What to do When a Reptile Suffers an Incomplete Shed

What to do When a Reptile Suffers an Incomplete Shed

Keeping a reptile as a pet is extremely rewarding, not only are these exotic creatures gorgeous looking but taking care of them is educational and fun too. Learning about a reptile and how to take proper care of them means finding out about their natural habitats and then recreating this for them so they can be kept happy and healthy in captivity. You also need to learn about common health issues and then do your best to avoid any of these affecting your pet. One of the issues that affects reptiles is to do with shedding but this can be avoided or kept to a minimum through good husbandry.

The Factors that Contribute to Shedding Issues

Incomplete sheds and shedding problems can be caused by a variety of things with the most common reason being an issue with humidity levels. Other reasons include the following:

  • Skin infections
  • Skin injuries and abrasions – this can include old scars
  • Parasites
  • Malnutrition
  • Not enough lighting or heating

If you find that your pet is experiencing an incomplete shed, the first thing you need to do is take them to the vet to make sure there are no medical conditions causing the problem. Once this is established, you then need to check whether your pet is living in the right type of environment with the correct humidity levels because if these are inadequate, it could be reason they are experiencing shedding problems.

You would need to check the humidity levels required for the type of reptile you keep as a pet and then invest in a hygrometer if you don't already own one. This will help make sure your pet is being kept in the correct environment. You then need to check that adequate lighting is being provided and if needs be, invest in a top quality UVB lamp available for the specific species of reptile you own.

The next thing you might need to take a close look at is the type of diet you're feeding your pet because if this is incorrect, it can affect their sheds quite dramatically causing all sort of issues.

Snakes – How to Deal with Shedding Issues

When snakes shed, they typically do this in one single go. The shed starts at the tip of their noses and then works all the way down to their tails with the skin coming off in one piece – it's very reminiscent of when you take off a sock and it turns inside out. However, when there's a problem, the skin comes off in patches rather than in one piece and often there are some areas of the body where the skin does not come off at all. The biggest problem is usually around the eyes where retained eye caps can be a real issue because the protective scale on their eyes fails to shed.

If you find your snake has problems, the best thing to do is soak them in a shallow container filled with warm water and you might need to do this several times a day. You need to ensure the water covers your pet's entire body being extra careful not to let them drown – you should never leave them in the water unsupervised when they are soaking.

You may also like to try wrapping your pet in warm damp towels which works well as there is a little friction and this helps remove any skin. Some people place their snakes in a pillowcase for a couple of hours as this too provides a soft friction that helps them shed their skin.

Lastly, offering a humidity hide is another very effective way of helping a snake shed its skin. The higher humidity in the hide works a treat and usually resolves any shedding issues. When it comes to arboreal snakes, the best method is to regularly mist them which should prevent any shedding issues from happening.

Lizards – How to Deal with Shedding Issues

It is more common for lizards to shed skin in patches but with this said problems do happen. This is usually where the skin refuses to come off which is typically around tails, toes and the base of the dorsal spine with the result being the skin dries up and then constricts which can cause a lot of damage to the affected areas – toes can be lost and tails too!

Shedding normally takes around a week or so to complete but sometimes a shed can happen one after the other which makes it really hard to tell if there is a problem or not. As a general rule, the majority of the skin should come off in a couple of weeks once the shed has started.

When it comes to treating the issue, it is pretty much the same as you would deal with a snake with shedding issues. You would need to soak your lizard in warm water making sure you use a shallow container and to never leave them on their own whilst they are soaking. You would probably have to repeat the process several times a day. Again a humidity hide can be really beneficial and especially for leopard geckos. However, water dragons regular misting can really help resolve shedding problems.

You can very gently massage loose skin off from around your pet's toes and dorsal spines but you have to be extremely careful when massaging their tails because some species will drop their tails off as a form of defence.

Turtles – How to Deal with Shedding Issues

Turtles shed their skin on their heads, legs and tails with the skin found on their bodies coming off in larger and somewhat ragged chunks. Aquatic turtles don't generally experience shedding problems whereas terrestrial ones do. More often than not, just soaking or misting your pet resolves the issue. The thing to bear in mind is that aquatic species will also shed the outer layer of their scutes which are the large scales on their shells.

Should one of the scutes not shed properly it can be a problem and lead to a nasty infection. Turtles need to bask under a heat lamp so their shells get to dry out and if they do not, this is where the problems can start. The best thing to do is reduce the temperature of water to encourage them out of it and to lie under the lamp. However, you also need to make sure you have appropriate lighting in the tank. Lastly, you need to make sure your pet is being fed a correct diet which can affect how they shed their scutes. If you have any concerns, a trip to the vet could be in order.



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