If you love geckos or have a gecko you will notice from time to time that they shed.
You will see a pale coating on their skin that starts to peel away, a lot like when you’ve had a sunburn and your skin starts to peel away.
For newer reptile owners seeing this can be a bit shocking, even if you are aware that it is a normal process.
It can leave you a bit concerned, bewildered, and fascinated the first time you see it happen.
But why does this happen? How often does it happen? And, what should you keep in mind?
Let’s have a look at all the information you need to know about your gecko’s shedding.
Why Do They Shed?
In the animal kingdom Shedding is a very common phenomenon. If you’ve ever had a cat or dog, you’ll notice they shed their fur as it’s usually all over your couch.
Unlike fur-bearing animals, reptiles shed skin, not hair and they do it all in one go. Humans shed too, actively, and constantly.
In fact, it is believed that 70-80% of the dust in your house is probably human skin cells. When we shed skin it is very little but all the time and is unnoticeable to us, but we do it too.
Reptiles, on the other hand, shed all in one go rather than constantly, getting it out of the way.
Shedding in reptiles means they have grown a new skin under their old one and it is time for the old one to come off.
It is a bit like human baby teeth in a sense, except it is a reoccurring process throughout the reptile’s life, instead of just a one-off.
Shedding this skin enables them to heal wounds and skin damage better and it is also part of the process that helps younger ones grow, their skin doesn’t need to stretch, they just grow a newer bigger one and the older one comes off.
What Happens When They Shed?
The first thing to happen when a Gecko or any reptile sheds is that about a week before they shed, they will develop a layer of fluid between what will be their old skin and their new skin.
This fluid will help them easily slide off their old skin. As the old layer starts to loosen, their skin might appear kind of milky- this is normal.
It may cause their colors to look a bit different, faded, and perhaps greyish, and their pattern may be less visible or prominent.
As they attempt to free themselves from their old skin they may move strangely or bite at it. Again, this is normal and nothing to worry about.
You may find that your Gecko’s skin will come off all in one, like a snake. Or it may come of fin large pieces, either is normal.
How Long Does Shedding Take?
The amount of time it takes for your Gecko to shed depends on a few factors. These include; age, growth rate, and if there are any injuries.
An adult Gecko will usually shed every 4-8 weeks (1-2 months). A younger Gecko will shed more often to fit their growth rate, and an injured Gecko may shed early to heal.
However, regardless of these factors shedding usually only takes 24-48 hours, whether they’re young, old, injured, or otherwise.
How Often Do They Shed?
Many things may influence the length of time between sheddings in your Gecko. Age, illness, stress, reproductive stages, and growth rate can all influence this.
As a young Gecko grows they will usually shed every 1-2 weeks, this is because they are growing at a faster rate than an adult gecko and unlike humans and other animals their skin does not grow with them, so they make a new one as they grow.
Once a Gecko reaches its mature size it will shed every 4-8 weeks, but this can be influenced by illness or stress. If your gecko has suffered an injury, they may shed so they can more adequately heal their injury.
Reproductive geckos may also shed early or at an unexpected time to fit their reproductive cycles. A Gecko may also shed early if they put on or lose weight.
Typically an adult Gecko will shed every 4-8 weeks but keep in mind some influences can cause early or late shedding. As long as your Gecko looks and acts healthy, there is nothing to worry about.
What If My Gecko Eats Its Old Skin?
So, you’ve seen your Gecko eat its old skin? A bit gross? Yes. To us, it’s like us eating peeled skin from sunburn. But to Geckos, it is normal and instinctive and there is nothing wrong with it at all.
A Gecko’s old skin provides them with many important minerals that help with health and also helps them to generate new skin in the future.
It is also instinctive as in the wild if a Gecko left their skin laying around it may attract predators. So Leopard Geckos will often eat their shedded skin to protect themselves from predators, avoiding detection.
You won’t always see your Gecko do this, because they usually do it in private, but over the course of time, you may catch them doing it.
Although it is a very natural and normal process there can be some complications in shedding that are worth looking out for.
Your Leopard Gecko typically won’t need any help with their shedding but if you see any of the following you can give a helping hand.
Old skin is retained on the toes
Leopard Geckos have tiny toes and there is a chance that as they shed some of the old skin can get stuck to them.
This can be an issue and can lead to a loss of toes. Check your Gecko’s toes after every shed to be safe.
Old skin stuck on the tail tip
Like their little toes, their tails are thin.
If it gets stuck here, you can help correct it.
Stuck near their vent
This can be a bit of a hygiene nightmare - definitely inspect this area following every shed.
Unlike other Geckos, Leopard Geckos only shed the area around their eye scale and the covering, but this does mean that it can cause problems, covering their eye.
If it doesn’t come off it can lead to infections and injuries. Check this!