Unlike humans, a bearded dragon’s skin doesn’t grow as they grow. Our skin has stretch and elasticity, which means we can keep growing larger and our skin will grow with us.
Conversely, when a bearded dragon grows, its skin doesn’t. This means, like many reptile species, they need to shed their skin to reveal new skin underneath.
If you’ve never seen a shedding bearded dragon, it can be a strange thing to witness the first time. But don’t worry, this is a completely normal and natural process.
The number of sheds a pet beardie goes through will depend on many things. The shedding process is influenced by the growth rate, temperature, habitat, wear, and tear, and diet.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about the bearded dragon shedding process.
Why Bearded Dragons Shed
If we’re going to be scientific, the shedding process is called ecdysis.
The skin of a bearded dragon is composed of scales that are largely made of a protein called keratin. Since keratin isn’t elastic, it won’t stretch as the beardie grows.
This means that for a dragon to grow, it needs to shed its skin to reveal a new layer.
Humans do actually shed skin cells too – it’s just that we do it constantly and not in large chunks. For reptiles like bearded dragons, the process happens all at once.
When a beardie sheds, its whole outer skin comes away to reveal a shiny, new layer of skin.
Don’t worry though, the shedding doesn’t hurt and they’re able to do it without any assistance.
The Process of Shedding Skin as A Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons aren’t alone in shedding. Many lizard species shed too.
For bearded dragons, you’ll usually see flaky areas appearing. Unlike snakes, you won’t see a single shed piece.
The skin will typically be shed in large chunks and your bearded dragon will pull the pieces away with its mouth. It’s quite common to see large skin pieces in their enclosure.
What’s unusual about bearded dragons is that they actually eat the skin. This is different from other shedding animals.
The process of shedding varies. Depending on your bearded dragon’s age and the environment he’s in, the shedding will happen at different speeds.
Baby bearded dragons shed their skin in a different way than adult dragons.
The Frequency of Bearded Dragon Shedding – how Often Do Bearded Dragons Shed?
Many new beardie owners often ask, ‘how often do bearded dragons shed?’
Just like a baby human grows quickly, so does a baby bearded dragon. And it’s because of this rapid growth that hatchlings will shed almost weekly.
Baby bearded dragons grow somewhere between one and three inches each month. As a result, their skin needs to be replaced frequently.
You shouldn’t worry, though, if you have a baby that sheds less frequently. However, if a hatchling doesn’t seem to shed at all, you need to see a vet.
As your pet gets older, they will shed less – just a few times a year.
Here is a guide to shedding frequency and age:
- Baby dragons (0 – 6 months of age) – shed every 1-2 weeks (for growth)
- Juvenile dragons (6 – 18 months of age) – shed every 6-8 weeks (for growth)
- Adult dragons (18 months+) – shed once or twice a year (for wear and tear)
Juveniles (aged 6-18 months) will see the biggest change in shedding frequency.
When a young beardie is six months old, he will shed around every 4-6 weeks. By 12 months, he will shed every few months.
Even though adult beardies are fully grown, they still need to shed due to wear and tear. This means that their shedding schedule will vary, but it’s usually around 1-2 times a year.
How Long Does the Shedding Process Take?
Generally speaking, the age of a bearded dragon determines how long the shed takes.
Young bearded dragons shed their skin usually within a week. The shed takes less time simply because they need to complete one shed before they start another.
A hatchling will typically take one to three days to complete their shed while a juvenile might take up to two weeks. Adults, on the other hand, take as long as three weeks to complete their shed.
If you have an adult bearded dragon who has a lot of shed still left after three weeks, some of the shed might be stuck.
Bearded Dragon Shedding Behavior
When a bearded dragon begins shedding, there are four slight behavioral changes you might observe. These are normal behaviors prior to shedding and not a cause for concern.
- A change in skin color.
- A change in diet.
- A change in behavior.
- A change in appearance.
Prior to a shed, a bearded dragon’s skin will take on a darker appearance. You’ll notice old skin looking gray and dull. It will then become looser and start to detach.
When new skin becomes visible, it will be bright and glossy.
Can Bearded Dragons Lose Their Appetite when Shedding?
When going through such a process, it’s totally normal for a bearded dragon to lose its appetite.
Not eating before shedding or after shedding is common too. What’s more, since bearded dragons eat their own shed, they won’t eat anything else when shedding occurs.
The reason why bearded dragons eat their shedding skin is due to evolution. In the wild, there isn’t a lot of food, and it can be difficult to find. By eating the skin, they can preserve lost nutrients.
If you notice a lack of appetite in your beardie and they don’t otherwise seem ill, it is likely that they’re about to shed. You should, however, keep offering food.
When a bearded dragon is about to shed, you might notice eye bulging. As well as eye-bulging, you might also notice dullness in their eyes and a white-blue color.
In other reptiles, eye-bulging can be a sign of communication, but when a bearded dragon starts to shed, it helps them loosen the skin around its eyes and head.
If your beardie has recently been through the shed process but their eyes are bulging, it could be a sign that something else is wrong.
Excessive eye bulging is a sign of an atrioventricular block or high blood pressure, which need to be investigated by a vet.
A bearded dragon shed can also cause skittish behavior.
Bearded dragon keepers might notice the following common behaviors:
- Rubbing against rocks
- Rubbing against branches
- Rubbing against hard surfaces
- Lethargy or reduced activity
It is normal for a bearded dragon to shed and be less active. This is because it takes lots of energy for the bearded dragon to remove its old skin. This energy is expended as they rub against surfaces or bite the skin away.
As a result, you’ll notice that a few days prior to your bearded dragon’s shedding, there will be less activity.
The same goes for a few days after the shed. They’ve simply spent all their energy getting rid of their old skin.
Shedding old skin isn’t a pleasant process for a bearded dragon. When they have to shed skin, they can feel irritable and itchy.
The energy used during the process is also stressful. Because of this, it’s a good idea not to handle your pet when he’s going through the shedding phase.
Help Your Bearded Dragon Shed
The most important thing that a shedding bearded dragon needs, is a proper enclosure setup and habitat.
Shedding aside, correct husbandry is vital for your beardie. Generally speaking, if there is good husbandry, a bearded dragon won’t have trouble shedding.
If you want to help their shed be more pleasant, here are some things you can do:
- Make sure they have rough items in their enclosure to rub up against
- Check the UVB lighting setup
- Provide nutritional supplements
Here are some things you can do to help your bearded dragon when they’re shedding:
With the right rough materials in their terrarium, the shedding process is much more manageable for the bearded dragon as they can rub up against them to remove damaged skin.
Rubbing against rough materials helps a bearded dragon to loosen and remove pieces of their skin.
You should ensure nothing too sharp is put into their enclosure – you don’t want to damage the new skin underneath.
Here are some things that you could include:
- Substrate like reptile carpet
In the wild, a bearded dragon would use rocks and branches so you should try to replicate that in their enclosure.
Water and Diet
As mentioned above, when a bearded dragon is shedding, he tends not to eat – other than the skin that’s been shed.
However, bearded dragons need adequate nutrition all year round so that they can shed properly. It’s not just for shedding that a bearded dragon needs good nutrition, however.
If a beardie doesn’t have enough calcium in their diet, they can develop metabolic bone disease.
For an adult bearded dragon, you should add a calcium supplement to their diet, and it should also contain Vitamin D3. Hatchlings and juveniles can also use the same powder.
Hydration is also important, and you need to know the difference between recognizing dehydration and recognizing shedding.
The Enclosure Setup
Bearded dragon owners have a responsibility to maintain an adequate terrarium to ensure that their bearded dragon will shed properly.
The terrarium should be properly maintained at the right humidity and temperature, and with the correct lighting.
For the light quality to be maintained, the UVB light should be tube-shaped, and the bulb should be swapped for a new one twice a year.
In their natural habitat, bearded dragons would have 12 hours of daylight each day and so owners need to mimic this with their UVB light.
As well as this light, bearded dragons also need an infrared basking light with a bulb between 40W and 75W.
The basking temperature should be between 95 °F and 105 °F. There should also be a cooler side that sits somewhere between 75 °F and 80 °F.
In terms of humidity, this should be from 30% to 40%.
Bearded dragons live in a naturally dry and arid environment, so they need low humidity for a healthy shed.
Why Isn’t My Bearded Dragon Shedding?
There are lots of reasons why a beardie might not shed. Lots of shedding problems like partial shedding are caused by a number of issues, these include:
- Poor diet
- Inadequate UVB lighting
- Incorrect temperatures
- Incorrect humidity levels
When a bearded dragon has a problem with shedding, it is called dysecdysis. This can affect as many as 25% of bearded dragons in captivity.
As well as poor husbandry, underlying health issues can cause dysecdysis. Health issues known to affect shedding include:
These can be caused by a dirty enclosure and skin infections.
What’s more, a bearded dragon might go through a partial shedding because they don’t have adequate surfaces to brush their dead skin against.
Even though you might feel as though you’re helping your bearded dragon, you must never rip or pull of any dry skin.
If your beardie has dangling skin, it’s important to leave it attached because they have sensitive skin underneath.
Removing the dry skin before it’s ready can cause pain and injury. The only thing you can do is be patient.
However, if you spot a stuck shed, there are things you can do to help.
Stuck Shed: What It Is and How You Can Help
When a bearded dragon doesn’t have adequate nutrients, he can have stuck shed. Usually, this will be present near the eyes, on their tail, on their belly, or on their feet.
When bearded dragons reach adulthood, they’re much more likely to experience this. Because bearded dragons shed for body growth, old skin that isn’t removed can cause restricted blood flow and infection.
In severe cases, there might be cell death in their fingers or toes. If there is severe stuck shed in their tail, this is problematic.
If your pet beardie isn’t shedding properly or if he always seems to have stuck shed, you need to check his enclosure is the right humidity and temperature.
Even when the levels are fine, you can still have a stuck shed. If the stuck shed is a problem, you can help in multiple ways.
Bathing your bearded dragon is a great way to help them shed.
Simply fill up a bowl or Tupperware container with warm water and place them in it. It should be deep enough to submerge the stuck shed but not so deep that they can’t breathe.
Supervise this bath time for a quarter of an hour – never leave them alone in the water.
Once they’ve soaked in the bath, take a toothbrush, and brush the area gently. An adult beardie’s skin takes longer to shed so you can bathe them every few days to speed the process up.
Misting Bearded Dragons Skin
As well as bathing, it’s also possible to try misting to help the shedding process.
Misting involves spraying water droplets onto their skin. You should focus your attention on the areas that are likely to have stuck shed. Misting can be done daily.
Oils and Shedding Aids
As a last resort, you can use a shedding aid or oil. If the stuck shed isn’t treated or goes unnoticed, it can lead to necrosis.
This is why some bearded dragons end up losing their tail tip or fingers as they get older.
Shedding aids are specifically designed to moisturize a stuck shed.
The most common places adult dragons experience stuck shed is the tip of the tail and their fingers and so you can concentrate on these areas. You should be as gentle as possible as a stuck shed can be painful.
Final Thoughts on Bearded Dragon Shedding
Hopefully, now, you’re all clued up on bearded dragon shedding!
Remember, baby, bearded dragons will shed almost every week while adults shed only once or twice a year. You can expect a gradual decline in shedding frequency until the age of 18 months.
As long as you provide your pet bearded dragons with the right humidity, temperature, and habitat, they should be able to shed with no problems.
Though stuck shed does happen, it can normally be treated with a bath followed by gently brushing with a toothbrush.
A bearded dragon not shedding is a problem as it can lead to restricted blood flow.
Providing the right environment is essential for a healthy and happy life and a bearded dragon will shed well in good conditions.