When do bearded dragons shed? Why do they shed? How do you know if your bearded dragon is about to shed? If you’re a Dragon Keeper, here’s everything you need to know about shedding.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Shed?
Ever wonder why bearded dragons shed? This question has a simple answer: their skin can’t grow! It’s inelastic. Bearded dragons shed as they outgrow their skin.
A few fun facts about bearded dragons’ skin:
- It’s waterproof and protective.
- It’s inelastic (can’t grow).
- As organic matter, it dies, which is part of the reason it needs to be replaced. (That’s why adult dragons still shed even after they stop growing.)
- Old skin is high in calcium. Sometimes bearded dragons eat their shed to take advantage of this important mineral. (This is normal, but you don’t have to go out of your way to feed it to them.)
- When bearded dragons shed, it means a new layer of skin cells has grown beneath the old one.
- New skin plays an important role in bearded dragons’ ability to absorb calcium, since it is better than old skin at converting UVB light into Vitamin D.
- New skin is noticeably more colorful than old skin, which looks quite dull.
How Often Do Bearded Dragons Shed?
Since dragons shed when they grow, it will come as no surprise that baby dragons shed the most! They are constantly growing, which means they are constantly outgrowing their skin.
Here is a quick list for reference:
- 0-6 months - weekly
- 6-12 months - every other week
- 12 months - every other month
- 18 months - once or twice a year
Note that baby and juvenile bearded dragons shed their entire skin at once, whereas adults will usually shed patches of skin in different areas.
How long does shedding take?
Babies shed pretty quickly. It may only take a couple of days. For older dragons, it’s a longer process. It may take up to two weeks for them to finish their shed.
Signs That Your Bearded Dragon Is About to Shed
When a dragon is about to shed, there are some telltale signs. Many of these signs coincide with symptoms of illness or stress, so it’s important to know your dragon well enough to determine what is causing any abnormal behavior.
That being said, here are some common signs that your bearded dragon is getting ready to shed:
- Appetite loss
- Scratching or rubbing against things
- Black beard
- Doesn’t want to be handled
- Scales look faded in color or milky white
- Small patches of skin are beginning to flake off
What Should You Do When Your Bearded Dragon Sheds?
Shedding is a natural process that bearded dragons typically won’t need help with. But there are a few things you can do to ease the process, because shedding does make your dragon uncomfortable.
Here are four things to keep in mind when your bearded dragon is shedding:
- Don’t pull their skin! Skin that hasn’t finished falling off is just not ready to come off yet, unless it’s hanging by a tiny, tiny thread. You’ll injure your dragon if you yank or peel their shedding skin. If it hasn’t fallen off yet, it means the new layer underneath isn’t ready to emerge!
- Give them a bath. Most often, bearded dragons want to be left alone when they shed. But you could offer a warm bath to help skin that is already starting to come off, and you could very gently brush their scales in circular motions to help dislodge the loosened skin. (Keep in mind that because bearded dragon skin is waterproof, baths actually don’t help unless the skin is already peeling away.)
- Limit handling. Many bearded dragons do not want to be handled when they are shedding. Give them their space and leave them alone as much as possible. If you don’t, they may bite you!
- Provide rough surfaces. Make sure there are logs, rocks, and other rough surfaces in the terrarium for your dragon to rub up against. Nothing too sharp, of course!
Problems with Bearded Dragon Shedding
Healthy bearded dragons generally shed without an issue. Aside from discomfort and appetite loss, which are normal, shedding doesn’t usually come with adverse symptoms or serious problems.
There are, however, two rare cases you should be aware of. Both require a call to your vet.
- Not shedding at all. This is a serious problem that can be caused by nutritional or environmental factors.
- Skin becomes stuck. Sometimes dead skin may become stuck despite your beardie’s best efforts to remove it. This can constrict blood flow. In severe cases, your dragon could lose a limb or toes. Signs of this problem include discoloration near the skin that is stuck. A long bath will sometimes help dislodge the skin, along with gentle brushing in a circular motion with a very soft toothbrush.
The good news is that both of these problems are rare, so it's likely you won't have to deal with them. But if you do notice these issues, call your vet.
Shedding isn't the most fun experience for your dragon, but with a little extra love and care from their humans, they can get through it just fine.
Takeaway: Shedding is a natural process all healthy bearded dragons go through. It can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks for a shed to be complete. Young dragons shed their entire skin almost every week, whereas adult bearded dragons shed less often in smaller patches. A warm bath can help remove skin that has already started to detach.
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