If you currently own or have ever owned a bearded dragon, or any reptile, you have more than likely experienced a particularly interesting phenomenon scientifically known as ecdysis, or shedding of the skin or scales. This is a very natural process for bearded dragons but that doesn’t mean it can’t come with a few challenges.
If you have ever witnessed your bearded dragon during the shedding process or have some sort of difficulty during his or her shed, you may have some questions and concerns. What could be causing a patchy shed and what can you do to help your bearded dragon; well, let’s take a look.
To put it plainly, it is completely normal for bearded dragons to shed in patches instead of one fell swoop like snakes, and there isn’t much of a reason for this process or anything you can really do to help. When a bearded dragon starts their shedding process, it is best to just leave them alone and let them do what they need to do.
Bearded dragons will continuously shed throughout their life, decreasing in frequency as they get older.
Bearded dragons, like any other reptile, will shed for multiple reasons during its lifetime, including age, growth, damaged skin, hormone changes, or even parasites. We will be discussing these common occurrences and reasons for shedding, along with what can cause an incomplete shed, and how to assist your bearded dragon with any issues he or she may be experiencing.
Now, let’s peel back that outer layer surrounding the world of bearded dragons and get a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of shedding for bearded dragons.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Shed
Age And Growth
Age and growth are the most common reasons for a bearded dragon, or any reptile, to begin a shed. Although it isn’t directly linked to shedding, the hormonal changes that go along with aging and growing are.
As baby and juvenile bearded dragons get older and larger, they experience a number of hormonal shifts that every animal experiences as they get older, which in turn will cause them to shed their skin more frequently than an adult bearded dragon. As a rough guide to aid in guessing when your bearded dragon might shed next, shedding will occur roughly every 6 to 8 weeks until they are over a year old.
Once bearded dragons have reached adulthood and their fullest potential in size, they will begin shedding different patches off their body with a full body shed maybe once or twice a year. These sheds happen at random times with barely any rhyme or reason for the phenomenon and is a completely normal process for any bearded dragon.
In the same way that we have to form new skin when we take a scrape or any type of injury to our current skin, bearded dragons will shed their damaged skin in order to reveal a better, more protective layer of new skin. If your bearded dragon has taken some damage or any bumps and scrapes, they will initiate a shed; and it would also be a good idea to take a look at what items you have in their enclosure that may be causing those injuries.
It is never a good idea to place sharp objects and décor in your bearded dragon’s enclosure as these can cause minor to severe injuries that could potentially cause serious issues for your bearded dragon.
If your bearded dragon spends any amount of time outside lounging in the grass, then it could be very possible that he or she has parasites or mites. The presence of these pests on the skin and between the scales of your bearded dragon will cause him or her to initiate a shed in order to remove them.
Parasites and mites can cause any number of irritations or issues for wild bearded dragons and they will take it upon themselves to remove the problem. However, if you own a bearded dragon and they acquire mites at some point or another, it is a good idea to contact your local herp vet to get together a treatment plan and any medications your bearded dragon may need.
Reasons For An Incomplete Shed And How to Help
Reason 1: Lack Of Appropriate Substrate And Decor
In order to properly shed their skin, bearded dragons need assistance from their environment in order to “pull” the shedding skin away from their body. If your bearded dragon’s enclosure lacks a sufficient amount of substrate or objects with rough edges this will cause your bearded dragon to experience a hard time peeling back their shedding skin causing a “stuck” shed.
The main areas that will be affected by this situation include the top of their head, along with their feet, tail, eyes, and underbelly. If you choose to not use substrate then you should be sure to provide plenty of surfaces for your bearded dragon to rub up against in order to prevent a stuck shed.
Reason 2: Poor Diet
A properly balanced and nutritious diet is of utmost importance and sustaining the health and well-being of your bearded dragon, not providing your bearded dragon with all of the vitamins and nutrients that he or she needs may result in shedding issues. In order to properly shed their skin without issue, bearded dragons require vitamins B, E, and D3, along with calcium and magnesium.
If you are concerned that your bearded dragon may not be receiving the appropriate amount of these vitamins and minerals you can visit your local pet shop to purchase supplements for your beardie. Hydration is also extremely important for your bearded dragon to experience a problem free shed.
If you feel your bearded dragon is in need of more hydration, try soaking him or her in a warm bath (this will also help during a shed to loosen the skin), misting their body, and/or offering more green vegetation.
How To Help 1: Bath Or Mist
For hydration purposes, you should already be misting your bearded dragon a few times during the week and giving them a soaking bath at least once a week, but these practices can also aid your bearded dragon in their shedding process. Misting and bathing your bearded dragon keeps the skin moist, which will allow for much easier shedding skin removal when rubbing up against objects in their enclosure.
This will also keep your bearded dragon from experiencing any pain during their shed, moist and hydrated skin is extremely important to prevent this from happening. Keeping in mind that adult bearded dragons may take longer to fully complete their shed, providing them with a bath every couple of days during this process could be highly beneficial; just be sure to be gentle while drying your bearded dragon so as to not accidentally pull any skin off that is not ready to be shed yet.
How To Help 2: Enclosure Set-Up
Providing your bearded dragon with everything they need to thrive can seem like it is easier said than done, but there are cheap and simple ways to give your bearded dragon everything they could ever need or want. A proper lining for your bearded dragon’s enclosure can be a sturdy reptile carpet or turf, substrate, or even shredded newspaper.
Appropriate enclosure items can be a rope hammock or ladder, a basking rock, a hollow log, hanging or climbing vines, and maybe even a soaking dish. Your bearded dragon’s enclosure should also appropriate lighting to maintain heat and humidity levels which will ultimately aid your bearded dragon in their overall health, as well as their shedding.
The enclosure you provide your bearded dragon can be as simple or as intricate as you would like or can afford, there is absolutely no pressure when it comes to setting up your beardie’s tank. Just remember to provide the basics like lighting, lining, and somewhere to hide and bask, these items will result in a happy bearded dragon.
Now that we have a deeper understanding of why, when, and how bearded dragons shed, we will be able to more properly care for our beloved beardies when they experience a shed. It is important to note once more that you should never pull your bearded dragon shedding skin as you could cause severe pain if the skin is not yet ready to be shed which could in turn cause an infection and damage to the new skin underneath.
If your bearded dragon is shedding in patches, then he or she is doing exactly what is normal for them, especially as adults. Bearded dragons are not known for shedding in complete pieces and it is extremely common for them to only shed one part at a time with complete sheds on occasion.
If you are ever concerned about the health or well-being of your bearded dragon or they have severely stuck a shed, contact your local herp vet immediately in order to rectify the situation. Severely stuck shed can cut off circulation to the afflicted part of the body and is extremely dangerous for bearded dragons if it goes untreated.
Otherwise, just sit back and let your bearded dragon do what bearded dragons have been doing for millennia.