Skin shedding, or ecdysis, is the process where Bearded dragons lose their outer skin as the result of growing. The shedding process is mainly dependent on the size and growth rate of Bearded dragons and is seen more frequently in babies and juveniles.
For reptiles, shedding the outer parts of their skins are normal. Initially, the skin will turn white to grey after which pieces will start to become loose and peel off. Skin shedding is a physiological process where the old skin is removed to give way for a newer, usually larger one. Normally, Bearded dragons will shed their skin in multiple pieces.
Normal Bearded dragon skin shedding time and frequency
Bearded dragon can shed partially (e.g. only the legs or tail) or completely (e.g. the entire body). On average, younger Bearded dragons will shed more often. Up to an age of about 6 months, Bearded dragons may shed completely about once a month (e.g. about six times). Adult Bearded dragons will go through a complete shed as seldom as once or twice a year, but may have partial sheds every couple of months.
Like most lizards, Bearded dragons are rather leisurely about shedding their skins. Normal skin shedding will take place in patches. It is often normal for Bearded dragons not to eat, or eat less during this period. During this time, Bearded dragons might also show an increase in biting and soaking behaviours. The shedding process, from turning colour to the end, should not take more than a couple of days.
Some Bearded dragon keepers resort to strategic methods in order to aid in the shedding process. These methods are mainly aimed at temporarily increasing the environmental humidity during the shedding process. These methods include misting, adding larger water dishes and/or adding a moist substrate to the enclosure. Also see safe and effective ways to help a shedding Bearded dragon for more information.
In order to monitor shedding patterns in Bearded dragons, it is always a good idea to keep a record of the frequency and start and finish dates.
Bearded dragon shedding problems
Problems might occur when the shedding process takes too long, seems to be too frequent or does not happen frequently enough. By keeping records of shedding patterns in Bearded dragons, shedding problems can often be easily identified.
A prolonged shedding process can be an indication that mites or an infection are present, or that the environmental humidity is too low. Because sloughed skin does not come off as one piece, prolonged shedding can often be seen as patches of skin that remain in certain places – typically around the tail, legs, feet/toes, around the eyes and around the spikes. Retained skin can cause constrictions or layers of shedding skin can start to build up. Constricting skin causes a tourniquet effect reducing blood flow to the affected areas.
Apart from preventing shedding problems (see earlier), there are also methods to aid in the removal of problematic pieces of skin. See safe and effective ways to help a shedding Bearded dragon for more information.
When a Bearded dragon is not shedding as frequently as expected (i.e. about once a month for babies and juveniles and a couple of times per year for adults), it is often an indication that the growth rate is too slow. A healthy Bearded dragon should almost always be willing to eat. The body should be stocky and should be without visible wrinkles. Also see eating behaviour in Bearded dragons and signs of a healthy Bearded dragon for more information. Feeding correctly and feeding the correct food can also help in maintaining the correct growth rate in Bearded dragons.
When it seems like a Bearded dragon is almost always in shed (i.e. there are very little days where there are no pieces of skin visible), potential problems include skin infections and too high humidities. Mite infections and Yellow fungus disease are often the reason for skin infections.