Interested Chameleon Skin Shedding Care Guide? This guide is for you!
All reptiles regularly shed their skin. Being in this category of animals, chameleons periodically get rid of their old skins and wear new ones.
Shedding primarily happens because the chameleon is growing. As such, young chameleons shed their skins much more often than older ones.
However, chameleons also get rid of old skin to accommodate weight changes.
The shedding period is a difficult one for any reptile. Although it is not necessarily painful, it forces your pet chameleon to endure hard times that require your intervention. However, creating the right conditions can help your pet have a healthy shed.
For example, ensure that the temperature and humidity conditions in the enclosure are correctly set. Equally importantly, a healthy shed depends on good nutrition.
Keep your pet chameleon well hydrated before, during, and after this period to make the shedding process healthy and successful.
You’ll have to mist the enclosure more frequently than usual to make the reptile well-hydrated and ensure the correct humidity levels are attained.
Understanding the Basics of the Chameleon Shedding
Chameleons shed pretty much like other reptiles. However, because the chameleon’s anatomy is different, its shedding process has a few notable differences.
Like humans, Chameleons have several layers of skin. The first layer – the one on the surface – is the one that sheds and is replaced by the one below it.
A chameleon looks colorful, younger, and fresher after shedding.
You’ll know your chameleon is about to shed when it displays flaky, dull skin. This tells you to lend a helping hand to make the shedding process healthy and easier.
You can help by misting or showering your pet. This is particularly useful during the shedding as some skin might be stuck on the toes and around other body parts.
Wipe the wet, unshed skin with moist pieces of a cotton swab to make it come off. However, don’t force the skin off if it doesn’t come off easily.
Never pull unshed skin with your fingers or tongs, as this will likely cause more harm than good. Instead, continue misting the enclosure and creating the proper humidity conditions.
Be patient because this treatment will eventually work its magic, and the unshed skin will come off.
Chameleon Shedding Explained
Shedding Happens for Multiple Reasons
Shedding in chameleons is not just about growth. Although chameleons shed when they become bigger and outgrow their old skin, there’s more to this process than just growing up.
For example, shedding allows your pet chameleon to replace its old, damaged skin with a brand-new one.
Also, shedding is a form of cleansing and bathing. The old skin goes with all the dirt and germs this reptile has accumulated over time.
Through shedding, the chameleon eliminates the ticks, mites, and other ectoparasites that have clung to his skin.
Shedding Triggers Behavioral Change
Don’t expect your pet chameleons to behave normally while going through the shedding process. Most lizards become irritable and anxious and don’t want to be handled now.
Also, you’ll notice your pet drinking more water and keeping to themselves more at this time. But, again, this is normal; nothing to worry about.
Chameleons Shed in Numerous Pieces
Unlike some reptiles, such as snakes, chameleons shed in small pieces. Snakes tend to shed in one big piece at a go.
Chameleon’s shedding is more like that of iguanas, gecko lizards, and most other lizards.
Chameleons Shed Over a Period
Your pet chameleon will prepare for shedding a few days before the process begins. It will eat less, become grumpier, and drink more water than usual.
During this time, a layer of fluids builds up between the old outer skin and the immediate inner one. This fluid layer makes it easier for the more aged skin to come off more easily.
Also, your pet will change color. It may become more grayish or whitish. Its skin also becomes duller as the inner, younger skin replaces the older, outer one.
Young Chameleons Shed More Frequently
Shedding primarily happens because the chameleon is growing. Since young chameleons grow faster than older ones, they shed more frequently.
While a fully-grown chameleon only gets to shed a few times yearly, young ones shed as frequently as once every two to four weeks.
Shedding Replaces Old or Damaged Cells
Shedding may occur soon following an injury or illness. This happens because of the need to replace worn-out, damaged cells with more viable ones.
Why Do Chameleons Shed Their Skin?
A Sign of Growth
Your chameleon sheds its skin mainly because it has outgrown the old one. But because it’s growing, your pet needs a new skin.
This is the main reason young chameleons shed more often than older ones.
Unlike humans and other animals, the top skin of your chameleon does not stretch as it grows. As such, the best option is to discard it and wear the one beneath it.
To Renew Damaged and Worn-Out Skin Cells
The cells on your chameleon’s skin become damaged after constant use. They may also be adversely affected if your chameleon goes through a traumatic period.
As such, this animal gets rid of the old skin to remove the worn-out and dead cells. With humans, this happens every time you take a shower or scrub your body.
It’s a Form of Cleaning
Chameleons accumulate a lot of dirt and germs over time. Unfortunately, some of these germs – such as mites and ticks – have a negative impact on your pet’s general health and wellbeing.
By shedding the outer layer of its skin, your pet effectively gets rid of dirt and these harmful parasites.
How Often Do Chameleons Shed?
Young chameleons shed more frequently than older ones. This is because they shed every 2 to 4 weeks to accommodate their fast-growing bodies.
Once they get to 18 months, the shedding frequency slows down. Adult chameleons shed once every 6 to 8 weeks.
Also, young chameleons take a shorter time to complete each shedding process. For example, a baby chameleon takes only about 20 minutes to shed from start to finish.
An adult may take up to 3 hours to have a complete shed. This is because the adult’s skin comes off in small bits and pieces, while most baby chameleons shed their entire skin as one piece.
All the same, each species of chameleon is different, and this is reflected in how long and how often it takes to shed.
Other factors that determine how fast your chameleon sheds include environmental conditions. This process will take a shorter time if the enclosure is well-humidified and the chameleon well-misted.
Keep your pet chameleon well-hydrated to ensure a hassle-free shedding process.
Signs Your Chameleon Is About to Shed
The skin looks loose
At the start of the shedding process, the skin starts to loosen. It looks like it wants to lift off the chameleon’s body.
This signals that this reptile is about to lose the old skin and replace it with a new one.
The chameleon eats less.
This also happens before the actual shed. You’ll notice that your chameleon eats less, and can sometimes refuse to eat altogether.
This is nothing to worry you about. It is the typical behavior of a shedding chameleon.
The skin looks drier.
A chameleon’s skin may look flaky and dry. This is your cue to increase the humidity levels.
It could also indicate your chameleon is too dehydrated to experience a healthy shedding process.
The appearance of white spots
This is closely related to the point above. The white spots on your chameleon’s body manifest in different sizes.
They are a clear sign that the skin on your chameleon’s body is about to lift off.
Before you know it, the chameleon will start losing pieces of its old skin and replacing them with fresh skin.
The chameleon keeps scratching itself.
The chameleon starts scratching itself like it has a really nasty itch. This indicates that although shedding may not be painful, it is not comfortable either.
The scratching helps your chameleon get rid of the loose skin.
Rubbing body on branches
Chameleons do this to get rid of the old, loose skin; and loosen stuck skin. Unfortunately, if the branches of the plants in the enclosure are rough, the chameleon may injure itself during this process.
This is your cue to introduce plants with only smooth branches and perches.
The chameleon becomes irritable.
Ordinarily, chameleons dislike being handled. This becomes more evident when they are about to shed.
You’ll notice your chameleon has become more irritable and moody. It hisses angrily when you try to approach it.
It’s best that you leave this animal alone at this time. Do your best to make his life as comfortable as possible for the best shedding process.
What Are Chameleon Bad Sheds?
Shedding is not always a hassle-free affair for chameleons and other reptiles. Your chameleon may find himself stuck with patches of unshed skin.
This is a serious problem likely to compromise your pet’s life quality. For example, suppose the unshed skin is wrapped around the chameleon’s toes. In that case, it will restrict blood flow into the toe area, leading to necrosis.
Necrosis is a condition that causes your pet to lose a toe – or several toes. Unfortunately, this could lead to infection, jeopardizing your chameleon’s life.
The chameleon depends on its toes to run its daily affairs. Without toes, this animal cannot perch or even move among branches.
As such, your pet may be unable to fend for itself and eventually die.
Unshed skin on the tail causes the same problem: necrosis. If this problem goes unsolved, your pet will eventually lose its tail.
Skin retained around the mouth causes mouth rot, while unshed skin around the eyes leads to blindness.
In short, retained skin puts your pet’s life at risk. Your chameleon may be unable to lead an everyday life, leading to his demise.
What Causes Problematic Shedding?
It’s crucial to promote problem-free shedding to safeguard your pet from danger. As we have seen, bad sheds put your pet’s life at risk.
Here are the chief causes of bad sheds:
Your chameleon will have trouble shedding properly when the enclosure is too dry. This reptile needs sufficient fluid levels to develop an adequate fluid layer necessary for healthy shedding.
At the same time, poor humidity leads to dehydration, which is a recipe for respiratory infections.
Dehydration is a primary culprit when it comes to shedding problems. Keepers who fail to provide their chameleons with water regularly, as dew, put these animals at risk of dehydration.
Remember, drinking water must be provided in a form the chameleons recognize and appreciate. Giving your chameleon water in a bowl is futile because these animals don’t recognize still water.
Heightened Stress Levels
Stress is the number one killer of most animals. The interesting thing is that by itself, stress does not kill.
However, it opens an avenue for all kinds of opportunistic infections and diseases to attack the animal.
If your chameleon is stressed, it could suffer from a number of life-threatening conditions, including bad sheds.
This is your cue to make your pet as comfortable as possible to avoid stressing him.
Invasion by Parasites
Mites and ticks are a big nuisance to chameleons. These parasites live off your pet’s body, biting and draining him of vital fluids.
Regularly inspect your pet for these bugs and exterminate them before they make the chameleon’s life a living hell.
Disease and Infections
You cannot expect a sick chameleon to shed properly. Actually, a sick chameleon will be unable to do many things vital to its growth and progress.
As a pet parent, you have a duty to address the underlying medical concern to make your pet’s life easier.
If need be, seek the help and support of a vet.
Physical injuries to your chameleon’s skin can make things difficult for this animal. Your pet may be unable to move, eat, or shed properly.
How to Help Your Chameleon Shed Efficiently
Under the right conditions, your chameleon will have a healthy shed. In such a case, it’s best not to interfere, as your presence might cause complications.
A chameleon with no signs of complications should not be interfered with. Instead, ensure that all the conditions are suitable for the shedding to be successful.
However, if you notice any complications, you need to firmly but gently step in before things get out of hand.
For example, if you notice some retained skin, try to gently remove it with a moist cotton swab. You should first adequately mist the chameleon to make your work easier.
Don’t try to pull unshed skin off with your fingers or tongs. This is likely to cause damage to the tender skin beneath, besides subjecting your pet to a lot of pain.
Unshed skin that refuses to come off should be treated with great care. Provide your chameleon with the right humidity conditions to make this skin weaker.
This makes it easier for you or the chameleon to pull it off.
Also, you can use commercial products designed to keep your pet’s skin in good condition for easier shedding.
Take care, however, as you shop for these products. Unfortunately, not every product in the market delivers on its promise.
Seek guidance from your vet or a seasoned chameleon keeper. Alternatively, you can get credible information from customer reviews of the product you have in mind.
Why is My Chameleon Constantly Shedding Its Skin?
Chameleon babies shed pretty often – about once every 2 to 4 weeks – and you should not be alarmed when you see this.
As the baby gets older, the frequency of shedding decreases. By the time your chameleon is 18 months, it will be shedding about once every 6 to 8 weeks.
Knowing what to expect in the shedding process is essential, as you can be easily alarmed by something you don’t understand.
Did you know chameleon babies take 15 to 20 minutes to complete one shed? This starkly contrasts with adults, who can take up to 3 hours to complete one shed.
Some species of chameleons actually take longer than this. They can go for 2 to 3 days shedding the skin in stages.
So, what may seem like many sheds is actually one shed, done in stages.
Also, an increase in your chameleon’s weight makes its skin change somewhat. It may also prompt a shed as the old skin becomes too taught to accommodate the new body mass.
This tells you to be careful not to over-feed your pet.
You must be extra vigilant when your chameleon indicates it’s about to shed. For example, when his color becomes dull, and he eats less, this is your cue to be alert.
You must ensure that all systems in the enclosure are working correctly to facilitate healthy shedding.
Every pet parent has a duty to make their pet’s life comfortable. It is yours to make your chameleon have hassle-free shedding.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Skin Shedding Painful to a Chameleon?
Skin shedding is not painful to reptiles. However, it is not a walk in the park either. Your chameleon goes through a challenging experience during the shedding process.
This means that although it is not painful, it is pretty stressful. You can tell this by how this animal opens its mouth agape and hisses in anger and irritation.
Does a Chameleon Shed Its Skin When Stressed?
Stress does not make chameleons shed their skin. While shedding is a stressful process, it is not ignited by stress.
Stress makes chameleons darken their colors. They also become restless, go into hiding, and hiss a lot.
Why Is My Chameleon Eating Its Skin?
It may appear gross when you see a reptile eat its shed skin for the first time. But, actually, this is a healthy behavior that helps your chameleon in several ways.
For example, the shed skin is loaded with much-needed nutrients that benefit your pet. This is important, considering that chameleons lose their appetite just before shedding.
Also, eating shed skin eliminates any traces that predators can use to hound chameleons out of their hides.
This is particularly useful to chameleons living in the wild, where safety and security are not guaranteed.
How Can I Help My Chameleon Shed Successfully?
Ensure your chameleon’s skin is healthy by providing him with the right diet. Good nutrition and adequate supplementation levels (especially calcium) are suitable for a healthy, successful shed.
Also, ensure that the enclosure conditions are proper. For example, the humidity levels should be adequate, and your pet should be misted appropriately to avoid dehydration.