Snakes are fascinating reptiles and owning one is a very rewarding experience once you learn exactly how to care for them. For first time snake owners it can be a worrying time when your snake first sheds its skin. After all, you want to ensure your snake is healthy and all is well with them. You may feel concerned about if they are ok and that the shedding process is following the ‘normal’ cycle.
Here are some useful tips and guidance to bring some peace of mind and help ensure your snake sheds it’s skin safely and effectively.
Why Do Snakes Shed Their Skin?
Just like humans, snakes are continually generating new skin cells which replace old ones. The only difference between us and snakes it that we shed our skin cells in continuous small amounts, whereas snakes shed their old skin in in one go which is a process known as ecdysis and can also be referred to as sloughing.
How Often Do Snakes Shed?
The frequency of shedding is dependent on several factors such as age, species, environment and nutrition. However, typically you can expect a healthy adult to shed at regular intervals throughout its life, but shedding will occur more frequently in younger snakes.
Signs Snake is About to Shed
Once you know the signs to look out for, you will know when your snake is about to shed its skin. One of the first signs you will notice is your snakes’ eyes will turn a cloudy, dull, bluish-white colour and shortly after, its skin will appear dull and lighter in colour.
You may also notice some behaviour changes, such as increased anxiety and aggression. This is because the snake temporarily loses it vision so is naturally feeling more vulnerable and defensive.
How Long Does it Take a Snake to Shed?
The complete shedding process can take between one to two weeks. Whilst it can be tempting to intervene and help snakes shed, the best thing you can do is leave them be.
Snakes become easily stressed when shedding, so avoid handling during this time and just visually check their progress. Your snake will all show little to no interest in food, so until they have shed you need not try to feed them. Moreover, you should never try to help by physically peeling off any of the skin.
Instead, if you want to help aid your snake to shed its skin, you can put a basin of water in its enclosure and an assortment of course materials such as tree branches and stones.
Preventing Shedding Problems
A healthy and ‘normal’ shed will result in your snake easily shedding a full skin in one single tubular piece, rather than in many small pieces – known as dysecdysis. In order for a snake to shed its skin effectively it requires optimal nutrition and environmental conditions. These include, the correct temperate and levels of humidity and following the nutritional guidelines for the specific breed.
Other complications which may contribute to a difficult shed include, parasites, stress and other health issues. Therefore, be sure to address these elements if they are problematic. Humidity can be easily monitored with the aid of a humidity gauge and stress can be eliminated by keeping the snake’s vivarium in a quite location. However, if your snake struggles to shed its skin normally and after two weeks has not completely shed its skin, it is best to have them checked by an exotics vet, to rule out other potential causes such as parasites or other health conditions.