Corn snakes make great family pets for beginner snake owners because they’re tame and easy to care for.
Though they can be low-maintenance pets, you should still look for signs of strange behavior.
For instance, a new corn snake parent may question: why does my corn snake keep opening its mouth?
There are a few reasons why this happens, so read on to see what you can do about it.
Your docile corn snake, like other snake species, may stretch its mouth wide open for these five possible reasons:
- Stretching or yawning
- Meal warm-up and after-effects of eating
- Sensing their surroundings
- Time for Shedding
- Infection or sickness
Among these, let’s see which reasons are concerning and which ones aren’t.
Your cute pet may randomly open its mouth for a few seconds, but this short mouth exercise means it’s simply stretching its jaw.
A corn snake needs a good stretch as its movement is restricted inside its enclosure. Opening its mouth helps in that process.
This movement is so-called yawning because of how their mouths stretch. Technically, snakes don’t yawn for reasons we usually associate it with, like tiredness or sleepiness.
Rather, snakes yawn to stretch the ligaments of their jaw, to get ready for feeding. Simply put, your pet is telling you its next meal is due.
You’ll know it’s time to feed your corn snake once it stretches its jaw. Corn snakes need to warm up their jaws before swallowing live prey that’s up to three times their girth size.
Likewise, after a good meal, its worked-up jaw ligaments need realignment. So, the snake does so by opening its mouth for a few minutes.
Snakes also yawn during or after eating to breathe in oxygen through their glottis while digesting their meal. Remember to take care of your corn snake in case any indigestion or regurgitation happens.
In the wild, a snake will sense a nearby prey, predator, or mate by keeping its mouth ajar and flicking out its forked tongue to collect chemical signals.
These chemical signals are processed by the Jacobson organ (located on the snake’s upper mouth) to inform the reptile of its surroundings.
In other words, your corn snake may potentially open its mouth to understand its new environment—especially when it’s recently adopted.
If your corn snake continues to do this, even if it’s been around for a while, try to remember if you introduced new things to its space. Perhaps your pet is simply familiarizing itself with the changes in its surroundings.
Snakes peel their dead scales off, starting from their head all the way to their tail’s end.
A young corn snake, as it grows, goes through the shedding process more often than an adult.
Your pet has to forcefully open its mouth to help release the old skin clinging to its jaw.
It’s a worrying sign if your adult corn snake opens its mouth frequently without having to shed.
Snakes primarily breathe through their nostrils. Thus, it’s not normal for your pet to take in oxygen by frequently opening its mouth. This is a sign that it may be experiencing respiratory problems.
Several factors may cause this, ranging from poor living conditions to a parasitic infection from the food it eats. Your corn snake may also be experiencing mouth rot due to an untreated injury there.
As such, we recommend seeking medical attention for your pet to keep them safe from future diseases.
Here are simple ways you can attend to your corn snake better:
- Provide a secure enclosure with proper ventilation and heating system.
- Substrate or wood chips as bedding are appropriate for them to burrow in.
- Enhance their space with natural rock decors for them to crawl on top of.
- Purchase frozen or live mice from authorized pet shops to avoid feeding your snake disease-carrying mice.
- Always clean their enclosure from body waste.
- Make sure to change their water every day when it becomes contaminated.
- Always wash your hands before and after handling your pet.
Now, you know the reasons why your corn snake keeps opening its mouth. If your adorable pet has its mouth open for short periods of time, you can be assured they’re doing fine.
However, if its mouth stays gaping longer than usual, you should call your local veterinarian as this can turn into an emergency. Lastly, give your pet all the love with our corn snake care tips.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.