Bearded dragons, known for their charismatic personalities and distinctive appearance, are popular reptile pets. However, like all reptiles, they undergo a process called shedding, which is a natural part of their growth and maintenance. Shedding allows them to replace old skin and grow new, healthy scales. In this blog, we’ll explore what to expect during the shedding process and offer tips on how to help your bearded dragon through this essential phase of its life.
You may also want to read about the perfect Bearded Dragon habitat.
Understanding Bearded Dragon Shedding
Shedding, also known as ecdysis, is a crucial process for all reptiles. It enables them to remove old, damaged skin, revealing a fresh layer underneath. In the case of bearded dragons, shedding includes the outer layer of scales on their body, head, limbs, and tail.
Bearded dragons go through multiple shedding cycles throughout their lives. Younger dragons shed more frequently than adults because they are growing rapidly. A juvenile bearded dragon may shed every 4-6 weeks, while adults might shed every 6-8 weeks. However, these timeframes can vary based on factors like diet, health, and environmental conditions.
Signs of Shedding
To identify when your bearded dragon is about to shed, look for the following signs:
- Dull Color: The bearded dragon’s skin may appear dull or faded as the old skin layer starts to loosen.
- Cloudy Eyes: Prior to shedding, a bearded dragon’s eyes might become cloudy or bluish. This is a sign that the shedding process is imminent.
- Restlessness: Some bearded dragons become more restless and irritable during shedding. They might scratch themselves against objects or try to rub their head against surfaces.
- Reduced Appetite: Shedding can make bearded dragons temporarily lose their appetite. It’s essential to monitor their food intake during this period.
The Shedding Process
Bearded dragon shedding occurs in several stages:
1. Pre-Shedding (Pre-Ecdysis):
This stage is marked by the signs mentioned above, including dull coloration and cloudy eyes. During this time, the bearded dragon’s body is preparing to shed its old skin.
2. Shedding (Ecdysis):
Once the shedding process begins, the bearded dragon will actively work to remove the old skin. This often starts around the head and face and progresses down the body and limbs. They may use objects in their enclosure, such as rocks or branches, to help rub off the old skin.
3. Post-Shedding (Post-Ecdysis):
After successfully shedding, the bearded dragon will reveal its fresh, vibrant skin underneath. During this stage, the skin may still look slightly dull, but it will regain its normal appearance within a few days.
How to Help Your Bearded Dragon Shedding
While shedding is a natural process, bearded dragons can sometimes encounter difficulties or discomfort during this phase. As a responsible owner, you can take several steps to assist your pet during shedding:
1. Maintain Proper Humidity:
Adequate humidity is essential for a successful shed. Bearded dragons should have access to a humid hide or moist substrate (such as a coconut coir) in their enclosure. This helps keep their skin hydrated and facilitates the shedding process.
2. Provide a Soaking Dish:
Offer a shallow dish of lukewarm water in the enclosure, which your bearded dragon can use for soaking. Soaking can help soften the old skin and make it easier to remove. Ensure the water is not too hot or too deep, as bearded dragons are not strong swimmers.
3. Gentle Handling:
During shedding, bearded dragons may be more sensitive. Limit handling during this time to reduce stress and minimize the risk of accidentally tearing the old skin. If you need to pick up your dragon, do so with gentle and careful movements.
4. Monitor and Assist:
Keep a close eye on your bearded dragon as it sheds. If you notice that a portion of the old skin is not coming off, you can gently assist by using a damp cloth or your fingers to help loosen it. Be extremely cautious not to pull or force the skin, as this can injure the underlying scales.
5. Maintain Proper Nutrition:
Even though bearded dragons may eat less during shedding, it’s crucial to continue offering a balanced diet. Ensure they have access to fresh vegetables, gut-loaded insects, and clean water.
6. Avoid Disturbance:
Minimize disturbances in the bearded dragon’s enclosure while shedding is in progress. Excessive noise, handling, or changes to the environment can stress your pet and disrupt the shedding process.
7. Check for Retained Shed:
Sometimes, bearded dragons may retain pieces of shed skin, particularly on their toes and tail tips. These retained shed pieces can constrict blood flow and lead to health issues. Carefully examine your dragon after shedding to ensure there are no retained pieces, and if you find any, gently remove them.
8. Provide Post-Shedding Care:
After shedding is complete, your bearded dragon may still require some extra care. Continue to offer a hydrated environment and monitor their behavior to ensure they return to normal activities and appetite.
When to Be Concerned
Most bearded dragons shed without major issues, but occasionally, complications can arise. If you notice any of the following signs, it’s essential to consult a reptile veterinarian:
- Prolonged Retention: If your bearded dragon has difficulty shedding or retains old skin for an extended period, it can lead to circulation problems and health issues.
- Infections or Injuries: Infections or injuries can occur if the shedding process is disrupted or if the old skin is not removed entirely.
- Excessive Stress or Agitation: Severe stress or aggression during shedding can indicate underlying health concerns.
- Loss of Appetite or Weight: A prolonged loss of appetite or weight loss during shedding could signal health problems that require attention.
Bearded dragon shedding is a natural and necessary process in the life of these beloved reptile pets. By understanding the stages of shedding and providing the appropriate care and support, you can help ensure a smooth and comfortable process for your bearded dragon. Remember to monitor your pet closely during shedding and seek veterinary assistance if you observe any concerning signs or complications. Ultimately, a well-cared-for bearded dragon will reward you with its vibrant appearance and vibrant personality once shedding is complete.