When you have a pet leopard gecko, one thing that might worry or excite you is when it starts shedding. Most pet owners wonder if the gecko is sick or needs help. Shedding or molting in your gecko refers to an instance when they will rub or push off their old skin.
Though it seems sudden, there are signs that your gecko might exhibit before shedding. Most leopard geckos have a dull color, refuse to feed, are moody or cranky and have some skin peeling off around their arms or head.
Understandably, you might have several questions about shedding in your leopard gecko though it is a somewhat straightforward process. Below are some answers that will ease this anxious period for you and your pet.
Why Do Leopard Geckos Shed Their Skin?
Shedding is a common occurrence among animals. Like children outgrow their old clothes and stop wearing them, animals too grow too big for their skins. In fact, even humans shed their skin constantly, but the flakes they get rid of in the process are too small to notice.
In most reptiles, including the leopard gecko, the outer skin is shed at the same time, much like stepping out of a suit.
You can think of shedding as a process where your leopard gecko removes its old skin and grows new skin cells to allow for body growth.
This is a crucial step in a reptile’s body because its skin is not elastic to simply stretch and fit its new body size. Shedding also allows your pet to heal from wounds and repair skin damage.
How Often Do They Shed?
Shedding will happen at different rates in different leopard geckos because elements like reproductive status, growth rate, stress and injuries influence the process. For instance, an injury on one body part can trigger whole-body shedding earlier than you expect it to happen.
Reptiles that eat more also shed more frequently because of their high growth rate. However, in general, a young leopard gecko sheds after every 1-2 weeks while an adult sheds every 4-8 weeks. The increased frequency in young lizards is because of their high growth rates.
The frequency of shedding should now worry you so long as your lizard is healthy. Irrespective of the frequency of shedding, you can expect your pet to complete the process within 24-48 hours.
Though you will expect to find some shed skin in your leopard gecko’s cage, do not be surprised if there is none after the process. Some animals eat the discarded skin to supply essential minerals that help them generate healthy skin.
This is also sometimes a natural survival instinct to avoid being detected by predators in the wild.
Should You Help Your Shedding Gecko?
Yes. In general, shedding occurs without any issues in a leopard gecko. Even so, problems might arise, and you should be on hand to help your pet.
As such, it is best to be on the lookout for any issues rather than leave the gecko alone altogether. Below are a few shedding problems your leopard gecko might face:
- Retained skin stuck around the toes because these are quite small. If you do not get rid of this skin, your pet might lose its toes because the dead skin cuts off circulation to the digits.
- Retained tail tip skin because the tail is thin and shed skin sometimes sticks to it. Though not as serious as the stuck skin near the toes, correct it promptly.
- Shed skin stuck near the vent can lead to hygiene problems, so always inspect your lizard’s ventral surface when shedding with close attention to the vent.
- Eye infections or injuries from the retained skin around its eyelids.
Are Leopard Geckos Aggressive When Shedding?
Yes. Shedding is a very stressful period for a leopard gecko because of the discomfort and amount of work it puts in at this time. Owing to this, most pets are naturally cranky and stressed out when shedding, things that cause most to become aggressive.
When shedding, it is best to give your gecko some space until the process is over. Even gently handling the animal might cause it to attack you.
Caring For Leopard Gecko When Shedding
The following are a few care steps for your leopard gecko when it is shedding:
- Gently rub non-sensitive body areas with retained skin using a wet cloth or paper towel to free the skin’s edges before gently pulling it away. You can also soak the gecko in warm shallow water for about twenty minutes to free the dead skin.
- When removing retained skin from sensitive areas like the tail tip, eyes, toes and vent, be careful because you can easily injure your pet. If the skin does not easily come off after soaking, consider getting a vet to free it.
- Ensure the gecko’s cage is well-hydrated and the animal has access to clean water since a dry environment increases the discomfort of shedding. You can have a bottle to spray the tank thrice or twice daily to keep it humidified.
- Give your gecko a moist hiding place. This can be in the form of an extra hiding container with some damp moss inside placed near its usual hiding spot.
- Keep the lizard’s environment free of external parasites like mites since these make shedding difficult.
- Avoid excessive handling of the gecko because this will stress it.
- Supplement the gecko’s feeds with essential vitamins that aid in healthy skin development.
- Have a rough decorative piece like a cork bark on which the animal can run its body when it feels itchy. This also helps to get rid of the dead skin from its body.
Hopefully, you have learnt something new about the shedding process in your leopard gecko from the above answers and are better prepared for your pet’s next shedding cycle.
Remember that a gecko can also shed its skin when ill. As such, if you notice any gross deviation from your pet’s normal behavior or shedding cycles that are too frequent, consider getting a vet to check it out.