Why is my ball python yawning?

You may see your ball python yawn if you watch them long enough. Well, its more like a mouth-gape/stretch type of action. For now we’ll make it easy by calling it a yawn.

Ball pythons yawn for multiple reasons including:

  • stretching
  • breathing
  • respiratory issues
  • adjusting their jaw

A ball python’s yawns don’t have the same functions as ours do. 

Studies show that humans yawn to raise oxygen levels and regulate body function.1 Ball pythons, on the other hand, yawn for more physical reasons.

Yawning is common for a ball python to do, but in certain cases it could also mean there is something more serious going on with your snake. 

photo of yawning man with his hands up and eyes closed sitting at a table with his laptop
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Respiratory Infection(RI) or other illness

The most serious reason your ball python is yawning could be caused by respiratory infection. Not to worry just yet. Respiratory infections are normally accompanied by other symptoms before the yawning happens. 

It’s not the most common reason why a ball python would yawn but it is a reason to be aware of. 

Yawning, itself, doesn’t mean that your ball python is sick though. The only time it should be a concern is if your snake is yawning more than usually and your snake has other symptoms.

Respiratory infections in ball pythons cause many other symptoms besides yawning. 

Other signs that your ball python has a respiratory infection include stringy mucus in the mouth and/or nose, whistling or difficult breathing, and lack of appetite. 

Here are 10 more reasons why your ball python isn’t eating

If you are unsure if the yawning is caused by an RI you can always consult a vet for a proper diagnosis. 

Since RIs usually cause labored breathing in snakes, your ball python will yawn to expose their windpipe and get more oxygen with their breath.

Stretching

Another less serious reason why your ball python yawns is because it is stretching. If you think about it a snake is mostly muscle. Just like us ball pythons need to stretch their muscles for comfort. 

photo of woman doing yoga
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Fixing their jaw after eating or striking

Ball pythons eat prey larger than a their own head and neck, so they displace their jaw bones in order to swallow their prey whole.2

Even when a snake takes a small meal they will still displace their jaw in order to eat. 

After your ball python finishes eating it’s mouth will look crooked. This is normal.

Click here for info on ball python feeding your ball python.

Ball pythons will open their mouth wide like a yawn to put their cranial bones back together. Isn’t that insane!?

Once they do that big stretching yawn to fix their jaw it will go back to normal and you wont see that crooked smile anymore.

When should I be worried?

The only time you should be worried about your ball python yawning is when they yawn more frequently than normal. This could be your snake exposing its windpipe to get more oxygen and there could be an underlying issue.

It’s always best to visit a vet at the first sign of this abnormal behavior. 

Conclusion

We now know that a ball python yawn doesn’t mean they need to catch some ZZZ’s. The reasons they yawn could be anything from catching their breath, aligning their jaw bones, or a respiratory issues.

Either way, it’s usually the least concerning one.

For any questions on your ball python’s health visit your local vet.

  1. Adrian G. Guggisberg, Johannes Mathis, Armin Schnider, Christian W. Hess Why do we yawn? The importance of evidence for specific yawn-induced effects Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Volume 35, Issue 5, April 2011, Pages 1302-1304
  2. Kardong, K. (1977). Kinesis of the Jaw Apparatus during Swallowing in the Cottonmouth Snake, Agkistrodon piscivorus. Copeia,1977(2), 338-348. doi:10.2307/1443913