There are some common questions that are asked across the board with reptiles, and this is one which I feel needs to be answered for every individual reptile. The shedding process of any reptile is an important factor of their life cycle, and one which all reptile owners should be knowledgable about. So, how often do leopard geckos shed?
Maybe you are looking for an answer to this question because you genuinely have no idea how long the shedding cycle is for a leopard gecko. Or maybe you have a pet leopard gecko which you believe should be shedding, but isn’t?
Throughout this article I will delve into the time process of the shedding process for a leopard geckos and all the main factors to why your pet may not be shedding properly or at the correct time.
(Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to find ‘Other related articles you might like’, once you are done reading).
What is the time length of the leopard gecko shedding process?
How often do leopard geckos shed and what is the length of the process you ask? The shedding process for a leopard geckos starts from a very young age. And the age of your leopard gecko can have an impact of the time it takes to shed a layer of skin, and how often too.
You may be able to tell when your leopard gecko is starting its shedding stage. Naturally your gecko will become less accepting to food in the coming days before the process starts. This lack of appetite will most likely continue throughout the whole process until it is completed.
Adult Leopard Geckos
Adult leopard geckos will commonly shed their skin once every 4 – 8 weeks. The shedding process is a way for reptile to keep themselves healthy. Shedding can rid any harmful bacteria on the skin and potential parasites too.
Juvenile Leopard Geckos
Baby and Juvenile leopard geckos have a slightly faster shedding rate and will naturally shed their skin as commonly as once every 1-2 weeks. This may seen a little too quickly, but you have to remember at this age, they are growing at a rapid pace and are quickly out growing their skin.
Time of completion
Regardless of age, the time it should take for the shedding process to be completed is between 24 – 48 hours. Through this time a leopard gecko may not eat at all and have complete loss of appetite.
Any injuries your leopard gecko may be carrying could have an effect of the shedding process. The healing process of an injuries actually encourages shedding in specific areas of the body, which may actually cause a shed earlier than expected.
In some cases this can cause a lot of stress and discomfort for your leopard gecko as they will use a lot of energy and become very stressed if this continues to happen. Through this time you should keep a close eye on your leopard gecko as this is the time when they are most vulnerable to other infections and bacterial diseases.
How to tell when the leopard gecko shedding process is about to begin?
Trying to figure out exactly when the shedding process is about to begin can sometimes be challenging. Sometimes you may think that the process should have already begun, but fir some reason your leopard gecko isn’t showing any signs of shedding skin.
However, there are a few little signs which can give this away. These are;
- Having darkened skin colour
- Having a loss of appetite
- Becoming very lethargic (seeming to have less energy)
These are the three main signs which all leopard gecko owners should know about in relation to the shedding process. All of these factors are very unlike a usually healthy and happy gecko, so this is a complete turn in their usual characteristics.
Knowing these three signs could be the difference in a healthy shedding process and an unhealthy shedding process, or a pointless, unneeded trip to the veterinarian.
Darkened Skin Colour
The first sign you should be looking out for is the change in skin colour. This is probably the most common and recognisable factor of the shedding process as this happens from the very first shed.
Leopard geckos skin colour will look dramatically duller. Almost grey in fact. If you are unaware of this change then you may mistake this part of the shedding process as illness. Especially young juvenile geckos with first time reptile owners.
The entire body colour will start to become grey, or at least look grey. This isn’t actually the case though. The greyness comes from the dead skin which has now come away from the layer on skin underneath. This dead layer of skin now acts as a protective layer for the new underneath to eventually become tough enough to deal with its daily activities.
When the underneath layer has toughened up enough to endure all the daily activities and elements it will be exposed to. It’s at this point the dead layer of skin will then begin to peel off, bringing back the vibrant colours of your leopard gecko you are used to.
Loss of Appetite
Commonly with adult leopard geckos, they will loose their appetite before the shedding process begins. This is believed to be because of the potential problems or issues which can arise throughout the shedding process.
Leopard geckos shed their skin in one piece, or at least try to. The entire top layer of skin will dry out and begin to shed at the same time. Unlike some other species which shed their skin irregularly, at separate times.
When eating during this process, the body of a leopard gecko expands considerably. Specially after a big feast. Because of this, the body fills out and can cause the half shedded skin to crack and eventually flake off. When this happens, the second layer of skin below becomes exposed to its surroundings before it is ready and is extremely vulnerable to damage, bacteria and infections.
Before the shedding process is about to begin you will commonly witness your leopard gecko become very lethargic. Usually they are very active and love to climb and scramble around the enclosure. So this should be very apparent and noticeable.
They will spend a lot of their time just relaxing and basking in the hot end of the enclosure. Preparing themselves mentally for a next 48 hours which is always uncomfortable and draining.
The energy their body uses throughout the shedding process is like that of a work out for humans. So if you could imagine having to exercise for 48 hours straight, then you probably get the idea of how they feel. And with this in mind, it’s no wonder all they want to do is lay motionless for most of the day. They are completely out of energy.
Sometimes owners misinterpret this lethargic mood as being ill, or that something is wrong. So please give your leopard gecko the time it needs to sort itself out. But if it carries on for any longer than 3-4 days then maybe there is some underlying factor which should be assessed by a veterinarian for a professional diagnostic.
Are there often complications that arise from the leopard gecko shedding process?
The shedding process is usually a very simple one, however yes, there are sometimes a number of complications which can arise from the shedding process which should all be dealt with as soon as possible. Sometimes these complications can have very serious effects to a leopard gecko, with illnesses and even death being the outcome.
To avoid any of this happening there are a few tips and tricks which I will share with you.
High Humidity Levels
The first one being, to keep a close eye on the humidity levels inside the enclosure. High humidity will help the shedding process massively. Whilst a low humidity level will cause irregular shedded and can sometimes cause parts of dead skin to stay latched on.
High humidity levels should range between 70-80%.
This may not sound very serious but it really is.
When dead skin is retained it becomes extremely hazardous for a leopard gecko. Dead skin acts like a tie, an unwanted one at that. The skin becomes very tight around certain areas which can cause blood clots (specially its little toes).
The only way I can describe it is similar to if you put an elastic band around your finger. It would eventually start to loose all its colour due to the fact no oxygenated blood and get to that area. If the elastic band was not removed, then eventually you would lose all feeling and movement in your finger.
This is exactly the same for leopard geckos and retained skin. So if you ever see this, please take to appropriate steps to freeing the retained skin.
Freeing Retained Skin
Freeing retained skin should be top of your priority list if ever witnessed. Two fo the best ways to free up retained skin is bathing and the use of a cotton bud.
Providing a water bath for your gecko to bathe in will help to loosen up the dead skin. This is the best way for your leopard gecko to free the dead skin itself. Make sure the water is Luke warm. If the temperature is too hot or to cold your gecko will not likely bathe. 15-20 minutes, a couple of times a day should be enough to lose up the retained skin.
If this doesn’t work then you can try wetting a cotton bud with warm water and gently rubbing the retained area in a circular motion. This should be the last action you take as this can commonly cause some discomfort for your gecko. The action of rubbing the skin can be painful for leopard geckos and will inevitably stress them out. (However maybe not as much as they retained skin is)
Never pick at the retained skin and pull it off. This will cause more damage than good to your leopard gecko. The damages skin underneath will most likely become sore and infected. Which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid.