Shedding which is also known as molting, peeling, or sloughing is a natural process in all reptiles where lizards including bearded dragons cast off their old skin.
Bearded dragon shedding is a completely normal and natural process. There is no need to be alarmed.
Scientifically known as ecdysis, shedding is a complex process where a brand new epidermis (Outer Skin) is replicated underneath the old one. When the outer skin (New Skin) is ready, the bearded dragon starts releasing enzymes that help in separating the old skin from the new one.
Unlike the snakes that leave a complete cast behind, bearded dragons cast off their skin in various pieces.
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Why Do Bearded Dragons Shed?
Bearded dragons shed as a result of either growth or the replacement of injured skin.
Bearded Dragons Shedding due to Growth
The skin of a bearded dragon is rough and mostly made up of keratinized scales. Because this keratin protein is not elastic, the skin of a bearded dragon will not stretch as it ages.
0 to 6 months: Shedding occurs almost weekly between the ages of 0 and 6 months. This is because beardies grow fairly quickly at this age. So, view it as a positive sign.
It usually only takes a day or two to complete.
6-12 months: Shedding will become less frequent between 6 and 12 months when the growth slows down. At 6 months, it’ll probably be every couple of weeks, then once every couple of months at 12 months.
After a Year: Your Bearded Dragon will shed even less frequently after 12 months.
At around 18 months: A Beardie will only shed a couple of times a year after reaching the age of 18 months when bone and muscle growth is complete.
Bearded Dragons Shedding due to Damaged Skin
Bearded dragon’s skin surface can get damaged and scraped because of their environment. As a result, an old coating must be shed to make room for a new one.
Signs of a Bearded Dragon Shedding
When it is time to shed, the skin becomes extremely tight. There will always be a change in skin color. It will always be dull and will eventually turn white before being shed. Don’t be alarmed; this is very totally normal.
How can I Help my Beardie during the Shedding?
Firstly, do not pick at the skin, you’re not helping them. In fact, you could be damaging the new skin underneath.
I’ve seen numerous reptiles, not only bearded dragons, suffer from damaged skin due to the owner’s interference in the shed process. This causes them discomfort and can lead to illnesses, so avoid doing it.
As compared to baby Bearded Dragons, adults are more susceptible to stuck shed. Old skin that is not shed properly in a timely manner can lead to restricted blood flow and cause infection. It can lead to cell death in fingers and toes.
Severe stuck shed in the tail can be more problematic.
If your Beardie is experiencing a stuck shed there are a few ways that you can help:
- Shedding Aid.
Bathing is a great first step to help with the shedding process.
You can put a large water pot in their tank which is easy for them to hop in. Or if your beardie is easy to handle, you can fetch him out of the tank and bath him.
Fill a bowl or Tupperware container halfway with lukewarm water to your bearded dragon’s eye level. Place them in the water, making sure the area where the shed is stuck is completely submerged.
Wait 15 minutes and make sure you don’t leave them unattended.
Try gently brushing the skin with a toothbrush after the bath. Adults bearded dragons shed more slowly, giving them a bath every few days is a good idea.
Alternatively, you can also mist the dragon/tank to aid the shedding, but be careful not to over-mist the tank because high humidity can also cause reparative issues.
During the shedding process, bearded dragons prefer more humid areas that is why they may tend to avoid the warmer end of the tank. This helps to some extent as hydrated dragons will shed far more efficiently.
Spray water droplets over your Beardie’s head and body gently. Mist the areas where your lizard is having difficulties shedding on a daily basis.
Misting the tank can help with shedding by raising the humidity in the tank.
This is something they also do in the wild. Naturally and instinctively they will dig burrows usually about 8 to 12 inches deep.
The humidity inside these burrows might easily exceed 80 percent. This moisture within the burrow will soften any shedding skin.
Shedding Aids and Oils
The last method that helps bearded dragons with stuck shed is through shedding aids and oils.
Shedding aids and oils are purpose-made sprays to help moisturize the stuck shed. However, this should be used as the last resort after bathing and misting.
The most common areas for stuck sheds in beardies are the fingers and tail tip. Unfortunately, a stuck shed can go unnoticed for many months leading to necrosis. This is one of the main reasons why bearded dragons lose part of their fingers or tail as they age.
Bearded Dragon not Shedding Properly
There are many reasons why Bearded Dragon might not shed.
Many shedding issues are caused due to poor husbandry, diet, or low humidity levels:
- A poor diet.
- Lack of hydration.
- Improper UVB lighting.
- Improper environment temperature.
Difficulty in shedding is also known as dysecdysis. Dysecdysis affects 25% of pet bearded dragons.
When shedding, complications could arise. But if the temperature, humidity, substrate, and diet are right then there shouldn’t be any problem with shedding.
They have been doing this on their own without any problems for millions of years. However, it could still happen.
How Often Do Bearded Dragons Shed Their Skin?
Shedding is linked to hormonal changes, and it varies for each dragon. The frequency of shedding is higher in baby bearded dragons that are less than a year old as compared to adult dragons. This is because baby dragons grow very quickly.
Baby dragons may cast off their skin several times in their first year. They will usually shed their skins every 6-8 weeks until they are over a year old. As they reach adulthood, where their body growth slows down, the frequency of shedding skin also slows down.
In adult bearded dragons, the shedding may be triggered due to certain conditions and behavior, e.g., Diet, Lighting, Brumation, Stress, Age, Breeding, Humidity, and Temperature.
Sometimes, adult bearded dragons shed their skins a few times in a year, but most often they will shed their skin in various pieces.
Bearded Dragons Behavior During Shedding Process
If your bearded dragon behaves strangely than usual during the shedding process, Don’t be alarmed this is totally normal.
Because of the shedding, the dragon may seem aggressive towards any attempt to touch or handle. This is completely normal, it’s best to give them plenty of space. This behavior can last from 2 to a couple of weeks.
Your bearded dragon may also start eating his dead skin, don’t worry as long as it is clean. The dead old skin is full of different nutrients mainly calcium. This kind of behavior can be a sign that your beardie is not getting enough nutrients in his/her diet.
Eating their old dead skin could also be a trait from the wild where they remove traces of their scent as a way of avoiding predators.
Excessive eye-bulging outside of shedding can be a sign of high blood pressure or atrioventricular block.
How Long does it take for Bearded Dragons to Completely Shed their Skin?
Normally, a full-body skin shed will take somewhere from 2 to 3 weeks for adult bearded dragons. But it can happen a lot quicker in baby bearded dragons.
Partial shedding will happen much quicker as compared to full body shedding. Typically, a partial shedding will take only a week to complete, but sometimes it can also take a little over one week.
Do Bearded Dragons Eat Less During the Shedding Process?
Bearded dragons often lose their appetite while going through a full-body shed. It can even stop eating altogether, but this is very rare. It really depends on the dragon. It can be different for different dragons.
If your beardie is having a partial body shed and has stopped eating, then this could be due to other factors. Its best to have it checked by a vet.
Why isn’t my Bearded Dragon Shedding Anymore?
When bearded dragons reach their full body size, they will do less frequent full-body sheds because their hormones change and their body growth declines.
You need to closely inspect your beardie because they may shed their odd body parts now and then without you knowing.
If you think your beardie has stopped shedding then this might be a health issue related to diet, habitat, humidity, or temperature.
If your bearded dragon is less than a year old and hasn’t shed for more than eight weeks, then this is a bigger cause for concern and is a sign of serious health problems. In this case, have it checked by a vet immediately.