Shedding Skin and Dysecdysis
I have been asked many times "How often do water dragons shed their skins?" or " My dragon has shed three times in the last 4 months is this normal? should I be worried? " and various other questions about shedding.
I truly don't know how often a water dragon should shed but it makes sense that shedding will occur most often in young dragons that are having growth spurts , and lessen as the dragon reaches maturity and growth begins to slow down. My young dragons shed approximately once a month. My young dragons are 22 and 24 months old, and 25 stl and 23 stl respectively. Over the last three months they have each shed 3 to 4 times and grown a half inch or so a month. On the other hand my older dragon at 26 inches has been growing at a much slower rate over the same period of time and have only shed twice. :) I believe the frequency of their sheds to be normal as they have all been growing and the skin must grow and be replaced as they get larger or wider. :)
Shedding seems to take place over a week or two's time. My dragons often have one or two body parts shedding at one time and once those body parts are finished another body part will begin to shed as well. Often the area about to shed will turn a brownish colour, then a few days later it will turn greyish, then it will seem to disappear and the skin in the area will only look slightly dull compared to the rest of the body- often the day after the skin looks almost normal again that area will begin to shed.
It is not uncommon for the dragons head or front legs to shed first, followed closely by the upper and lower body, then the hind legs. From my observations the tails on my dragons almost always are the last to shed and seem to take the longest to shed as well. :)
To make your dragons shed easier the enclosure should be misted once or twice a day (this should always be done- not just during shed time), and the dragon may be given a bath in the tub or in a large container that they may soak up to 50 % of their body height in. The water should be luke warm, that is 80F to 85F, as high temperatures could shock or kill them.
It is important to make sure that all of the old skin comes off the dragon at shed time. Areas that can be difficult and often retain some of the old skin are the toes, the spikes on their crests, tails and back, and the skin near the tip of the tail.
Dysecdysis (difficulty in sloughing) may be attributed to a poor environment such as low relative humidity, or no bathing facilities, but often there is a more deeply rooted problem such as systemic disease. old scars, or endocrinology disorders.
If your dragon is having a difficult time shedding it's skin you should first check that you are keeping the dragons environment at optimal levels. Make sure that the humidity is between 60% and 80%. 80% is the desired level. If you are having trouble keeping the humidity in these ranges then be sure to mist your dragon twice a day, everyday. If you are providing an optimal environment and nothing else about your husbandry techniques seems to be amiss then I would suggest that you take your dragon to a qualified reptile vet for a check-up as an underlying disorder could be the cause of continual retained skin problems.
If you find that your dragons old skin is not coming off well in these areas, or that these areas have retained old sheds, please soak your dragon well, and gently (extremely gently) try to work off these areas of old skin. You must be very careful doing this as it could be painful to the dragon and could also cause damage to the underlying skin if you try to force to skin off. If the area seems particularly built up with old skin and seems difficult please take your time by slowly loosening the skin over a period of days rather than trying to get it all off in one day.
It is extremely important that all of the old skin comes off the toes and spikes etc.. If the skin remains on the toe, for example, it will tighten and constrict the blood flow to the area causing the toe to die. Many a dragon have been purchased only to find that they are missing toes or spikes due to poor sheds.
If you do manage to remove old shed skin from an area that has had a build up of it over time you may discover that the tissue underneath has necrosis (dead or decaying tissues). If you do discover damaged tissue treat it with an antibacterial cream and a disinfectant solution such as betadine. You should treat these areas daily until they appear to be healing. If the area appears to be infected, or if the dragon stops eating or becomes lethargic, please take it to a reptile vet for a check up.
In the case of a spike with such damage if it is only partially destroyed it may grow back, but if it is almost totally destroyed it likely will not grow back. Toes and tail tips will not grow back either. (:
I have noticed, and a few others have mentioned, that water dragons will sometimes eat less during a shed and will often act skittish or finicky during a shed.
My oldest male definitely dislikes being held during a shed, and will often loose much of his appetite. My oldest female will be a bit friskier but her appetite is seldom affected by anything! My younger dragons seem to stay just about the same during sheds- but then they are almost constantly shedding so I really don't know what they are like when they aren't shedding. :)
If you do notice that your dragon's appetite decreases or that they have minor to moderate personality changes during a shed it is probably normal, but it's always good to take note of slight changes in behaviour or eating habits just in case it is the first sign of illness or stress. You just never know, so if your dragon does change during sheds don't just blame it on the shed please watch the change in behaviour carefully. :)
So watch your dragons carefully during shed times, assisted them by misting and soaking, and by working off difficult areas only when necessary, and your dragon will look wonderful and healthy! :)
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Mar, 19, 2010
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