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Reptile Shedding

Normal and Abnormal Shedding in Pet Reptiles

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Buddy - Bearded Dragon Picture

Buddy - Bearded Dragon Picture

Photo © Brandy Estep

Reptiles don't have fur to shed but they do routinely shed their skin. Some reptiles don't have any problems shedding their skin but many others have issues that can be easily prevented.

How Often Do Reptiles Shed?

Reptiles shed as they grow and then routinely once they are full grown. Each kind of reptile may also shed more often than others. Young reptiles will shed very often since they constantly growing and adults should be shedding at least a few times a year. If your reptile hasn't shed for over 4 months you should give your exotics vet a call to see if she is worried. Some reptiles, such as iguanas may shed once a month while others are every couple of months.

Do Reptiles Shed in One Piece?

Snakes should shed their skin in one piece but other kinds of reptiles will not. Snakes that aren't shedding in one piece may have a humidity issue in their enclosure, mites, or another problem. Other reptiles, such as iguanas and bearded dragons, won't shed their entire bodies in one piece.

What if My Reptile Has an Incomplete Shed?

Low humidity is the number one reason for an incomplete shed. Regular water soaks and water misting will help with incomplete sheds as well as increasing overall humidity in the enclosure. Try providing a larger water dish, covering a portion of the enclosure with a towel or plexi glass to help keep more humidity in the cage, offer moisture holding bedding (such as moss), or provide a humidity box.

If your snake or lizard has shed everything but his eye caps, you may need to assist him in removing them. If your lizard has bits of old skin remaining on his tail or toes try soaking him while gently massaging the remaining skin to help it peel off or allow your pet to walk on wet paper towels.

What if I Can't Get the Old Shed Off?

Go see your exotics vet for assistance. If you are afraid that you may harm your reptile by trying to get the old skin off it is better to let someone experienced do it. If there are several layers of old skin that have built up and are causing constriction to appendages your reptile may end up losing body parts like toes or tips of tails if the skin doesn't get removed. Old shed can also cause skin infections if moisture builds up underneath the layers and it doesn't get removed in a timely manner.

How Do I Know if My Reptiles is About to Shed?

Reptiles will typically start to turn an ashy or pale color, indicating that the top layer of skin is about to come off. Snake eyes may turn milky or blue, and your pet may not eat as much. It is important to provide optimal humidity at this time and objects in their enclosure that they can rub against to aid in skin removal if needed. Your pet may be more temperamental during this period as well.

Can I Help My Reptile Get His Skin Off While He is Shedding?

If your reptile is shedding normally do not help him get his old skin off. If you try to peel it off too soon it may not be ready to come off and you could cause damage to his new skin. You should only assist your pet if the skin or scutes (pieces of turtle shells) are not coming off on their own. Iguana spikes usually do need assistance in removing old skin and this can be done by soaking your iguana and then gently rubbing the old spikes off the new ones.

Is it Normal for My Reptile to Eat His Skin?

As he sheds, it is completely normal if your reptile eats his old skin.

If your reptile is having chronic issues shedding it could be due to a humidity or nutritional issue, mites, or other underlying problem and he should get checked out by your exotics vet to make sure nothing is seriously wrong with him.

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