Almost all reptiles shed their skin and this includes chameleons. For most chameleon owners, the first time seeing their chameleon shed will raise a lot of questions and worries. Depending on the reason for shedding, it could be a bad thing or a good thing.
Why is my chameleon shedding? Shedding helps them renew old skin cells, accommodate growth, and keep themselves clean. Adult chameleon will shed once every four to eight weeks, while baby chameleons will shed once every 3 to 4 weeks.
If you’re wondering why your chameleon sheds and if there’s anything you need to worry about, keep reading.
Why Do Chameleons Shed Their Skin?
Chameleon shed their skin for various reason. Like most reptiles, their skin isn’t elastic and doesn’t expand or shrink. The only way to accommodate the changes in the body is to shed. Also, shedding helps the chameleon stay healthy.
However, there are times when shedding is not natural and could hurt or even cause death for the chameleon. Therefore, it’s important to know whether the chameleon is shedding naturally or shedding due to a problem.
Shedding Due to Cleanliness
In their natural habitat, chameleon’s skin is exposed to the environment all the time. Over time, their skin will get dull and contaminated from natural things in their environment. For this reason, they will shed to keep their skin clean.
In captivity, chameleon’s skin is exposed to natural sunlight and artificial lights. Constant exposure will make the skin dull. Also, dust and other containment in the air will get onto the skin of the chameleons. By shedding, they keep their skin clean and healthy.
Shedding To Renew Old Skin Cells
the top layer of chameleon skin is very thin. This thinness of the skin plays an important role in their abilities to change color. As the skin’s cells age, it gets dull and weak. This will prevent them from changing color quickly. To be able to morph into different colors quickly, they need to renew old skin cells periodically.
Shedding Due To Growth
For baby chameleons, they need to shed to accommodate their growth. As they get older, they also get bigger. Chameleon’s baby will shed more often than an adult will. They will shed every 3 to 5 weeks. This also depends on the species as well. Some species like the Panther chameleons reach adulthood at the age of 8 months. For this species, they will shed more often.
For adult chameleons, they will shed not because of growth, but to accommodate changes in weight. Adult chameleons will shed when they gain weight or lose weight. This is to ensure their skin is wrapped tightly over their bodies.
Shedding Due To Stress
Sometimes a chameleon may shed due to stress. This is not a normal shed and should be paid attention to.
Chameleon will shed when they are stressed. Stress can be from many different sources. One of them is being introduced to a new environment. This will usually happen when you’ve just bought your pet chameleon and bringing it home for the first time. They might hide in a corner of the enclosure and turn black or a dark color. This will be followed by white spots appearing on them and precede with shedding.
Another thing that could cause shedding is from an illness. When the chameleon is sick, they may start to lose weight. To compensate for the reduction in body size, they may shed. For that reason, you must monitor your pet chameleon to know if the shed is a natural one or there is a problem.
The vet also advises monitoring and pay attention to the timing and how they shed. When your chameleon is shedding from its regular frequency, it may indicate a problem.
How Often Do Chameleons Shed Their Skin?
How often a chameleon shed will depend on their species, environment, and age. Your chameleon shedding will tell you a lot about themselves.
Some chameleons can shed their entire skin from head to tail in as little as 5 minutes. Other chameleons can take five to six days to shed their skin entirely.
Baby and juvenile chameleons will shed more frequently than adult chameleons. Baby chameleons will shed their skin frequently due to growth. A chameleon reaches maturity at the age of about 8-10 months. For that reason, they will shed their skin once every 3 to 4 weeks.
Adult chameleons shed their skin less frequently. The frequency and length of time of shedding will vary from species to species. Each chameleon is different and each will shed for different reasons.
All species of chameleons shed their skins, but some will shed more than others. Larger species of chameleons like veiled Chameleons, Parsons chameleons, Jackson chameleons, and Panther chameleons do not shed frequently. They usually shed once every four to eight weeks. On the other hand, smaller species of chameleons like pygmy chameleons will shed more often at about once every 3 weeks or so.
All chameleon owners should be aware that chameleon shedding will depend on each chameleon.
Chameleon Shedding Signs?
As the chameleon starts shedding, they will start to exhibit several different signs. As they start to shed, you’ll want to keep an eye when they shed to make sure there are no problems. Sometimes, the chameleon could be having difficulty shedding and it could lead to a more serious problem.
Loss Of Appetite
When the chameleon is shedding their skin, they will tend to go without food for a few days. This behavior is usually a couple of days before they start shedding. Sometimes, they will not eat when they are shedding as well. It’s normal for a chameleon to have a loss of appetite while shedding is near, so there’s nothing to worry about.
Rubbing Itself On Tree Branches
Another sign they are ready to shed or are shedding, the chameleon will begin to rub themselves on branches of trees. For that reason, it’s a good idea to make sure all the branches don’t have any sharp points, which could injure the chameleon.
During shedding, the chameleon’s skin will appear to be dry. At this time, there’s nothing to worry about. However, if the dry skin persists after they are done shedding, there might be something in the environment affecting them. This could be caused by poor humidity and hydration levels.
Chameleon scratch to help remove the old skin from their bodies during shedding. The dead skin is rather itchy and the chameleon will try to remove it as fast as possible. You will notice they use their feet to scratch their sides and head to remove the old skin.
A chameleon that is about to shed will be restless and they will wander all over the enclosure. If you noticed the chameleon is moving more often than before, this is a good sign they are about to shed. Also, they will not eat anything and appear to be aggressive when being approached. During this time, it’s best to let them be alone and let them wander the enclosure without any interference.
This is the most common sign when a chameleon is about to shed. White spots will start appearing all over their bodies. Most white spots will be small, but there are others that will be larger. When the white spots start appearing, it will get larger as each hour goes by. As it gets larger, the skin will start to lift off the body of the chameleons.
Chameleon Shedding Help From You
When the chameleon is shedding, it’s best to leave them alone. Most people will try to help them shed faster, but that’s usually not a good thing. Helping the chameleon pull off their old skin will tend to cause them stress. Chameleons don’t like to be touched so it’s best to leave them alone while they are shedding.
There are times when you’ll need to help them shed. The old skin might not come off and this is when you can help them remove it. Wait until they have completely shed their skin. Then look for skin that hasn’t come off. When removing the old skin, use a cotton swab dipped in warm water. Gently scrape the skin off of the chameleon. While scraping and the chameleon seems to be stressed, move away from it and come back in a few hours or so. During this time, they are already stressed and you don’t want to stress them out further.
Removing the old skin from the chameleon is important. Unshed skin can reduce blood flow to the area where the skin didn’t come off. As the chameleon grows, the unshed skin will begin to get tighter and it will prevent blood from flowing to that area.
Also, unshed skin can cause infections for the chameleon. If the skin is not shed, bacteria can get between the skin and the chameleon’s body. They will start breeding and cause infections to the chameleon.
While a chameleon is capable of shedding without any help, there are times they may need some help. If your chameleon seems to have difficulty shedding, you can help them shed with medication. One medication I’ve recommend is Zilla Shed Ease Conditioning, which is found on Amazon. This product will help your chameleon shed easier and quicker.
The only time you should start to worry if you notice a build-up of unshed skin and that area appears to be darker than other parts of the body. This is usually a sign that something is wrong and it’s best to take them to a vet.
As for helping them, they are capable of shedding their old skin off successfully by themselves. It’s best to just watch them shed and keep an eye out that they have shed all their skin completely.
Chameleon Shedding Problems
Chameleon Constantly Shedding
Constant shedding more than the usual could be a sign something is wrong with the chameleon. For a baby or juvenile chameleon, constant shedding shouldn’t be anything to worry about. For an adult chameleon, shedding should be every 5 to 8 months. If they are shedding more within that time frame, there are some possible causes for it. The humidity level may be too low or too high or they are losing or gaining weight.
Chameleon Shedding A lot
If you noticed your chameleon is shedding a lot, it could mean many things. Some are bad and some are good. Some species of chameleon will shed one part of their body at a time. So this may seem like they are shedding a lot.
Weight gain and weight loss could also contribute to their excessive shedding. Since their skin isn’t elastic like us, they need to shed to keep their skin tightly conformed to the new body.
Shedding could be a good thing or a bad thing for the chameleon. Shedding can tell you a lot about the health of your chameleon. Therefore, every time that they shed, looks for signs of natural shedding or shedding due to a problem.
Dan got started with his first reptile, which was a green iguana, at the age of 10. From there, he has raised many different species of reptiles. Besides caring for reptiles, he enjoys woodworking, playing basketball, and spending free time with my 4 wonderful kids.