“My blue-tongue skink keeps sneezing! What should I do!?” Don’t fret, this is totally normal. Most of the time.
In this article, I will discuss why skinks sneeze, and how to identify a sneeze that means something entirely different, and dangerous.
Quite simply, blueys sneeze to clear out their nostrils.
Remember, skinks love to dig and burrow. This is why it is imperative that you select an appropriate substrate inside their terrariums.
And because these guys love to dig down and cover themselves in their bedding, it’s only natural that little particles, pieces and clumps of substrate get lodged up in their tiny noses.
Hence, the sneezing. It’s just cleaning everything out.
Moreover, don’t be alarmed if your skink sneezes often. Again, that is also normal. That being said, if your skink is sneezing a lot, seemingly continuously, this may mean that your skink has a problem with the bedding.
Usually, this is the result of the drier beddings, such as wood shavings. These beddings can soak up moisture in the air and can sometimes be a little dusty. If your skink is continually sneezing and you are using one of these drier substrates, consider wetting it down to see if the sneezing temporarily abets. If so, it may be a signal to change the bedding.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the second point I want to make; how to identify a healthy and an unhealthy sneeze.
What Healthy Sneezes Sound Like
A healthy sneeze sounds more like a huff or puff of air being forced out. Usually their mouth is closed and it happens really, really fast.
Here’s a quick example.
As you can see, a sneeze will sound and look a lot different from a hiss. which is a defensive behavior that blue-tongues exhibit when they feel unsafe and in danger.
Both of these are very different from a wheeze, which is what you don’t want to hear.
If you hear your skink wheezing, rather than sneezing, it’s a possible sign of a respiratory infection, and trust me, you want to avoid that at all costs.
Here’s how to identify a wheeze. This will sound wet or moist. If you’ve ever had a wet cough you will know what I’m talking about, that sound that sort of gurgles when you breathe. You may even hear a crackle, pop or clicking sound as well.
This will usually (but not always) be accompanied by mucus leaking from their eyes and/or nose and open-breathing with some drooling.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you’ll need to get treatment right away. This is crucial. A respiratory infection can easily turn dangerous, very quickly.
If your blue-tongue does indeed have a respiratory infection, prescription antibiotics will be needed. Skinks are incredibly resilient, hardy animals but even they have their limits. A lot of times uninformed owners may believe that good ole’ UV or just simple rest can enable them to naturally get over it. This may be the case with certain, smaller illnesses but can be a potentially deadly mistake when it comes to respiratory infections.
The best course of action would be to find the nearest reptile vet (Find a Vet). An experienced reptile vet will be able to accurately diagnose your skink, and give advice on the best course of action. If one isn’t available nearby, a general vet should do.
If you are worried about the cost of possible treatment, don’t be. Even in the worst case scenario, it’s going to break the bank, but it may just save his or her life!
How do Respiratory Infections Occur?
Usually, a respiratory infection is the result of incorrect temperature and/or humidity levels, or changes, inside your terrarium.
The first course of action is always prevention, and the best way to prevent an infection is to ensure that your temperature and humidity settings are on point. You’ll want to check on ideal temperature and humidity settings for your skink species.
If your temperature and humidity are on point, that’s great, but you can’t stop there. You’ll want to avoid quick temperature changes as well.
This can happen through a variety of ways:
- your geographic area sees a drastic temperature drop
- the area where your skink is located in isn’t ideal
- your UV light breaks or the power goes out
Typically, it’s not so much an increase in temperature or humidity that you need to avoid, but a sudden drop. You’ve got to remember, blue-tongues cannot regulate their body temperatures, their environment does that for them.
Respiratory infections occur when their enclosure is warm and they are suddenly placed in cold-weather, so this is what you’ll want to ensure doesn’t happen above all else.
In my experience however, respiratory infections are not common. Skinks are hardy, tough animals and it usually takes a whole lot more to put them down. But, you need to do your due diligence and keep their environment on point.
To sum everything up:
- a sneeze is common and totally normal
- their function is to clear out their nostrils
- wheezing, which will sound wetter and sometimes comes with eye and nasal discharge, is a possible sign of a respiratory infection
- if you observe wheezing, take your skink to the nearest vet as soon as possible to get him or her checked out, as antibiotics may be needed