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All About your Snake’s Shedding

All About your Snakes Shedding

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Snakes, like other reptiles and some insects, all go through the process of shedding their skin. Unlike mammals, their skin does not regenerate gradually. They need these shedding periods to completely renew their outer skin layer, several times a year, throughout their growth.

Snakes shed for several reasons:

  • It allows them to get rid of parasites like ticks.
  • They take the opportunity to rejuvenate their colors, especially at the end of hibernation and in spring during the breeding season.
  • Most importantly, shedding is necessary for them to grow without any hindrance. Imagine staying the same size as when you were a baby!

When do snakes shed?

Snakes start shedding from their first week of life and continue at a rate that corresponds to their growth. The younger they are, the more frequently they shed, sometimes as often as once a month. This frequency decreases with age.

In general, a shedding process lasts between 7 and 14 days. The duration can vary depending on:

  • The snake’s species.
  • Its age.
  • Its nutritional condition.
  • Its body temperature.
  • The humidity level in the terrarium.

How do snakes shed?

Before explaining the shedding process, called ecdysis, let’s first understand the composition of a snake’s skin.

Snakes have two layers of skin: the epidermis and the dermis, just like mammals. Shedding affects the epidermis, which is composed of germinative and keratinized cells. The keratinized cells are continuously replaced by the germinative cells.

Now, let’s go through the three stages of shedding:

  1. Keratinization: Initially, the outer layer of the skin, also known as the horny layer, is gradually replaced by the germinative cells. Between these two layers, a fluid called lymph circulates to separate them, causing the skin to become opaque and whitish. During shedding, an opaque film also covers the snake’s eyes, temporarily impairing its vision. The snake may become more nervous during this phase, as it becomes almost blind. But don’t worry, it’s only temporary!
  2. Next, the snake gradually regains its original color, and you can clearly see the difference between the new and old skin.
  3. Finally, in the last stage, after a few days, the snake gets rid of its old skin (called exuvia) by rubbing against a rough surface like a rock, branches, or other decorations in the terrarium. If everything goes well, you will find its old skin at the bottom of the terrarium, and it will once again display beautiful vibrant colors!

During these few days, your snake may have a decreased appetite. This is entirely normal, so there’s no need to worry. It will also be less active than usual and may prefer to stay hidden since it’s vulnerable during the shedding process.

Common shedding issues in snakes

Several anomalies can occur during shedding. We hope this doesn’t happen to your snake, but it’s still important to address these issues!

  1. Incomplete shedding: Normally, shedding occurs in one piece. However, sometimes snakes shed in fragments. This can happen if their skin has been cracked during shedding due to mishandling or the presence of parasites on the skin. In such cases, the lymph present between the two skin layers dries up at those areas, making it difficult for the skin to come off. If you notice this, make sure to visit a veterinarian!
  2. Retained shed: If your snake seems to struggle with shedding its old skin, it’s not an identity crisis but rather a physiological issue. This can be caused by several factors such as overall low humidity in the terrarium, vitamin deficiencies, or skin conditions like scars, presence of mites, or burns caused by the heating system.

How to assist your snake during shedding?

To take care of your companion, you can modify its environment by managing the humidity level in its habitat. Dry habitats can make shedding difficult. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Monitor and adjust the humidity level.
  • Spray water manually in the terrarium using a mister.
  • Choose a substrate that retains water well.
  • Provide a water bowl for your snake to soak in and moisten its skin, which helps with shedding.

The idea is to make the old skin softer and lubricate it to facilitate its removal.

What to do after shedding?

At the end of each shedding, it’s important to check the sensitive areas.

Check if the old skin has properly come off from the eyes. If it hasn’t, you should visit a veterinarian to have it removed. Put yourself in your snake’s shoes—it can’t be comfortable to see only partially!

In general, unroll the shed skin to see if any areas are missing, especially around the tail or head. If you find any remaining shed skin, you can increase the frequency of warm water baths to help remove the rest.

Shedding is no longer a mystery to you!

mahatma gandhi portrait

- Mahatma Gandhi

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

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