians in town, we have put together this guide so you can learn if snakes get cancer.

In what follows, you will be able to determine whether snakes can get cancer and learn a lot more about other common health problems that your pet reptiles have.

Can Snakes Get Cancer?

Snakes can commonly develop bumps and lumps on their skin and inside their bodies. Several conditions can cause these bumps, which are often masses. External bumps and masses are most commonly a result of infection, which is also known as abscesses. 

However, tumors, including cancerous growths, can also lead to the formation of bumps and lumps on the skin.

Moreover, lumps and masses can also develop within the body due to cancer. Some of the other reasons that can lead to the formation of tumors inside the body include retained eggs (within the species of snakes that lay eggs) and even constipation. Furthermore, a lump inside the body of the snake may also simply be the food that the snake has just consumed.

In case you find a lump or mass on the skin of your pet snake, it is best to schedule a visit to your veterinarian’s clinic. Your vet will recommend specific tests, including an X-ray and some blood tests, to determine the exact cause of the mass.

In case of a mass inside the body, you may be able to figure it out by examining the body of your skin. In that case, you will also need to work closely with your vet, who will recommend certain screening to determine the cause of the lump inside the body.

Following the initial examination and determining the cause of the lump or mass, your vet will decide whether your pet needs medication or a surgical procedure to remove the lump.

While most lumps are benign and are often not life-threatening, however, some lumps can be cancerous, which is why it is important to get your pet examined as soon as possible so your vet can initiate the appropriate treatment.

Can Snakes Get Cancer 1 1 Can Snakes Get Cancer? [Signs And Symptoms]

What Other Health Problems Are Common Among Snakes? 

While snakes can get cancer, there is not enough evidence to determine the incidence of the disease in snakes. However, there are several other health concerns that are common among snakes. Some of these health problems include the following.


Anorexia among snakes refers to the refusal to eat or reduced appetite. There are several reasons that can lead to anorexia among snakes, with reproduction and shedding being some of the most common causes of anorexia. 

However, the condition can also be a symptom of some other underlying health problems, including a changed or new environment, inappropriate light cycle, and inappropriate or inadequately sized diet. 

Moreover, certain health conditions, including gastrointestinal blockage, liver or kidney failure, and even tumors inside the body, can cause anorexia.

If you notice your pet’s refusal to eat when it is not pregnant or shedding, it’s best to consult with your vet to determine the underlying cause of anorexia. Once the underlying cause of anorexia has been identified and rectified, your snake will likely resume eating.

Difficult Ecdysis (Difficulty in Shedding)

A healthy snake will shed its skin in a single piece that closely resembles an inverted sock. Young, healthy, and well-fed snakes shed more often (almost every month); however, the frequency of shedding decreases with age and growth rate. 

During the shedding process (known as ecdysis), the snake seeks an uneven surface to rub against its skin, and the old skin sheds from head to tail in a single piece. However, some snakes may experience difficulty in shedding skin, a condition known as dysecdysis.

The condition is often an indication of an underlying problem with the environment, including inappropriate humidity levels, temperature, and incomplete nutrition. 

While the problem can often be improved by increasing the humidity levels in the snake’s environment, it is best to consult a veterinarian to determine the most appropriate ways to increase humidity in the environment and to facilitate shedding so your pet snake doesn’t experience any permanent damage.

Gastrointestinal Infections

Another health concern that is common among snakes is a gastrointestinal infection that is caused by the bacteria Salmonella. While snakes may carry the bacteria as part of their normal gastrointestinal flora, the bacteria can be a source of life-threatening blood infection and gastrointestinal disease.

Many snakes may carry the bacteria as part of their gut bacteria and do not show any signs. However, the bacteria are present in their feces which can turn into a source of infection for other snakes if you have more than one pet snake at home.

The best way to reduce the risk of bacterial infection due to Salmonella is to ensure proper hygiene. Make sure you thoroughly clean the snake’s cage whenever it gets soiled. Moreover, you should always wash your hands when handling your pet’s food and cleaning the cage.

In case of no symptoms, there is no treatment required; however, if your pet shows any unexpected change in its appetite or bowel movement, it’s time to get in touch with your vet.


Dystocia is a common health concern among female reptiles who are unable to pass eggs and is often life-threatening. Several factors can lead to dystocia, including inappropriate lighting and temperature, dehydration, and malnutrition. 

Some of the other factors that can cause dystocia to include older age, poor body conditions, and any mass or physical obstruction in the reproductive canal. It is important to know that a snake with dystocia will be weak, lethargic, and would not eat.

If you notice any of these symptoms on your pet, make sure you schedule a visit with the vet. Your veterinarian will physically examine your pet before recommending screening which includes blood tests and X-rays. Depending upon the cause of the condition, your vet will decide whether your pet needs to be treated with medicines or require a surgical procedure.

Prey Wounds and Bites

It might come as a surprise to many pet parents, but prey that is often served to your pet as food can severely bite your pet and can cause life-threatening injuries to the snake. For instance, when you offer a frightened mouse to a snake who is not hungry, the mouse can severely bite and lead to life-threatening injury to the snake.

Remember that wounds and bites by the prey to the snake require immediate medical attention, or else your pet may be inflicted with life-threatening injuries.

To ensure that your snake is not bitten or wounded by the prey, it is best to offer only dead prey to your pet. If your pet has trouble eating dead prey, you can train your snake to do so to reduce the risk of injury. 

Moreover, you can also ensure that the prey is killed freshly and is still warm when you serve it to your pet. In case you serve an alive prey to your pet, and you notice that your snake has been bitten or wounded by a prey, make sure to provide immediate medical assistance.

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