Leopard Gecko Shedding
Leopard gecko shedding is normal and healthy. It’s what young leopard geckos need to do in order to grow. These reptiles shed their skin in order to replace their old skin cells and in the process will repair wounds or any skin damage they might have suffered.
It is also normal for them to act strangely while this happens by hiding a lot or maybe just being a little more distant than normal. But, when can you tell if there is actually a problem with their shedding?
Leopard geckos that have problems shedding can become blind or even die from complications. This is why as an owner you should be highly observant during this process.
Leopard geckos will periodically shed their epithelial skin, which is the outer layer of their skin. When a leopard gecko is shedding normally, you will see their skin looking grey as it peels off.
When this is happening be careful not to handle them because they are exerting a lot of energy and are usually physically exhausted due to shedding. They may even bite or become defensive, which is completely understandable.
Abnormal shedding is when the shed is retained, stuck, or just not fully coming off. It is not good for their shed to be disturbed since it is an important process they have to go through.
As an owner you should stay aware during this time and be observing that they are shedding in a healthy and complete way.
A healthy leopard gecko that is eating and acting normal will do so when they need it, so don’t worry too much about the frequency but more about how efficiently they are shedding.
When leopard geckos shed, they do not shed fully like a snake does. They will bite off the shed of their skin and consume it for nutrients.
Check out the below video showing what a healthy shed looks like for a leopard gecko.
Regardless of the reason why their shedding might be retained or abnormal, they must get their shed done fully because it is an important part of a healthy leopard gecko’s life.
Signs of Abnormal Shedding
One sign to look out for in case of abnormal shedding is their skin getting stuck onto parts of their body. Shedding should only take around a day or two, so if there are still flakes of retained skin stuck on them, there might be an issue.
When there are complications, your leopard gecko might even stop eating or being interested in food. They may also just be generally acting differently than usual.
Complications can be very painful for your leopard gecko, so you need to try to identify the issues so you can resolve them.
Possible Causes of Abnormal Shedding
Lack of Hydration
Hydration is very important and if your leopard gecko is missing the opportunity to have a little swim that may be an issue. Your gecko should be periodically soaking itself in a shallow bowl of water that is kept in their tank.
The bowl should be shallow, but large enough for them to put their body in. Keep water in it for them to rehydrate themselves when they feel the need to.
Have a look at our leopard gecko setup article for a more in depth explanation of what a good setup is.
Their Humidity or Damp Hide
As a good owner you should know your leopard gecko(s) need a warm hide, a cooler hide, and a moist hide. It’s crucial that you check that their moist hide is damp enough for them to shed in.
When leopard geckos shed, they need moisture to get the old skin off them. In fact, a week before shedding starts, they will excrete a film of lubricant naturally which will later help them slip the skin off.
Checking the humidity in your leopard gecko’s moist hide is crucial in preparing them for a smooth shed. They need a humidity of 30 to 40 percent in order to comfortably get through the shedding period.
A sick leopard gecko will definitely have issues when it comes to shedding. Leopard geckos can get parasites, which can also directly affect their skin.
Owners should always be taking their lizards in for regular yearly checkups or any time they suspect there might be an issue with their pet. It is crucial for their health and comfort.
Avoid stressing your leopard gecko out, regardless of whether or not they are in their shedding period. Leopard geckos are susceptible to stress and are not shy to show it.
If yours is stressed for whatever reason, make sure to check all environmental reasons that might be stressing them out or their reaction to your behavior, or when you handle them.
A stressed-out gecko is more likely to have issues with shedding, which can, in turn, cause many issues that will only cause them to be even more stressed.
Although it is not recommended to handle your gecko much or mess with them while they are shedding, they may need a little bit of your help if they are having complications.
It is crucial to note what areas are sensitive to the leopard gecko before you attempt to help them remove any retained skin.
If you are trying to get retained shed off non-sensitive areas such as the tops of their heads or their back, this process can be easy. Simply use a clean wet cloth or paper towel and rub gently, being careful while trying to get the skin off with very gentle friction.
If the shed still won’t budge, try again the next day and just as gently. If it still does not work, soak your leopard gecko for less than 30 minutes and try once again.
If you are trying to remove stubborn shed from more sensitive parts such as their tail, eyes, vent, or feet. These parts are very sensitive for leopard geckos so we do not recommend you do this without professional assistance.
That being said below are the steps your herp vet will likely use.
First, try the towel method, but be even more gentle and careful in these areas. You can then try the soaking method, and again, be extremely gentle. With the soaking method, you may need to do it a few times to free the skin.
If the retained skin is stubborn, keep in mind that you can injure your gecko if you do this incorrectly, so again, please seek veterinary assistance to ensure all goes well.
In their natural habitat, they will have no problems shedding. It is hard to recreate those environments in our homes, but there are things owners can do to avoid incomplete or abnormal sheds.
The biggest way to prepare your leopard gecko for a stress-free shed is by keeping its moist hide at optimal humidity. Again, this will be at 30 to 40 percent, and maybe even add some moist moss on their hide walls.
Your leopard gecko will try to rub their bodies on the things you put in their enclosure, so be sure to keep things that are not sharp to prevent any injuries.
Keep a shallow bowl in their tank to allow them to soak and stay moisturized. Make sure to replace the water regularly.
Lastly, going for regular checkups and making sure they have a well rounded diet are key in providing the best care.
Leopard Gecko shedding issues can be a pain for an already unpleasant process your leopard gecko has to go through. It’s a part of their nature that owners really want to pay attention to.
If you are keeping a good eye on your lizard and are taking care of them well, there should be no issues with shedding.
Shedding is a natural part of their lives and a sign that they are a healthy lizard. Complications are debilitating and can be prevented by careful owners.