Stargazing Syndrome In Snakes

When the cervical musculature of a snake contracts, the head and neck are raised almost straight up, as if the affected snake is gazing at the stars.  Hence the term stargazing.

This seemingly innocent behavior is actually a sign of a potentially serious underlying medical problem.  If you see this behavior with your snake, you need to consult with your veterinarian immediately.

Other symptoms that typically accompany stargazing include the inability of the snake to right itself when placed on it’s back, as well as disorientation.

Stargazing is typically attributed to a variety of diseases that affect a snake’s central nervous system.  In fact encephalitis is the primary cause of this posture. However, there are other potential factors that need to be considered as possibilities.

So what are the 8 most common causes of stargazing in snakes?

  1. Viral infections such as paramyxovirus which typically attacks the neurological and respiratory systems of snakes.  Typically viperids and colubrids are affected.
  2. Inclusion Body Disease (IBD) which typically attacks the neurological, gastrointestinal and respiratory systems of boids (boas and pythons).
  3. Bacterial infections such as acanthamoebic meningioencephalitis are often to blame as well.
  4. Major organ dysfunction can also cause neurological problems.
  5. Any sort of septic infections which can breach the blood-brain barrier.
  6. Extreme temperature fluctuations.
  7. Head injuries/trauma.
  8. Exposure to toxins typically found via pest strips, cleaning products, mite sprays as well as any other number of environmental toxins can also cause various neurological problems.

In order to treat this condition properly, your veterinarian will undertake a thorough physical examination of your snake as well as take a detailed medical history (always bring your records with you to any appointment with your veterinarian).   Diagnostic tests might include fecal exams, x-rays, as well as a complete pathology workup (ie bloodwork).

Once you know the underlying cause of the stargazing, you and your veterinarian can then work together to form an appropriate treatment plan.

Please remember however, that stargazing itself is not a disease – it is a symptom of a very serious underlying condition/disorder that must be treated.

By Candace,


About Candace M Hansen

Wildlife advocate, conservationist and environmentalist.
This entry was posted in Captive Care - Snakes, Reptile Health & Medicine and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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