The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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In folklore and legends, dragons exist to kidnap princesses, hoard treasure, and fight heroes and hobbits. In reality, bearded dragons exist to be prickly adorable pets. It’s hard to imagine a knight being concerned about a dragon’s shedding routine; however, you may be worrying if you find your bearded dragon not shedding sufficiently.
Thankfully, this guide can help you on your quest to solve your bearded dragon’s shedding problems.
When you have a reptile as a pet, shedding is always bound to be one of the most important things to keep track of. A healthy reptile will shed at regular intervals as it grows.
Bearded dragons shed for different reasons at different points in their lives. Identifying the particular reason at play with your dragon can also help explain why it is having trouble shedding.
First, there’s the fact that shedding is tied closely to growth. When your dragon is young, as long as it is properly nourished and in good condition, it should be shedding often. Over the first six months, shedding should occur weekly, after which it will start to gradually slow from aged 24 to 48 weeks, from twice a month to once a month.
Once they are a year old, shedding becomes much rarer, with it occurring only a couple of times per year.
Alternatively, bearded dragons can shed damaged skin to give themselves fresh protection. If your bearded dragon’s skin has cracked, it may feel the need to shed it and start anew.
Shedding Problem #1: Diet
A bearded dragon’s diet is one of the most important factors in their overall health. If your bearded dragon doesn’t have a healthy diet, it may not have the nutrients necessary to shed properly.
In the wild, bearded dragons primarily eat insects and vegetables, so you’ll want to replicate that diet as closely as possible to make sure they’re in good health and thus ready to shed.
For the best results, you should feed them a ratio of 75% insects to 25% veggies. While some fruit can be mixed in as well, you’ll want to avoid things such as oranges with citrus or types of meat that the bearded dragon’s digestive system cannot handle, which in turn may throw its bodily functions into chaos, shedding included.
Baby bearded dragons need to be fed several times per day to grow at the rate necessary to cause the regularly-scheduled shedding alluded to above. By contrast, adult bearded dragons can be fed on a three-day cycle, with one day for insects, another for fruits and veggies, and a third day off to let your bearded dragon digest all this food so it doesn’t become obese.
Dietary consistency is essential for shedding, so once you set a routine, it’s important that you stick to it. As alluded to above, shedding occurs in cycles, so messing with your bearded dragon’s food schedule can disrupt other aspects of its health routine, including its shedding cycle.
Shedding Problem #2: Their Habitat
As mentioned above, bearded dragons also respond to their environment, which can impact their ability to shed. If their environment isn’t amenable to proper shedding, it can lead to incomplete shedding or an inability for them to shed at all.
What’s more, bearded dragons sometimes need help completing their shed, and in the wild that can come from a tree branch or something else to help them dislodge a bit of loose skin.
As mentioned below, doing this yourself is a terrible idea, so you need to make sure you have branches and other bits of a bearded dragon’s natural habitat on hand to make it feel comfortable and help with its shedding.
Your bearded reptile’s habitat should, at minimum, include:
- A large enough vivarium (minimum 4 x 2 x 2 ft)
- UVB lighting
- A basking light and sufficient heat (80 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the hot and cool end, respectively)
- Plenty of rocks, branches, hiding places, areas where it can scratch off old skin, and so on
Shedding Problem #3: Lack of Moisture
If your dragon is shedding unevenly, or shedding is not occurring in a healthy way, you may want to consider changing its moisture situation. Thankfully, there are many ways to do this, including upping the humidity in your tank.
A quality bearded dragon vivarium should have humidity controls. Humidity levels of 30% to 40% are typically the best for bearded dragons.
Misting your dragon is another good way to give it some extra moisture. Ideally, you should already be doing this a few times a day, so if you aren’t already, you’ll want to start misting your bearded dragon and see if that helps with its shedding. If you are already misting it, consider doing so even more often to soothe its skin.
Baths are another good idea. Warm water is not only soothing, but can help with shedding issues. Fill the water up to about their rear knees (as you don’t want to drown your dragon), and keep the temperature between 85 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Shedding Problem #4: Tails
If your bearded dragon is shedding at different rates over different parts of its body, its tail may be the loser. In this case, your dragon’s tail may start to become discolored, which may itself be a sign of failing circulation. Obviously this is something you need to avoid at all costs.
Applying Aloe Vera and similar products to its tail can help soothe it and stimulate the shedding process there. If this problem persists, you’ll want to take your bearded dragon to a vet sooner rather than later so you don’t risk its tail’s circulation being cut off entirely or the tail itself shriveling up.
Don’t Pull Their Skin
One of the worst mistakes you can make when confronted with a bearded dragon that isn’t shedding at all or has only partially shed and still has some dead skin clinging to them is to try and pull the skin.
This is a terrible idea, in part because it’s a quick way to infuriate your reptile beyond measure. You wouldn’t like it if someone started pawing at your skin, so you can imagine how it must feel to have someone trying to peel their old skin away.
Not only can this infuriate your reptilian friend, but it can also potentially cause them pain and damage to their skin.
Reptile Shedding Aids
If all else fails, you might want to consider purchasing a reptile shedding aid. As the name implies, it is a mixture that, when used according to the directions, can help your reptile shed more easily. Different types of aids may have different instructions, so be sure to read them carefully and apply as needed.
There are many reasons why your reptile may be experiencing shedding problems, and just as many ways to combat those same shedding issues. The common denominator among all of them is understanding the basic necessities of reptile health and what your bearded dragon needs.
By reviewing its situation carefully and taking into account the importance of diet, moisture, habitat, and other essential elements of its environment and life’s routine, you can finish your quest and achieve the holy grail of healthy bearded dragon shedding.