Updated: Sep 25
What is shedding?
When a reptile grows, their skin doesn't grow with them - instead as they grow and get bigger they will shed their old skin to make more room.
So, what's the science behind shedding? When a reptile sheds its skin, the layers of new and old skin are separated via an enzymatic reaction and further separation is facilitated by lymph fluid being pumped between the layers. This is why hydration and humidity are critical during a reptiles shedding process.
How can you help? Reptiles shed in different ways depending on the species - snakes tend to shed their skin all in one go, whereas most species of lizard will shed their body in sections. Helping them during this time is something that can be applied across the board for all reptiles.
When a reptile is in shed you will see a noticeable difference in the way they look. They will often become duller and lose their colour, they may look more 'cloudy' than usual and with snakes their eyes will turn a blueish colour.
First things first, proper husbandry plays a vital role in an animals ability to shed - ensuring your temperatures and U.V. outputs are correct, making sure humidity levels are right for your specific animal, as well as supplying something with a rough surface area to allow your animal to use as a vice in removing their shed. These are all key components for helping your animal have a successful shed.
Moss boxes or humidity hides are a great way of creating an enclosed humid area for your animal to use during their shedding process. The humidity helps make the process a lot easier on your animals without having to spray down the entire enclosure of your animals. For instance, if you were to have a leopard gecko, we would recommend a moss box to help them with shedding as they are considered a dry species, so spraying their entire enclosure would not be ideal.
Another way of helping your animal during shed is giving them a warm bath - this helps with the hydration element. Keeping your animal hydrated during their shedding process is vital and offering them a warm bath is a great way to help with this.
Shedding for a reptile is a lifelong process of phasing out their aging skin - when they are younger they tend to shed a lot more frequently to accommodate for them getting bigger. However, even when an animal has reached their full adult size, they will still shed, just less often. Shedding helps maintain healthy scales, accommodates for weight gain and weight loss, as well as aiding with the removal of any external parasites.
During pre-shed the old skin is very fragile and can tear easily whilst the new skin underneath isn't quite mature enough yet - during this time we want to limit their handling to avoid any tears in the new skin.
Dangers of improper shedding
There are some dangers when it comes to improper care during shedding - this can include stuck shed on the toes or the tail. Over time the old skin can constrict around the area until blood flow is compromised and the tail/toe dies off. In these situation the extremities can drop off. Another issue, predominantly in snakes, is stuck eye caps. A build up of stuck eye caps can cause a loss of sight so we want to ensure that these parts of the snake come off during their shed. You can check the shed for these to confirm if they have come off or not.
We hope our blog post gives you a little more insight to this weird and wonderful process.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us to find out more!