Shedding is a part of the natural order of things when it comes to reptiles. Indeed, all reptiles shed their skin at some stage. As they grow, reptiles’ skin becomes tight and therefore needs to be replaced with new skin that can accommodate their new body size. Bearded dragons are no exception to this rule of nature. The creatures may also feel the need to shed if their skin has become damaged with some sort of injury such as a scratch or scrape, for example. The frequency with which bearded dragons shed changes as they age:
- A hatchling can shed every 1-2 weeks due to excessive growth
- A juvenile can shed every 6-8 weeks while still growing
- A fully grown adult can shed several times a year.
Note: While young and growing, the shedding process can take anything from a few days up to two weeks to complete. In adult beardies, the shedding process can span three weeks.
There are several signs that a bearded dragon is about to shed, and as an owner it is important to pay attention to these behavioral changes. The beardie’s appearance will change, with its skin looking duller and, on occasion, eyes bulging (this helps to loosen the skin around the eyes to assist with shedding). If your dragon appears to be irritable, it is advisable not to excessively handle it. Shedding is a hugely energy sapping process for the reptile and fatigue, lethargy, and irritability may result from it.
Important: Under no circumstances should you pull the shedding off your bearded dragon yourself.
Do Bearded Dragons Eat Their Shed and If So, Why
During and after the shedding process you might notice something strange. Yes, your bearded dragon may eat its shed skin. This is not to say that all beardies do this as they are, at the end of the day, all individual animals and their behavior differs from one to the other. However, eating their shedding is a completely normal and natural thing for a bearded dragon to do. There are a number of reasons for a bearded dragon to eat its shedding. Here are a couple main ones:
In a bearded dragon’s natural habitat, there are many predators – larger lizards, snakes, and birds of prey, to name but a few. One of the reasons a beardie will eat its shedded skin is to avoid giving away its location to these threats. This behavior carries over to pet bearded dragons as the instinct is hard-wired.
A second reason for pet beardies to eat their shed is something else that is instinctive to them. There are nutrients, including all-important calcium, in the old skin. Many lizards do this, as the act of shedding is a stressful and energy-consuming process and any extra energy that can be gained from their old skin is best not to be wasted. It becomes a cycle that is beneficial to the growth and development of a bearded dragon; the old skin helps provide the energy required to function healthily after the new skin has grown. In addition, a lot of the time food is scarce in the wild and the compulsion to eat shedding is an evolutionary advantage.
Helping Your Bearded Dragon During Shedding
It is perfectly safe for your bearded dragon to eat its shedding. Nevertheless, it is important to offer the right environment for this practice to remain healthy. Some good steps to take are mimicking the natural habitat of a beardie – from rocks and surfaces to the right heat, light, and humidity levels. This ensures that when your bearded dragon sheds and goes on to eat its shedding, the process is as stress free as possible. Once again it must be said that the last thing any owner should do is pull the skin from their beardie as this can be painful to the creature and potentially lead to infections. A natural shedding takes time and your bearded dragon eating its shed is a healthy end to the process.
- Featured Image (2 Bearded Dragons): andedam – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
- Bearded Dragon: Petr Kratochvil – CC0 Public Domain