Are you experiencing your Leopard Gecko’s first shed? This guide will let you know what to expect.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- What happens during shedding?
- Why do Leopard Geckos shed?
- What are shedding issues to watch out for?
Leopard Gecko Shedding
One of the well-known traits of reptiles is their ability to shed their skin. Leopard geckos, shed in a way similar to snakes, getting rid of the majority of the old skin in one go. Other lizards like bearded dragons usually shed in flakes. Humans, for example, shed skin cells bit by bit in microscopic particles. Most dust that we see on surfaces is, in fact, dead human skin cells.
When referring to the skin in terms of shedding, the skin itself is not removed. The old top layer of the skin or the epidermis, a protective layer, is the part that is sloughed off.
The old skin will usually dry out during pre-shed giving your Leopard gecko a duller color. Fluid is then secreted between the old and new skin to loosen it and encourage separation.
How Often Do Leopard Geckos Shed?
Typically, you can expect your adult gecko (>1.5 years) to shed about every 6 to 8 weeks. Hatchlings and juveniles shed will weekly since they are in a rapid growth stage. Between 6 months to 1.5 years old, they will begin shedding monthly.
Why Do Leopard Geckos Shed?
There are several reasons reptiles like Leopard geckos shed their skin. A major one is due to growth. They simply outgrow their old skin and replace it with a new one. They also shed to get rid of parasites, replenish skin cells, and help heal any injuries or damage on their skin. Shedding also allows their full adult colors to develop.
In the wild, shedding also helps them recover bit by bit from any injuries such as bites, scratches, and minor injuries.
When Do Leopard Geckos Shed?
Leopard geckos start to shed almost as soon as they hatch after about 3-4 days. Their first shed is usually timed after their yolk is fully consumed and the hatchling then proceeds to eat its old skin for extra nutrition.
When you notice your gecko becoming dull or pale, even grey in color then it is starting to get ready to shed. Lack of appetite, lethargy, hiding and even slight irritability or aggression are also symptoms of pre-shedding.
How Long Does Shedding Normally Take?
The old and dry skin should be removed in large pieces over a short period (one to two hours). Most of it will be eaten by the gecko. The whole cycle, including the time the skin becomes pale and dull, should take about 3 days. If your gecko has not finished shedding after 3 days then it may have other health issues.
You can feed your gecko in the days leading up to shedding but avoid feeding it during the process until about 3-4 days after.
📚 Read More >> How Long Do Leopard Geckos Live?
How To Spot Signs Of Trouble During A Shed
1. It takes more than 3 days for your gecko to shed completely
If your gecko does not complete the whole shedding process after 3-4 days then it probably has an underlying health problem that is affecting its immune systems and energy reserves. Shedding is a demanding event for your Leopard gecko so it needs all the nutrition and calories it can get. If it looks exhausted and cannot complete shedding on its own then you should try to help it along by misting or soaking using lukewarm water. Make sure your Leopard gecko always has a proper diet and nutrition to prepare it for the rigors of shedding.
2. Some skin won’t come off
If you notice that some skin, especially around the toes, limbs, and eyes, is not coming off then your Leopard gecko is suffering from “stuck shed” or dysecdysis. The stuck skin can dry up, shrink, and constrict the blood flow to the toe or limb.
This usually occurs if the skin is too dehydrated before shedding so make sure your Leopard gecko is well hydrated. If this happens around the eyes or eyelids, it can lead to secondary infections. A warm bath and topical antibiotics will help treat these shedding issues.
Other precautions you can do are regular mistings or baths and providing a moist hide or shed box in your gecko’s enclosure.
3. Your gecko is still lethargic and refuses to eat after shedding
If your Leopard gecko refuses to eat 3-4 days after completing its shed then it may be suffering from other health issues. Double-check the temperature of their enclosure and make sure it is warm enough to help with their digestion. Low-level UVB lighting will also help with its digestion.
Provide calcium supplements, multivitamins, and vitamin D3 to help them recover. Vitamin A can also be provided in long-term, low-dose oral supplements.
📚 Read More >> Leopard Gecko Not Eating?
Is It Ever Okay To Help Your Leopard Gecko Shed Its Skin?
No. The best thing to do during shedding is to leave your Leopard gecko alone. Shedding is quite exhausting and leaves these creatures feeling vulnerable, so unnecessary handling will stress them out. Their new skin is also sensitive at this point and helping them shed may do more damage.
The best way to help would be to prevent shedding issues by setting up their enclosure properly with the correct conditions, ensuring proper hydration, and giving them proper diet and nutrition.
In the case of dysecdysis where the old skin dries up and constricts their toes or limbs, prepare a warm bath to help the shedding along. If that doesn’t work then you may have to very very gently tease out the old skin with a moist cotton bud or Q-tip.
How To Ensure A Problem-Free Shed
1. Proper hydration, misting, and bathing
Most Leopard geckos do not directly drink from a water dish so misting and bathing can help keep them hydrated. Use a fine mist sprayer to spray lukewarm water on their body. Do not spray directly onto your gecko’s face. After about 15 minutes, pat them dry with a paper towel.
You can also soak your pet in warm water. Use a shallow dish and make sure the water does not come up beyond their ears. Give your gecko a good soak for about 10 minutes and then dry it off.
The proper humidity levels (30-40% RH) in their enclosures should be met. Use an accurate hygrometer to monitor humidity levels.
2. Proper diet and nutrition
Leopard geckos get most of their dietary hydration through their food instead of directly drinking water. It is therefore important to give them live insects as feed. Feed them small locusts, crickets, silkworms, mealworms, waxworms, superworms, grasshoppers, springtails, and pinkie or nestling mice. Insects should be gut-loaded with supplements before feeding.
Calcium, vitamin D3, and multivitamins should be given to juveniles daily and every other day for adults. Sometimes Leopard geckos are observed to eat calcium carbonate powder from a dish left in their enclosures.
Vitamin A deficiency has been linked to shedding problems but it can be provided in long-term, low-dose oral supplements.
It’s easy to overdose small animals with Vitamin A so make sure you consult with your vet on the dosage or follow the instructions on the packet.
Even if geckos rarely “drink” providing them with a water dish can also help keep their moisture levels up.
3. Provide moist hides
Before shedding, Leopard geckos will hide frequently. Setting up moist hides or a “shedding box” in their enclosure will make sure they are hydrated while they hide and prepare for shedding. These moist hides can have moss, paper towels, substrate, or coconut fiber in them. Make sure it only has one small opening to prevent evaporation.
4. Add rough-textured tank furniture
Tank furniture with rough surfaces can aid your Leopard gecko as it sheds by providing a surface for it to rub some of the old skin off.
5. Provide low-level UVB lighting
Although UVB lighting is not essential for Leopard geckos it is beneficial. It helps with their digestion and absorption of nutrients. You can purchase lower power UVB lamps to use for your Leopard Gecko’s enclosure.
The health benefits of UVB lighting for Leopard geckos were confirmed in a recent 2020 study on vitamin D3 synthesis in Leopard geckos. They found that a Leopard gecko synthesizes vitamin D3 when exposed to UVB light. Low UVB level (UVI ≤ 1.6) exposure for 2 hours daily increased the vitamin D3 levels in their blood by 50%.
When Should You See A Vet?
If the first aid techniques mentioned above do not work (warm bath, topical antibiotics) and you notice that your gecko’s old skin will not come off then you should visit a vet to prevent necrosis of the tissue and further infections.
Shedding is a natural process for Leopard geckos and should not be anything to worry about. As adults, they shed every 6-8 weeks in a process that lasts for a total of 3 days. Geckos will usually eat their old skin after shedding. Before shedding, their skin will be dull and they will grow lethargic and hide more often. Some shedding issues such as stuck shed can arise but the best way to prevent this is to provide proper hydration, care, diet, and nutrition for your Leopard gecko.
Why Does Your Leopard Gecko Eat Its Old Skin?
Leopard gecko hatchlings are left to fend for themselves by their parents. Upon hatching, they get nutrition from the yolk, and then soon after shedding for the first time, eating their old skin will give them extra energy for survival, growth, and development.
Should You Handle Your Leopard Gecko While It Sheds?
No, it’s best to leave your Leopard gecko alone while it is shedding. During this time, it will most likely hide frequently and even become shy or irritable. It’s best to not handle them until after 3-4 days after they completely shed. Provide a moist hide and a shallow soaking dish in its enclosure to help it along. If you notice dry skin that will not slough off then soak your gecko in warm water to prevent dysecdysis (something similar to tail rot) where the dry skin can constrict the circulation to their toes and cause necrosis.
Can Leopard Geckos Die From Shedding?
Not directly but Leopard geckos can die from shedding problems when the old skin dries and constricts the blood circulation from their toes and limbs, causing tissue death. This can sometimes happen around the eyes, leading to secondary infections. A warm bath and topical antibiotics will help treat these shedding issues.
Overview on Leopard geckos:
ADW: Eublepharis macularius: INFORMATION
Management and care of Leopard geckos:
MANAGEMENT, CARE, AND COMMON CONDITIONS OF LEOPARD GECKOS
Short article on care:
Leopard Gecko Husbandry and Nutrition
Study on UV patterns on the skin for defense
Ultraviolet reflectance and pattern properties in leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius)
A detailed study on Leopard geckos:
Natural history and biology of hobbyist choice leopard gecko Eublepharis macularius