Are you curious about why chameleons shed their skin?
Do you want to know how often to expect skin shedding from your chameleon?
Understanding why and how often a chameleon sheds is important information for chameleon owners to have.
Why do chameleons shed?
On average, a chameleon will shed every 4 to 8 weeks, to keep themselves clean, prepare for growth, and to renew skin cells.
Continue reading for more in depth information about why chameleons shed and how often chameleons shed.
Table of Contents
What is Skin Shedding?
Skin shedding is a process many reptiles go through, and chameleons are no exception.
Read on to learn more about skin shedding.
#1 A Natural Process
Every animal on earth, including humans, sheds their skin.
It is a natural part of the growth and maintenance process animals go through.
Most animals shed their skin continually, and it is not a noticeable process as tiny individual skin cells are shedding, not large, noticeable pieces.
#2 Reptiles and Shedding
While every animal sheds, reptiles shed in a very unique and noticeable way.
Instead of an ongoing process like most other animals, reptiles shed their skin periodically.
This process is called ecdysis, sloughing, or molting.
Reasons Healthy Chameleons Shed
There are many different reasons chameleons shed.
When a chameleon is healthy, it sheds its skin to facilitate growth, renew skin cells, and keep itself clean.
Continue reading to learn more about these reasons chameleons shed.
#1 Chameleons Shed For Growth
Chameleons grow incredibly quickly, and when they are young, they need to shed their skin to accommodate their rapid growth.
When chameleons are adults, they will often shed to accommodate changes in weight, rather than to accommodate growth spurts as the babies do.
Chameleon skin is not very stretchy, so shedding as they grow or shrink is important, because chameleons should have tight-fitting skin.
#2 Chameleons Shed for Cleanliness
Another reason chameleons shed is to keep themselves clean.
When chameleons are in their natural environment, and even in captivity, their skin is exposed to a wide variety of elements.
While in captivity, chameleons are also exposed to artificial light and sunlight, which dulls a chameleon’s skin.
Dust and other particulate contaminants are continually coming in contact with a chameleon, and shedding helps keep the amount of dullness and debris from building up and causing illness or infection.
#3 Chameleons Shed to Renew Skin Cells
As the thin layer of skin on the outside of a chameleon ages, it becomes dry and old, while the skin underneath is tighter and strengthened.
By shedding old skin skills, chameleons bring new skin cells to the outside of their bodies, continuing the important cycle of cell growth.
Unhealthy Reasons Chameleons Shed Their Skin
While skin shedding is a natural and healthy part of a chameleon’s routine, there are reasons a chameleon may be shedding, which are not healthy.
Continue reading to learn more about why a chameleon may shed their skin for unhealthy reasons.
Chameleons will shed when they are particularly stressed.
Many things can cause stress in chameleons, including being introduced to a new environment.
When a chameleon is first purchased and brought home, or even if it is simply moved into a new cage or habitat, a chameleon may shed as a stress response.
A chameleon also sheds in response to an illness, particularly when the illness is related to the skin.
If a chameleon has parasites or a skin infection, shedding is common.
Chameleons also shed when they lose weight, which they often do when they are sick.
Chameleons in captivity should be closely monitored because shedding can sometimes be an indicator something is wrong.
How Often Do Chameleons Shed?
Knowing how often chameleons shed is important because it can help you figure out if your chameleon is shedding for healthy or unhealthy reasons.
Different ages and types of chameleons shed at different times, so continue to learn more about how often a chameleon is supposed to shed.
#1 Young Chameleons
Young chameleons shed more frequently than adult chameleons.
Typically, young chameleons will shed every 3 to 4 weeks.
This cycle will continue until they are between 10 and 18 months, depending on the species, and then they will begin their adult cycle of shedding.
#2 Adult Chameleons
Adult chameleons will shed less frequently than young chameleons.
This is because they are not growing as rapidly, and therefore do not need to shed and generate the skin to accommodate rapid growth.
Adult chameleons will shed every 6 to 8 weeks, but this also varies between species.
Some species will shed more frequently as adults, and some will shed much less.
#3 Different Species
Some species of chameleon will shed more frequently as adults.
Smaller species like the pygmy chameleon will shed more often and will go through the skin shedding cycle every 3 to 4 weeks.
Larger chameleons like the veiled, Jackson, Panther, and Parsons will shed their skin every 4 to 8 weeks.
How Long Does Shedding Last?
Understanding how long a chameleon sheds its skin is important because it can tell you if a chameleon is healthy or unhealthy.
Healthy chameleons will shed for 2 to 3 days.
If chameleons are taking longer to shed, it may be the result of low humidity in their environment, low hydration, or illness.
What Does Shedding Look Like?
Chameleons display several signs when they are getting ready to shed, and while they are shedding.
Read on to learn more about how chameleons look when they are shedding.
#1 Decrease in Appetite
Before a chameleon sheds, they will sometimes display a decrease in appetite.
This starts a couple of days before shedding starts and is a normal part of the shedding process.
Some chameleons will continue to show a lower appetite or not eat at all during their shedding as well.
#2 White Spots
One of the most common ways to tell a chameleon is shedding or is about to shed the presence of white spots all over the chameleon’s body.
These spots will vary in size from small to large, and you will be able to see the spots increase hour by hour.
These spots are simply dry skin starting to peel away from the chameleon’s body and are completely normal and healthy.
When chameleons are about to shed, they will become restless, often wandering around their cage or enclosure.
If you notice an increase in your chameleon’s mobility and energy, it is frequently a sign they will soon begin shedding.
Some chameleons will also become more aggressive during this time, so it is a good idea to let chameleons wander freely and limit handling during this time.
#4 Dry Skin
In addition to the white spots, you will notice a chameleon’s skin looks drier in general as they are about to shed, and during their shedding period.
This is also normal but should be monitored because extended periods of dry skin is a sign of low humidity or low hydration.
#5 Rubbing Themselves on Objects
When chameleons are shedding, they often rub themselves on branches or sticks in their enclosure to help their dry skin flake off their body.
This is important for chameleons to be able to do, so you must stock their cages with smooth sticks.
When a stick is rough or pointy, the chameleon runs a risk of injuring themselves.
Just like rubbing themselves on branches, chameleons will scratch themselves to remove dead skin and to itch their dry skin while they are shedding.
The shedding process may be an uncomfortable one for some chameleons, so itching helps them relieve discomfort and speed up their shedding.
Caring for a Shedding Chameleon
During shedding, there are several things to do to care for chameleons.
Continue reading to learn how to care for your chameleon while they shed.
#1 Manage Humidity
One of the best ways to care for your shedding chameleon is by monitoring and maintaining high humidity levels in their cage or enclosure.
A humid environment helps a chameleon keep their skin moist and lubricates the shedding process.
Dry skin is irritating and uncomfortable for chameleons, and high humidity levels keep dry skin at bay.
#2 Mist Chameleons
If your humidity levels are high and you still notice your chameleon has dry skin, help them by misting them periodically.
This is simply the process of spraying them with a water bottle with either cold or warm water.
This will help wet their skin and make it easier for them to shed.
Another option is to purchase automatic misters for their enclosures.
#3 Leave Your Chameleon Alone
Generally, chameleons will go through the entire shedding process by themselves without any assistance, and it is better to leave them alone.
Picking them up and handling them can even hurt them during this time if you accidentally pull their shedding skin, so it is best to simply let your chameleon roam their cage undisturbed during their shedding period.
#4 Provide Proper Nourishment
A chameleon healthy on the inside is healthy on the outside.
While chameleons will often lose their appetite when they are approaching shedding, if you know their shedding period is coming, it is helpful to provide especially nutritious treats like crickets or roaches because they are high in calcium.
Adequate calcium levels are ideal for shedding chameleons and will ease the shedding process.
#5 Rub Skin
A buildup of dead skin flakes on a chameleon is a breeding ground for bacteria, so if you notice after the shedding period has passed, there are still a few large bits of dead skin on your chameleon you should rub them gently.
This should be done very carefully, and if it seems to stress the chameleon out, stop and try again later.
To do this, simply rub a smooth branch or cotton swab soaked in warm water very gently on the area where the dead skin remains.
If the skin does not remove with very gentle rubbing, leave it alone.
It can hurt chameleons to have skin removed if it isn’t dead, so do not pull the skin off with your fingers or rub off the skin if it is not responding to gentle rubbing.
#6 Use a Product
If your chameleon always has a difficult time shedding, use a product designed to aid in shedding like Repti Shedding Aid or Shed Ease.
These are helpful solutions for moisturizing and lubricating the chameleon’s skin and make shedding easier.
Consult with your veterinarian before starting with these products and for more information about how to use them.
- Aids in removing dry sheds from snakes and lizards
- Conditions your reptile's skin and provides a visible sheen
- Helps keep the skin moist and pliable
When To Worry About Shedding
There are times when shedding behavior may not be normal, and owners should be worried.
Pay close attention to these signs during your chameleon’s shedding period.
#1 Constant or Continual Shedding
Chameleons should only shed every 3 to 8 weeks, depending on their age and species.
If you notice your chameleon is constantly shedding with no periods of rest in between, it is time to take your chameleon to the veterinarian.
#2 Dead Skin Buildup
If you notice a lot of dead skin buildup on your chameleon for days after their shedding should be over, bring your chameleon to the veterinarian.
Lots of dead skin is not healthy for the chameleon, and not being able to shed their skin fully may be a sign of a larger issue.
We hope you enjoyed learning about why chameleons shed and how often chameleons shed.
Chameleons shed every 4 to 8 weeks to keep themselves clean, prepare for growth, and to renew skin cells.
It is important to know the shedding habits of chameleons to keep your chameleon healthy.