Growing up, it’s pretty normal to feel completely uncomfortable in your own skin sometimes – it’s just a part of growing up! Some reptiles and bugs bring a whole new meaning to that saying, however. As they grow, it’s common for these animals to simply crawl out of their old skin. If you’ve noticed a change in your pet’s appearance and behavior such as discoloration, lack of appetite, or cloudy eyes, they might be shedding their skin! Here’s why and how you can help them through this natural process of growth.
What is Shedding?
The skin is an organ that continuously grows with the rest of the body. Molting or shedding is the process of regenerating new skin cells and discarding old skin cells. While humans are able to regenerate or shed skin unconsciously, other animals don’t shed quite so gracefully. Unlike humans, some reptiles shed layers of skin in large quantities periodically. Other creatures such as snakes and exoskeletal bugs may shed all their skin at once, which is called ecdysis.
Animals That Shed
Snakes are a popular example of animals who undergo ecdysis. According to Cascade Kennels, snakes can shed their skin fairly regularly, from 4 – 12 times a year. Snakes shed as they mature, so younger snakes that are actively growing shed more than older snakes. As snakes begin to shed, their skin becomes dull and dark. Since the old skin includes spectacles that protect the eyes, the snake’s eyes will fill up with liquids between the old and new skin, making their eyes look white and blue.
To remove the skin, snakes will normally rub against different objects, but snakes can come across issues if the temperature is too dry. Humid conditions help the skin rub off smoothly, so if you have a pet snake that is struggling to shed its skin. It can be a good idea to measure and adjust the humidity in its environment.
Lizards shed their skin in pieces, so don’t be alarmed if you find a giant slab of skin in your lizard’s tank! The skin will naturally fall off the body, but lizards can also exfoliate their skin off by rubbing against rocks or branches. Like lizards, turtles and tortoises also shed skin in pieces, especially around their neck, legs, and head. As their shells grow, their scutes (plate-like scales) peel and flake off. You can learn more about turtle shell peeling here.
It is common for animals undergoing shedding to be irritable and lose their appetite. Concerned pet owners shouldn’t worry too much about the change in temperament or shedding. You can leave your pet to shed skin naturally for the most part. If you think something is truly amiss, contact your veterinarian for professional help.
Problems with Shedding
Shedding can be a laborious process if conditions aren’t ideal for your pets. Here are a few things that may signal a trip to the vet:
Sores from rubbing
Partial shedding (for snakes)
Extremely frequent shedding (for turtles)
No matter what species you own, it’s important to keep an eye on your pet to make sure there is no abnormal shedding or infection occurring. Our veterinarian, Dr. Lopez at Brookhurst Animal Medical Center in Anaheim, can assess whether your animal is having problems shedding. For snakes and lizards, he can speed along the shedding process for snakes by carefully bathing the snake in water for an extended period of time. For turtles, it’s quite the opposite. Too much time in the water could lead to infections or mold which Dr. Lopez can also treat. While it’s possible for pet owners to attempt the same procedure, it is generally advised to see a professional because shedding is such a sensitive process. Ultimately, it depends on the situation. Check out this article about reptile molting or give your local vet a call to learn more.
Shedding is a normal part of a reptile’s growth, kind of like puberty with the weird skin and cranky disposition. It’s also a good indicator of your pet’s general health. Too much molting? They might be overfed. Too little molting? They might be malnourished. Either way, now you have a better understanding of your scaly friend and you’ll know what to do at these crucial stages of growth (which is mostly nothing). Happy shedding!
Are you looking to get a lizard, snake, turtle, frog, or other kinds of reptiles? Owning reptiles and amphibians is a big commitment, and taking care of them requires lots of care and knowledge of the species. While it is a very rewarding experience, it is very important that you maintain the health of both you and your pet reptile.
The first thing that you must do to keep your reptile healthy is by keeping its tank or enclosure clean. Your reptile’s living space must be clean and regularly maintained to make sure that it is a safe and healthy environment for them. This will also ensure that you keep your home clean and odor-free.
Determine A Schedule
Depending on the size and habits of your reptile, you may have to clean its habitat more thoroughly or more often. For example, a snake typically requires less cleaning, while a large iguana would need more work. Be sure to keep an eye on your pet’s habitat every day, checking to remove spills, leftover food, feces or shed skin. You will need to conduct a full cleaning of the habitat, including disinfecting, once a week.
Cleaning Habitat Accessories
If you choose to include decorations in your reptile’s cage – such as rocks, branches, and sand – these items should be cleaned thoroughly. Rocks can be cleaned by boiling them in water for 30 minutes. Before introducing sand into the environment, rinse it with water, and then heat it in an oven at 200-250 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Branches should also be cleaned and then heated in the oven, just like the sand.
Cleaning the Cage or Habitat
Before you begin cleaning your reptile’s habitat, make sure that you have a plan and all of the items you will need. This should include a clean second cage, buckets, terrarium cleaner, sponges, brushes, rubber gloves and goggles, and soap or dishwashing detergent.
Remove the decorations and accessories from the habitat or cage
Wash, rinse, and disinfect the bowls of food and water
Discard of any disposable substrate
Wash all surfaces, decorations, and non-disposable substrate with soap and hot water. Scrub with brushes, and rinse well.
Use a herp-safe terrarium cleaner and brush to loosen any tough spots in the habitat or cage
Use disinfectant on the cage and decorations. Afterward, rinse the cage and all items with hot water until all residue is removed.
Dry the habitat or cage completely
Reassemble the habitat, and replace any decorations that do not easily dry (such as wood branches)
If bathing is recommended for your reptile, give your pet a bath before placing him or her back into the newly cleaned habitat
Clean and disinfect all equipment that you used, including the buckets and sink
Lastly, wash your hands with hot water and soap.
Since reptiles are susceptible to skin and bacterial infections, it is very important that you take extra care when cleaning their living spaces. If you are looking for a veterinarian in Anaheim that is knowledgeable of reptiles, look no further. Dr. Lopez at Brookhurst Animal Medical Center is experienced in treating a variety of herps, and will take good care of your beloved pet.
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