One thing all reptiles have in common, no matter what shape and size they come in, is that they shed. Yes, animals can shed without having any fur! Though, the way a reptile sheds is a bit different than our furry companions.
Sometimes, reptiles get stuck shed. Let’s take a look at why this may happen and what you can do about it!
What Does Shedding Look Like For Reptiles? And Why Do They Need to Shed?
These are both great questions!
When mammals age and grow, their skin grows with them. However, this is not the case with reptiles. When reptiles grow they need to shed out of their current skin so that they can have more room.
There are a couple of different ways that reptiles shed.
For example, snakes will typically shed in one single piece. A bearded dragon will have a flakier shed that comes off in chunks over a few days. And leopard geckos will take anywhere from 10 minutes to a whole day. They’ll actually eat their shed skin, too!
Note: Bearded dragons can eat their shed as well.
If a reptile is not able to shed there’s danger that blood flow will be cut off to the area where the shed is stuck. Or their scales can be permanently damaged.
For example: stuck shed on tail tips can lead to the tip of said tail falling off. Same with toes.
Why is There Stuck Shed on my Reptile?
Almost all reptile keepers have encountered stuck shed at one point or another. Stuck shed can happen for a variety of reasons, but these are the most common:
- Issues with humidity and/or dehydration
- Stress or sickness
- Lack of vitamins/nutrients
- Low temperatures
How to Help With Stuck Shed:
Always double check your husbandry! These are the first things you can check:
- Are your temperatures in the right ranges?
- Is the humidity high enough?
- Does your reptile have water available?
- Does your UVB bulb need to be replaced?
These common stuck shed issues are typically the easiest to fix. If the issue is humidity then give your enclosure a good misting with a water bottle and/or offer a humid hide.
Some reptiles, like shedding leopard geckos benefit from having a humid hide available for shedding. A humid hide is a hide that’s full of damp paper towels, damp moss, or something similar to create a section in the enclosure with high humidity.
You can also offer some rough surfaces in the enclosure for your reptile to rub against. This helps loosen the shed and makes it easier for them to remove it. Read this blog for ideas to use as rough surfaces, and for general information on shedding bearded dragons.
Now, some cases of stuck shed are going to be more severe. These cases may benefit from the following methods:
For a reptile shedding skin, a bath is one of the best things. Fill a container with enough warm water to soak the areas where your reptile has stuck shed.
Simply place them in this bath, observe so they don’t drown, and take them out after 15-30 minutes.
Gently pull at the stuck shed to remove it. If it can’t be removed easily then leave it and try again several hours later or the next day.
For stuck shed on the eyes: Of course, we can’t put our reptile’s head under water. But, we can make a sauna effect by draping a towel over their warm bath. This should give an extra boost to humidity to help that old eye cap come off.
Oils And Shedding Aids
If your husbandry is fine and bathing isn’t working then you can consider using oils (such as olive or coconut oil) or commercial shedding aids to help hydrate the stuck shed.
The reason you don’t want to try this first is because if this method fails it could make the situation worse.
Never use oil for shed stuck on eyes! Go to a vet if the issue persists!
Never Rip Off Shed!
Never force reptiles shedding skin to shed skin that is not ready to come off. This can damage your reptile’s scales. Not only that, but you will cause your reptile to be in pain.
A good way to help remove stuck shed without hurting your reptile is to gently rub the shed with a soft toothbrush.
Assist, don’t force!
Want to Learn More About Taking Care of Reptiles?
Take a look at our other blogs regarding reptile care. We have quite a few for you to browse through and we’re regularly adding more! Feel free to check in weekly or monthly to see what’s new!