If you own a Leopard Gecko or a snake you have probably noticed the occasional shedding of skin. For the more novice owners, this can often be a time of confusion or even worry but the more experienced reptile owners will tell you it is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.
Leopard Geckos will tend to shed their skin as frequently as weekly when very young and as often as once a month when more mature. That being said, it has been known for Geckos to go much longer without shedding and remain perfectly healthy. So don’t be too concerned if your younger Gecko hasn’t shed within a week or your older Gecko hasn’t shown off a new skin 5-6 weeks after the most recent shedding.
Why do Leopard Geckos shed?
It may seem unusual to see your pet losing its skin, but it is totally normal in the case of a leopard gecko. As their bodies grow, they shed their old skin and whereas with a snake you may see it all come off in one piece and be left in the enclosure, with a Gecko it comes off in smaller pieces and is eaten!
Their tough outer layer of skin is unable to stretch and grow as they get older and bigger so instead their skin peels away revealing a new tough skin that will remain until the next shed comes around.
How do I know if my Leopard Gecko has shed or is shedding?
If you have recently noticed your Gecko turn a paler shade of its normal vibrant colours, this could be indicative of shedding on its way.
Your Gecko may even look like a totally different species as its colouration turns to a more grey/white shade. Once fully shed your Leopard Gecko will be vibrant once again and quite possibly even brighter than before!
Before the shedding, you may also notice that your Leopard Gecko has gone off its food for one, perhaps two days. This is not unusual but at the same time, you may see your Gecko maintain the same eating habits as before. The only indication you may have is the paler skin on your Gecko
During the process of shedding though there are a few things that you may notice that would indicate the process is underway.
If the enclosure has rocks or climbing accessories, you may notice your Gecko starts to rub itself on them to get the process started.
You will start to see the skin flake from the head and gradually appear to flake elsewhere. During this time, your Gecko will start to tug at the old skin and in most cases eat it.
This process can be completed in as little as 10 minutes but may take an hour or two, meaning that it is quite easy for you to miss it happening altogether.
For some Geckos the shedding will take place out in the open, but others may feel more vulnerable so will stay in their hide until the process is complete. You should assume that from the moment the dull or pale colouration becomes evident, the whole process will take 1-3 days.
Can I help my Leopard Gecko shed?
If you see your Leopard Gecko walking around its enclosure with bits of skin hanging off, you may feel that they need help. For the most part, they will not need any input from you at all. They will work through the process in anything from 10mins to 2 hours and then be back to normal. There are a few things you can do to their enclosure that may help though, should you feel it necessary. Making one area of the enclosure more humid than the other can be a great assistance. Alternatively, you could make their hide damper than the other areas of the enclosure. You could also add additional pieces of décor that the gecko could rub itself against.
Aside from what you can do with the enclosure, ensuring the food your gecko eats has the essential vitamin supplements can go some way to making sure a shed is nice and easy for your reptile friend.
One thing you should not do is peel any of the skin off yourself. Peeling off the skin may seem helpful, but it can damage the newer skin or in fact, see some of the older skin become stuck. It is when the shed is stuck that you may need to peel some of the skin away yourself, more about that further down the page!
So whilst gecko shedding is relatively problem free, there are a few issues that may arise.
Leopard Gecko shedding problems
A Leopard Gecko shedding is normally a simple enough process but occasionally a few things could prove problematic. Mainly the stuck shed.
A stuck shed is where some of the skin the Gecko is shedding will not come off. This can be caused by a variety of things such as:
- Illness or stress
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Lack of moisture in enclosure/hide
- Inadequate temperature within the enclosure
If skin does become stuck during shedding it will end up drying and turning hard which could lead to problems for the gecko. The most common area for this is the feet and this can lead to blood flow to the toes being cut off. As a result, your gecko could lose its toes or get ill.
Another common area is around the eyes, this can be particularly concerning as if the unshed skin does dry around the eyes, it will mean the gecko is unable to open its eyes anymore.
How to help a gecko with a stuck shed
The two most common areas, the toes and eyes, can be treated to enable the shedding to complete. Sometimes you can rectify this with just a few alterations to the enclosure. If it was not moist enough, increase the level of moisture in the enclosure or hide. You may see this fix the problem. If not, there are still a few more things you can do.
Leopard Gecko stuck shed on toes
Make a shallow bath for your gecko, ensure the water is warm but not too hot. It simply needs to cover the feet. Have the gecko in this shallow bath for around 15 minutes but no longer than half an hour. The skin should turn soft during this time allowing for you to gently pull the skin free with tweezers. Should you feel tweezers may not be suitable, you can try cotton buds to help remove the stuck shed.
Leopard gecko stuck shed on eyes
With this perhaps being the worst type of stuck shed, you will need to provide your gecko with a sauna-like environment to aid the process. Find a suitable size plastic container and add some air holes to it. Line the container with a warm towel, add the gecko and then put a lid on it. Give the gecko around 30mins and the increased heat and humidity should make the skin soft enough to remove with a cotton bud.
If this does not work, it would be recommended to take the gecko to the vet where they can use specific instruments to aid the process.
Why do leopard geckos eat their shed skin?
We have saved perhaps the most common question until last, and it is one with a host of answers.
- Shedding skin is tiring for a leopard gecko so eating their skin gives them some nutrients without having to worry about hunting for food.
- You may be surprised to know your gecko is quite house-proud. Eating their skin is just one way of keeping their territory clean!
- In the wild geckos are hunted by a varied number of predators. Eating their skin helps cover their traces.
Should you have a leopard gecko that needs moving to a new home whether it be in the UK or abroad, speak to our team. We are an experienced reptile courier that can facilitate the smooth, careful and safe transportation of your gecko or any other reptile to any destination you require. With our expert team always on hand, your pet transport needs are met all year long. Simply get a bespoke pet travel quote today to see how we can help.