Bearded dragons outgrow their skin as time goes by. The skin is inelastic, so it needs to fall off for them to walk around freely and show off their new outfits. One thing we can generally agree on – both beardie and beardie owners – is that shedding is terribly uncomfortable for both parties. If you’re a newbie, I totally understand how your shedding bearded dragon must be concerning for you. How do you know if everything is going as supposed? Is there something wrong with your beardie that you’re missing?
Bearded dragons shed depending on their age. The frequency of shedding and the intensity recess as they grow, so you’d be expecting /experiencing slightly different patterns with the stage of your beardie.
If you’re a beardie parent, you’re doing the right thing by researching all you need to know about shedding. By doing this, you’d know exactly how to tackle the situation like an expert! Let’s get into it.
Why Do Bearded Dragons Shed?
As beardies grow, they go up a few sizes and would need to be fully contained in a new skin. This is because they don’t have stretchy flexible skin as we do, or can replace their cells one after the other. If a bearded dragon is unable to shed its skin, it can obstruct blood circulation and movement in some parts of the body. Experts at VCA Animal Hospital have confirmed that overlapping of skin in certain areas leads to avascular necrosis, and further studies prove the possibility of death after prolonged gangrene. Basically, your bearded dragon needs to shed its skin to stay alive.
Here are 5 main reasons why bearded dragons shed their skin:
- To keep up with their growing bodies
- To heal injuries and rid parasites
- To improve blood circulation
- To absorb UVB rays better
- To look pretty
How Much Shedding Does A Bearded Dragon Need?
Beardies need as much shedding as their life span requires. As they grow through each stage, they increase in mass and size, therefore, requiring them to shed with time. The size of your bearded dragon on par with its age will determine how much it will shed.
Baby beardies are much smaller than the older age groups, so they will shed weekly and then every 2 weeks in 6 months. Once they have reached maturity at 12 months old, your beardie will shed far less frequently and for longer stretches at a time. This is because they no longer increase in size. At a fully matured age, beardies will shed to renew their skin and rid of dead or damaged cells.
Once baby bearded dragons start shedding, it takes them about 5 days to a week for a complete body shed. It’s also at this point that they shed their full body at once. In comparison, adult beardies shed in sections. So your adult dragon may start shedding at its tail, head, limbs, or torso, and this is pretty normal. For adults, full body shedding takes place in 2 weeks to a month.
For much easier awareness of the process, refer to the table below.
|Baby beardies (0 – 2 months)
|Once a week
|5 to 7 days
|Juvenile beardies (3 – 6 months)
|Once a week
|5 to 7 days
|Subadult beardies (6 – 12 months)
|2 to 3 times a year
|3 – 4 weeks
|Adult beardies (12 – 18 months)
|1 to 2 times a year
|3 – 4 weeks
5 Major Bearded Dragon Pre-Shedding Behaviors To Look Out For
When your beardie is about to shed, there are strange characteristics that it would display. If you didn’t know better, you may panic thinking something wrong has happened to your pet. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to notice when your dragon has started to or is about to shed. Below are all the tell-tale signs you can easily identify:
Beardie Is Lethargic
Lethargy is the lack of vigor or activity in bearded dragons and can be associated with changes that occur in various stages of a dragon’s life. Since shedding is quite an uncomfortable exercise bearded dragons have to go through, it’s no wonder if your pet happens to look tired when they’re about to shed. You’d find your pet lounging more often, sleeping more than usual, and taking their time to move around instead of swiveling through the tank as fast as they usually do.
Beardie Eats Less Or More Than Usual
If you notice a change in appetite all of a sudden – an increase or decrease – your bearded dragon may be about to shed. Beardies could eat less if they feel too uncomfortable, or eat more in response to the tension they feel. Yes, bearded dragons can stress-eat too! Although this symptom can be attributed to many other problems, you can only associate it with other symptoms to predict whether your beardie is about to shed or not.
Beardie Is More Aggressive Or Skittish
If you’re going through a dilemma where your entire skin is highly sensitive and feels weird/bulky, itchy, and somewhat painful, you’d probably not be able to process things as you usually do with proper decorum. During this period, bearded dragons will puff out their beard, hide away more frequently, be more reluctant to be picked up or touched, and just generally prefer to be on their own.
Beardie Basks More Than Often
When your dragon is going through the struggles of shedding, you’d find them laying under the lamp more than usual. They need the extra energy to carry out the process and the extra heat to help properly separate the old shell from the new one. So if you notice your beardie basking more than usual, they’re surely ready to drop the old suit.
Beardie Is Looking Greyish And Dry
Bearded dragons turn grey or dull when they’re about to shed. This is because the skin is literally dead and drying off. So it would appear like a film covering the actual skin making the beardie look grey instead. You’d notice that your dragon looks less vibrant than it usually does.
6 Great Ways To Help Your Beardie Shed Safely
At this point, bearded dragon “experts” are waving their fists in the air gathering enough intensity to cry out reasons why you shouldn’t help your beardie shed.
While they’re right about that, there are certainly helpful things you can do to relieve your bearded dragon from the torture of shedding its skin.
1. Warm Water Baths
Soaking your bearded dragon in warm water for 15 to 20 minutes at a time will help them loosen the crusty skin and fasten the process. When you put your beardie in shallow water, you can put in a rock too so that they can brush against it and help the itchiness they feel. You’d immediately see your little dragon swim around to enjoy the slight pressure of the water against their skin.
2. Provide Rough Surfaces For Your Beardie
If your beardie’s tank is decorated with only smooth items, it will be pretty stressful for them to shed and would even take much longer than needed. Bearded dragons need rough surfaces to rub against so that they can peel the skin off. Ensure that there is a rough rock or a hard-bark log of wood for it to brush against.
3. Daily Mists
Two times daily, you can apply a few spritzes to the affected areas to help loosen the skin. It also provides your beardie temporary relief from itchiness and soreness. Your beardie probably will be rubbing its body on any hard surface it finds which can cause tension and soreness in the affected areas.
4. Cocoa Butter Rubs
If you have pure natural cocoa butter, you can help your shedding beardie by slightly rubbing the open areas of the shedding skin only. You have to be super careful with this so that you don’t dab in too much butter or injure your dragon. When you rub, do not rub against the opening in an attempt to peel it off. Instead, rub the butter in like you are pressing it down.
Cocoa butter relieves itchiness and injuries and will help your dragon protect itself from cuts and tears, especially from stubborn patches of skin that are difficult to shed like the limbs and tails.
5. Give Your Beardie Space
When your bearded dragon is shedding, the last thing you should be doing is holding them too frequently. They certainly would appreciate the solitude when they’re going through the ordeal. Touching, holding, and handling them can cause you to touch the already sore areas or mistakenly peel the crust off. This could lead to injuries and then infection.
6. Do Not Peel The Shedding Bits
It is absolutely dangerous to your bearded dragon when you pick on the shedding skin. I know that it’s tempting when you see it sticking out and when you see your dragon struggling to scratch it off, but please, do not “help them”. If the skin has not fallen off, it simply isn’t ready to. Pulling it off will only cause injuries and infection. If you think your pet needs assistance, the best thing to do is to take your beardie to the vet for professional help.
Is It Okay For My Beardie To Eat Its Old Skin?
It’s completely normal for bearded dragons to eat the skin they just shed. They do it out of instinct – in the wild, beardies may eat their skin to prevent predators from tracking them.
Also, beardies eat their skin because it’s nutritious and delicious! It contains calcium that would be better recycled than wasted. So you may find your beardie eating its skin. It depends on if you prefer to stop them or not. Beardies eating their skin has no detrimental effects, but you shouldn’t force them to eat the skin if they don’t want to.
4 Problems That Can Occur When Bearded Dragons Shed
Although rare, it’s possible for things to go downhill when your beardie is shedding its skin. Here are 4 things that you should look out for:
Tearing And Injuries
For the same reasons you are advised not to pick your beardie’s skin when it’s shedding, beardies can also accidentally injure themselves and get infected during the process. These injuries affect mostly the head area where they’re able to scratch the most, but they can also happen to other parts of the body. If you notice any form of bleeding or swelling, refer to your doctor immediately for help.
Tightly Fastened Crust
On some occasions, bearded dragons are unable to remove stubborn crusts from areas on their bodies causing the dead skin to simply remain there. If this happens on the extremities like the limbs and tails, it can cut off the blood supply and cause gangrene to form. If you see this happening, do not peel off the skin. Instead, refer to your vet for professional and tidy help. They know just what to do!
Blocked Nostrils, Ears, Or Eyelids
When the shedding process is almost complete, you may notice a whitish scaly plug sticking out of or laying around the ears, nostrils, or eyes of your beardie. Usually, the skin on the head falls and pulls these plugs out with it, but on some occasions, the plugs are left behind obstructing your beardie from breathing or seeing properly.
Again, don’t go watching youtube videos on what to do about it yourself. Please and please, take your pet to a veterinary doctor to take sanitary measures that will reduce injuries or blindness from happening to your beardie. These areas are very sensitive and require equally delicate and professional care.
Not Shedding At All
There is something terribly wrong if your bearded dragon is not shedding its skin. In most cases, the diet and environment are not safe for the beardie to thrive. Rush your pet to the vet immediately for a proper diagnosis before the situation worsens.
Wrapping it up
Bearded dragons must shed just as they must grow. It can be pretty excruciating to see your dragon go through all that, but with what we have just discussed, you should be able to offer them all the care they need. I’ll advise you to exercise more patience during this phase and also, to relax. If you notice any problems that have been listed above, ensure you pay a visit to the veterinary doctor for proper analysis. Good luck!