Bearded dragon shedding, also known as ecdysis is a natural process with all animals even we humans shed off dead skin cells every day. In the reptile kingdom shedding (molting or sloughing) is a lot more obvious. This is when your dragon casts off its old skin leaving a fresh, new epidermis (outer skin) underneath.
Should I help my bearded dragon shed? No, you do not have to help them shed. This is because the new skin underneath could still forming. That means the scales may not be fully formed and the nerve endings may not have completely separated. Making it painful for your bearded dragon if you start peeling off the skin.
The following information will address everything you need to know about bearded dragons shedding:
- Reasons why your bearded dragon is shedding
- Bearded dragons shedding signs
- How long bearded dragons shedding last
- What to do for a shedding bearded dragon
- Bearded dragons not shedding properly
- Stuck shed on bearded dragons and lack of nutrients
- Shedding and not eating
Reasons why your Bearded Dragon is Shedding
The two main reasons your bearded dragon will begin to start the shedding process will be due to either
- growth or
- some form of damage typically getting snagged on something inside the enclosure.
Since bearded dragon skin comes from a keratin-based protein (some stuff that makes hair, nails, claws, hoofs, etc.). Therefore, it is not elastic (like our skin) and so will fall away.
However, think of it like out-growing your favorite pair of denim jeans. After a while, it would get incredibly uncomfortable and it’s time to switch them out for a new pair.
0 – 6 months
During the early months (0 – 6 months of age), your bearded dragon will be eating a lot. And as a result (if everything else is ideal) growing a lot. So, expect to see your bearded dragon shedding every week.
Alternatively, adult bearded dragons will typically go through an overall shed. Thus, it will be a lot less frequent. For example, every few months, whereas hatches will do partial sheds at a higher frequency.
6 – 12 months
From 6 months bearded dragons will shed roughly every few weeks. And once they hit 12 months, it will reduce even more to about every few months.
During the adult cycle (18+ months), a bearded dragon will shed a couple of times per year.
Skin damage triggers bearded dragon shedding. Hence, your bearded dragon will need to replace it with a new shed.
Bearded Dragon Shedding Signs
The most typical signs of a bearded dragon who is about to shed will be things like
- the skin looking very tight, and
- skin discoloration.
Therefore, the skin will appear duller in appearance. This is called the pre-shed stage.
The cool thing about watching your bearded dragon going through this process is watching the bright new colors of the skin underneath coming through once they complete their shed.
Here are some other telltale bearded dragon shedding signs:
- Lethargy (lack of energy)
- Loss of appetite
- Nervous behavior
- Irritable and not wanting you to handle him
- Raised patches of skin
- Bulging eyes
However, bearded dragons will often bulge out their eyes to loosen the skin around that area.
How Long Bearded Dragon Shedding Last
- for baby dragons, the shed will last a couple of days
- for juveniles, it may last for 2 to 3 weeks. And will generally come off in body parts (head one week, legs the next, etc)
- for adults, the final growth stage completes and molting will be quite random.
For example, one week, the head may shed. And then a few weeks later the tail might begin. As a result, there is no real schedule.
Under normal conditions, shedding can take a few days to a few weeks. Hence, monitor closely shedding that seems to take longer than 3 weeks. Because it could indicate something else.
During this time it is essential that their
- lighting, and
- temperatures are at optimal levels since this can be problematic during a shed.
What To Do For A Shedding Bearded Dragon
During this time, your bearded dragon will be quite uncomfortable. So, the best thing you can do is to leave them alone to complete their shedding.
That said, I’ll offer you a few tips to make your bearded dragon’s life a little more comfortable.
Inside your enclosure, you try to provide items like:
- Substrate (not tiles, paper, etc.)
- Plenty of water
Therefore, these will help your bearded dragon loosen the shedding skin.
- quality UVB
- lighting and
- the correct heating gradient will be essential during this time.
Some bearded dragon owners will give their dragon a bath to help further wash away loose shed.
On the contrary, most owners will allow their dragon to move through the process as naturally as possible. But making sure all of the above (UVB, Rocks, Heating, etc.) are in place.
Increase Tank Humidity
Normally humidity is something you need to keep under control. Too much can lead to respiratory problems. Nonetheless, during a shed, this added humidity actually helps to soften the skin.
In the wild bearded dragons will burrow and inside these burrows, the humidity levels can be around 80%.
Therefore to increase the humidity levels inside the enclosure you can do things like:
- move the water dish to the hot zone (change the water frequently to avoid bacterial growth)
- mist the branches and other items inside the tank
- add a fogger with a timer to come on at specific intervals during the day.
- misting your bearded dragon. The water will run down their head and into their mouth keeping them hydrated.
My Bearded Dragon Is Not Shedding Properly
This is typically referred to as a “stuck shed” or Dysecdysis. And shouldn’t happen if everything else is optimal like
- UVB, and
This stuck shed will typically happen around the:
- Top of the head
- Underside, or belly
Most of the time, they remove a stuck shed on the next shed cycle. So don’t worry too much. But if it is becoming a real problem get them over to the vet.
That said if you do notice some stuck shed and there appears to be some swelling around that area. Get them to the vet as soon as you can. Don’t wait for the next shed cycle.
Stuck Shed On Bearded Dragons And Lack Of Nutrients
One common reason for bearded dragon shedding problems is improper nutrition.
Some important vitamins and minerals are:
B vitamins are essential for neurological function. As well as, energy metabolism. Vitamin B is not stored in the body.
So you can use this supplement without worrying about it building up and becoming toxic.
The great thing about B vitamins is that they are water-soluble. Meaning that any excess B vitamins will pass out with no problem.
Vitamin D3 and Calcium are the most important vitamins and mineral for your bearded dragon. But your D3 should only be coming from your lighting.
Research is showing that bearded dragons may not be digesting much (if any) D3 from supplements. Thus, it is essential that you have the right UV bulbs.
The bone needs calcium for development and health. Likewise, it is especially important for gravid (pregnant) females.
Calcium requires Vitamin D3 to be properly metabolized. Thus, it is best to provide them both together.
Look for a calcium and vitamin D3 supplements that have a calcium to phosphorus ratio of at least 2:1. Besides, you want to avoid giving your dragon too much phosphorus.
Again, the most problematic areas for a stuck shed are going to be around the
- top of the head
- eyes, and
- belly area. Hence, during the shedding process take a close look at these areas to make sure everything is moving along smoothly.
Shedding And Not Eating
A reduced appetite prior to shedding is common. As a result, if you notice that your bearded dragon seems a lot less interested or even refusing their food. Then, it could be approaching pre-shed.
Therefore, look for other shedding cues to give you an idea of why they are not eating.
If your dragon is healthy, then they can go for weeks without eating. Since she will have plenty of nutritional reserves inside her body.
Note: If your dragon is refusing food and is also losing weight. Then it could be a sign of something else like parasites. In which case it would be a good idea to get them over to the vet for a checkup.
Subsequently, you should continue to offer food and make sure that they are well-hydrated. This will help them during this process.
Why Is My Bearded Dragon Not Shedding?
If you have an adult bearded dragon, then it is a big deal. Since they will have already reached full size (bones have stopped growing, etc.).
Just make sure you have
- optimal heating
- correct lighting
- all of their dietary requirements met.
If you have everything in order, then there is no need to worry. However, if your bearded dragon is inside that 0 – 12 month age spectrum, then you need to make sure you have all of the above needs met.
Failure to get them to the vet may give rise to other underlying issues, such as parasites.