Geckos shed their skin throughout their entire lives. But, unlike mammals, reptiles shed their skin all at once and not continuously. If their diet and environment are right, usually geckos shed without a problem. ( change )
Why do geckos shed
Geckos shed for many different reasons. The most important one is to help make room for new skin as they grow. Shedding also helps them remove external parasites, develop their adult coloration, conserve nutrients, as well as heal from injuries or damage to the skin.
In the wild, shedding can keep away parasites like ticks and mites that could otherwise cause illnesses. Successive shedding over months can also help them recover from bites, scratches, or other minor injuries. Healthy, pet geckos shed regularly as they grow, replenish their skin cells, and change skin color.
Though most people say a gecko is shedding its skin, in reality only the top layer of skin is lost. This layer is called the epidermis. The epidermis is a protective layer that shields the body from microscopic and macroscopic elements.
Age, diet, and habitat determine the frequency and ease with which your sheds. However, younger species grow faster than older individuals and so shed more often.
Symptoms of shedding
There are some behavioral and physical signs to look out for that will tell you when your gecko is ready to shed. These signs vary slightly between individuals but are all good indicators that they will soon shed. geckos getting ready to shed will grow dull and their pattern will fade into a gray color.
At this point, water and nutrients from the old skin get absorbed into the body to help grow new skin. As the new skin is grown, a layer of lymph fluid collects between the old and new layers. This pushes the old skin away, making your gecko look pale and papery.
Once the new layer of skin is ready, and the old layer is dried out, they will rub against a rough object or use its mouth to pull the shed skin off of its body. The new skin will be bright and colorful. They can shed once or twice a month as hatchlings and juveniles.
From six months old, your lizard will shed less frequently at a rate of once every three weeks. By the time they reach their adult size geckos will shed every four to eight weeks. There are also times when your lizard may temporarily stop shedding (e.g. brumating or incubating eggs).
Geckos that are close to shedding will not be interested in food. But, as soon as leopard geckos shed they should start eating regularly again. You may also see it eating its shed skin. This is normal and helps your lizard get nutrients.
The time a gecko needs to shed
After you notice your pet is entering a shedding cycle (i.e. its skin starts to turn dull), it will usually take one to three days to shed. Once it starts to shed, however, the skin removal process itself usually takes an hour, though some geckos may take 24 hours. Your gecko may lose its appetite during the shed cycle. This is normal.
They use a lot of energy to grow new skin and shed the old layer. When the two skin layers start to separate, it is normal for your gecko to become sluggish and lethargic. This lethargy is not a problem as long as your lizard returns to its usual energy levels after shedding.
Pets that remain lethargic, even three days after their shed, may have another health problem. In the days reaching up to shedding, you can feed your gecko if it is hungry. Once it starts to shed, however, wait until it is finished before offering more food. The process of removing old skin leaves them defenseless to predators.
Stressing a reptile that is in the middle of a shed by handling it or introducing food can lead to shedding problems. They will be irritable, even on good days. It is best to leave your lizard alone in its tank while it sheds.
The reason for improper shedding
When geckos age and get older they may shed less frequently. Sometimes, you may not notice your lizard shedding, especially if it sheds at night. This can make it seem like your gecko is not shedding at all when it actually is. If your lizard is otherwise healthy, growing, and eating, it is still shedding; you just may be missing the actual shedding period.
Some individuals will temporarily stop shedding if they are ovulating or incubating eggs. Growing eggs takes a lot of energy, so pregnant females may hold off on shedding until after they lay a clutch of eggs.
The shedding is stuck
Problems with a lizard’s environment, diet, and health can disrupt the shedding process. Dysecdysis is the scientific term used for retained or stuck shed. The stuck shed is not an illness, but a side effect of husbandry or healthy condition. The stuck shed is usually caused by poor diet or humidity.
External parasites, low vitamin A, or a severe injury can also lead to a stuck shed. geckos that are injured or carrying parasites will typically show other signs of poor health (e.g. thin tails or lethargy for more than a few days). If you notice your reptile still has shed stuck to its body after 24 hours of shedding, don’t panic.
There are several things you can do to help your gecko get rid of its retained shed right away. Here are five simple ways you can help a leopard gecko shed:
Fill a plastic container with two centimeters of lukewarm water. Place your gecko in the container, making sure the water is not above chin level. Leave your lizard to soak for 10 minutes, or until the water begins to cool off.
Soaking can loosen the shed and make it easier for them to remove. There is no need to bathe your leopard gecko if it is not having trouble shedding. Only soak your lizard if it still has stuck shed 24 hours after it has finished shedding
Misting your lizard directly can soften stuck shed, but never spray your leopard gecko directly on its face. Spray your reptile gently with lukewarm water, letting it sit for 10-30 minutes and patting it dry. A very fine mist works best. If misting directly doesn’t work, then try a shedding aid.
Shedding aids are usually water combined with aloe, jojoba oil, and vitamin E. They are designed to be sprayed directly on the skin. Most shedding aids work best when carefully rubbed into the dry skin with a Q-tip.
When your lizard is ready to shed, having a humid hide to climb in can help them shed properly. Fill a hide with one inch of damp sphagnum moss, paper towel, or coconut fiber.
This hide should be large enough for your entire lizard to fit in, but only have a small opening to prevent evaporation. If you provide your reptile with a humid hide for shedding, it is unlikely that you will need to bathe.
One of the most common reasons for a stuck shed is a lack of rough surfaces for your lizard to rub on. Many geckos use their teeth to pull the shed off of their bodies, but they will also rub against rough surfaces to get the spots they can’t reach with their mouths. Having nothing to rub on can leave the shed stuck on their back, nose, or tail.
Diet during shedding
You may also notice that your gecko eats very little during this time. It is also normal, and he will eat very little before and after the act of shedding. Once more, this is normal.
It is also where the eating of the shed comes into play. Once your gecko eats it, he will have a full belly and thus lots of energy to go with it, too.
If you notice that your gecko is not eating even one week after the shedding is over, or seems to be losing weight, schedule a vet visit right away. These often come with other scary symptoms like blood in the waste matter, acting lethargic, and more.
Your goal is to make sure you monitor your gecko closely during this period because you want to make sure that they are only avoiding eating due to shedding.
Other reasons a gecko might stop eating include having too low of temps in the habitat, contracting a parasite, or being impacted. They may also be stressed out for some reason.
Can I help my gecko while shedding
Do not peel the dry skin off your leopard gecko. It looks like and seems like an easy and helpful thing to do for your reptile, but you should allow the process to happen naturally. However, after one day of shedding, you may help your gecko along. After all, keeping this on his body can lead to dead toes, rot of the tail, and blood flow restriction.
You can use this shed spray to help your gecko shed his skin and then gently rubbing it in. Some gecko keepers might suggest a bath to help your gecko along-this is not necessary as geckos do not generally require baths. Moisturizing before you pull off the skin is essential to make it easier.
We use Zilla Shed Ease as our go-to spray for our gecko that needs a bit of help when shedding. For instance, we have a female gecko who has a difficult time shedding, and the spray soothes and gets the skin off in a timely fashion.
One of our other geckos tends to gather skin around the toes, so this solution does excellent with helping him get rid of that excess skin. After we use this solution on the geckos, it only takes a damp q-tip or a gentle pull with tweezers to remove this skin.
Do gecko eat their own skin
The act of shedding skin is a tough process. It takes a lot of a gecko’s energy to do this. The gecko might be so tired and hungry after this process takes place, that the shed serves as a good thing to eat afterward as it will restore energy.
Geckos may also eat their shed because, in the wild, they do not want to let predators know where they’ve been.
Geckos eat their skin after they shed it because they want to leave absolutely no trace that they were there for their predators to find.
They may also reclaim some nutrients from the shed skin. Other geckos shed not sure how many others eat it though.
Holding a gecko while shedding
Be sure not to handle or disturb them too much during this process as it can cause issues like a stuck shed. Don’t take it personally if they try to bite or become defensive, they are expelling lots of energy and are physically exhausted.
Why do geckos struggle to shed?
If your gecko is having shedding problems, it is likely to be due to their skin not getting enough moisture from their environment, so their skin isn’t pulling off properly.
Does shedding hurt the geckos?
Shedding does not hurt geckos, but it can be a painful experience for them if they start to have complications getting it off. If your gecko is provided with the right tank requirements for a successful shed, then it won’t hurt them one bit.
Symptoms of impaction
- Cloaca licking.
- Appetite loss.
- An unusual dark spot on the underside of the belly.
- Weight loss.