Blue Tongue Skink Breathing Concerns – When To Worry?

Blue Tongue Skink Breathing

Blue tongue skink breathing is often a concern for owners. This is because even normal Blue tongue skink breathing can appear erratic, but you should only be concerned with laboured, heavy and open mouth breathing.

This article will help you establish if your Blue tongue skink breathing is normal and offer solutions to fix any possible health problems.

To do this, we are looking at the following topics:

  • What is normal Blue tongue skink breathing
  • Signs of abnormal Blue tongue skink breathing
  • Causes for abnormal Blue tongue skink breathing

What Is Normal Blue Tongue Skink Breathing?

As Blue tongue skinks lack a diaphragm, their breathing is confusing and worrying for most owners. This is especially true, if you don’t know what does the normal skinks breathing sound like. Check out the videos at the end of this section to get a better understanding what is normal.

Normal Blue tongue skink breathing can sound a bit erratic compared to other animals. So, don’t expect them to breathe regularly or even quietly.

Skink don’t need to breathe as much as other mammals. Their normal breathing can be either shallow or deep:

  • Shallow. When Blue tongue skink’s breathing is shallow, you’ll be able to observe movement in their neck area. These movements are the result of the muscular expansion/contraction due to the lack of diaphragm
  • Deep. When your Blue tongue skink is taking deep breathes, which are also perfectly normal in certain situations, you’ll see movement in front of and behind their front legs

Normal sounds when breathing that you should expect your skink to make from time to time include:

  • Hissing and/or huffing. These are normal sounds that your skink will make when feeling annoyed or telling you to back off. These type of noises are considered defence mechanism
  • Squeaking
  • Occasional sneeze. Totally normal for your skink to sometimes sneeze, especially when burrowing in their substrate or just trying to clear their nostrils from debris
  • Laboured breathing is only normal when a female skink is gravid/pregnant
  • Wheezing. Don’t get heavy breathing and wheezing mixed up. For instance, after a big meal, you might heat your skink making wheezing sound which is nothing to worry about

The listed noises above are only concerning if they are accompanied by other symptoms.

Normal Blue tongue skink breathing sounds can be observed in the following videos:

Signs Of Abnormal Blue Tongue Skink Breathing

So when to worry?

Blue tongue skink breathing noises such as sneezing or breathing with open mouth are only of a concern when they are accompanied by other symptoms such as discharge from the nose and eyes.

As Blue Tongue skinks are strictly nose breathers, breathing with their mouth open, can be a sign of a health problem.

Abnormal Blue tongue skink breathing sounds different than what you’re used to hearing. It’s often described as laboured, shallow, very rapid or crackling sounds such as air moving though liquid.

Causes Of Abnormal Blue Tongue Skink Breathing

Abnormal Blue tongue skink breathing can be a symptom of any of the following health problems:

  • Impaction – if your skink is impacted, their breathing can sound like wheezing sounds. Check for other symptoms that support impaction as a diagnosis
  • RI – respiratory infections normally present with heavy and laboured breathing or very rapid and shallow with open mouth. However, the only thing that can confirm this diagnosis is other symptoms such as discharge from nose, mouth or eyes
  • Stress. Then there is stressed or fearful/defensive breathing where they flatten their body and exhale with full lung-capacity in a huffing or hissing sound
  • Incorrect cage setup such as the wrong substrate – if your skinks’s sneezing more often than usual it can be the result of a substrate that’s too fine and loose getting caught in their nostrils


One of the symptoms of impaction include abnormal Blue tongue skink breathing that sounds like wheezing. However, it’s important to keep an eye for other symptoms of impaction such as:

  • No poop for more than a week
  • Full belly
  • Lethargic
  • Rubbing the belly against objects


The cause for impaction can be any of the following;

  • Too fine or dusty substrate. Although, your skink needs a loose substrate as they enjoy burrowing themselves, it’s still important for the substrate to not be too fine. For instance, substrates such as sand, small rocks and wooden shavings can cause impaction and subsequently abnormal Blue tongue skink breathing
  • Foods that are too big or difficult to digest such as insects with hard exoskeletons
  • Decorations in their tank such as small rocks that can be digested by accident


If you suspect that your abnormal Blue tongue skink breathing is the result if impaction, you can help them them by doing the following:

  • Give them a few drops or vegetable or mineral oil
  • Offer some foods that have a laxative effect, such as pumpkin, applesauce, boiled egg or banana. After feeding these foods, your blue tongue should poop in 2-3 days. If it doesn’t and they are still impacted, you’ll need to visit a vet
  • Serve their food in a purée mixed with water

In extreme cases, you’ll have to take your skink to the vet for an X-Ray and further treatments.

If left untreated, impaction can be fatal.

Respiratory Infection

If your Blue tongue skink breathing sounds like any of the following, it can be due to a respiratory infection:

  • Gasping
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Very heavy breathing
  • Very rapid, shallow breathing combined with not expanding their lungs (the area behind their front legs)

To be sure that your skink is suffering from a respiratory infection, other symptoms must be present such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Lack appetite
  • Mucus/discharge leaking from the eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Mouth bubbles such as mucus and froth. In some cases, eye bubbles can appear. Read more about that here
  • Puffy appearance, swollen body (check picture above)
  • Raising head to be able to breathe and open mouth breathing
  • Scabby lips
  • Watery eyes

It’s important to not panic at the first sign of sneezing as that can be the result of your skink burrowing in their substrate. Always, take into account all symptoms and observe their behaviour closely over a few days.


If you suspect that your Blue tongue skink breathing abnormally is due to a respiratory infection, it’s important to understand what causes it and to eliminate the culprit.

The most common causes of respiratory infection include:

  • Incorrect temperature levels – if too cold, the skink can develop respiratory infection
  • Incorrect humidity levels – too high or too low humidity can be equally damaging to your skink’s health
  • No temperature gradient in the tank can also result in respiratory infection
  • Dirty tank – unclean environment can result in bacteria growth and illness
  • Vitamin or Mineral deficiency
  • Prolonged stress due to the tank kept at a single temperature


Although, the treatment for Blue tongue skink respiratory infection is a course of antibiotics and anti inflammatory medicine, you can speed up your skink’s recovery by doing the following at home:

  • Increase the temperature
  • Include additional supplements
  • Change the water in their water dish
  • Clean the tank
  • Strip down the tank
  • Quarantine any tank mates

Read the full guide here


Blue tongue skink breathing can become abnormal when your skink is stressed. Prolonged exposure to stress can be extremely detrimental to your skinks’s health.

If you suspect that your Blue tongue skink breathing concerns are stress related, the first thing you need to do is establish what’s stressing your skink. If you don’t remove whatever is stressing your skink and only treat the symptoms, the issue will keep reoccurring.

Symptoms of stressed Blue tongue skink include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Laboured breathing with open mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Hiding

On the other hand, as a comparison, a happy skink that’s not stressed will be laying around, basking and napping.


Possible causes for stress in Blue Tongue skink include:

  • New environment – If your pet is knew, it’s only normal that they would feel stressed in the first few weeks until they get used to their new environment. This behaviour is normal and you should give your skink space for 2-3 weeks whilst still keeping close watch
  • Incorrect handling – if you’re handling your skink incorrectly, it can cause them stress and even injury
  • Incorrect cage setup such as loud noises, wrong temperature and humidity levels
  • Incorrect diet can result in your skink not getting enough nutrients which would subsequently lead to stress
  • Illness. Some illnesses will present with stress as a symptom. It’s important to first rule out all the other possible causes before considering illness.


As stress is usually caused by something that is either lacking or done incorrectly in their care, the first step of treatment is establishing the cause. Once you know what’s causing your skink stress, you need to either remove it from their environment or make the necessary changes in their care.

Usually, by making the right changes, the skink will relax and go back to their happy self.

Final Thoughts

Blue Tongue Skink Breathing

A common concern amongst owners is Blue Tongue skink breathing – what’s normal, what’s not and what to worry about.

As already discussed in this article, normal Blue Tongue skink breathing is not only quite erratic but they can also go for a long time without taking a breath.

Normal Blue tongue skink breathing includes shallow or deep breathes and some normal sounds such as hissing, huffing and the occasional sneeze.

On the other hand, something might be wrong if your Blue tongue skink breathing appears laboured with open mouth, very rapid or you can hear crackling sounds such as air going through liquid.

In most cases, unusual Blue tongue skink breathing is just a sign that you need to change something in their care such as their substrate. However, if you suspect the abnormal breathing is a sign of a respiratory infection, it’s important to check for other symptoms such as mucus/discharge or bubbles from the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Related Topics Q&A

Why Is My Blue Tongue Skink Sneezing?

In most cases, Blue tongue skink sneezing is completely normal. Skinks will sneeze to clear their nostrils or when they burrow into their substrate which they love doing!

On the other hand, Blue tongue sneezing can be of a concern when it’s becoming too often or when it’s accompanied by other symptoms such as discharge from the nose, mouth or eyes.

Read the full guide here Why Is My Blue Tongue Skink Sneezing? Causes And Solutions

Why Is My Blue Tongue Skink Whistling?

Blue tongue skinks make a variety of sounds that are totally normal. One of those sounds is whistling.

If your skink is whistling but there aren’t any other symptoms present, you shouldn’t be  concerned.

On the other hand, if your skink’s whistling is accompanied by other symptoms such as excessive salivating, open mouth breathing, mouth bubbles, it can be a sign of a respiratory infection.

Read the full guide here Why Is My Blue Tongue Skink Whistling? Causes



My name is Iliyana and I'm a passionate animal lover and pet owner. As there is significantly less information online about unusual and exotic pets, I decided to found this website and recruit expert writers to help pet owners.

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