Lizard Shedding

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Viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara) shedding its skin (© Piet Spaans, WikiMedia Commons)


Shedding is the normal process of skin renewal. The frequency depends upon the rapidity of growth, age, nutritional state, size and environmental factors. For most lizards, the skin sheds in patches, except for the alligator lizard which sheds in one piece.

A change in colour can be noted prior to shedding; the overall shade of the lizard gets progressively dimmer and duller around the head and limbs and grey/ white patches of skin begin to appear, progressing from head to tail. The shedding occurs on all parts of the body, including eyelids.


Lizards tend to rub themselves on surfaces to loosen the dead skin. Their behaviour may become more aggressive, especially while being held or touched.

While reptiles may still eat when in the very early phase of the pre-shed period, they usually lose their appetite as the period progresses, greatly reducing their food intake or refraining from eating alltogether.

Possible Complications

To fasten the shed, it might be useful to bathe or spray the iguana with water. Indeed, in the wild, humidity in the air helps keep the old skin supple and therefore easier to peel off.

A healthy iguana will shed every 4-6 weeks during 1-2 weeks but young iguanas (2 to 3 years) may shed more often. Occasionally, a new shed may start before the previous one has ended. Shedding will slow down or stop during colder weather. Absence of shedding which cannot be linked to seasonality may be an indicator of an underlying problem, possibly associated with an inadequate diet, disease, stress, bacterial infections, parasite infestations, or other medical conditions.

If the dead skin isn't shed, it may constrict the growth of the living tissue and result in avascular necrosis.