Does Shedding Hurt Leopard Geckos?

photo provided by @KoalaSoph

If you’ve ever caught a leopard gecko shedding their skin, then you might know how painful it looks watching them tug and pull it away as they try to get it off of their bodies.  It doesn’t look very comfortable when they’re doing it, but as loving owners, we at least hope they’re not in pain while in the process of removing it.  To give us all peace of mind though, let’s find out the truth.

Does shedding hurt leopard geckos? Shedding does not hurt leopard geckos, but it can be a painful experience for them if they start to have complications getting it off.

If your leopard gecko is provided with the right tank requirements for a successful shed, then it won’t hurt them one bit.  But if they aren’t, a whole host of problems can occur ranging anywhere from mild to severe depending on how hard of a time they’re having getting the shed off and also how long the shed is stuck on their bodies.  That said, here’s some information that may help.

How to Avoid Complications

Stuck shed doesn’t seem like a very big deal to us because it’s just skin, but in all reality, it’s nothing to take lightly.  Leopard geckos have very fragile bodies, so when their skin gets stuck on their body to the point where they’re having an incredibly hard time getting it off, they can lose limbs, develop issues with their breathing, or potentially even go blind.

To avoid all of that, you’ll want to make sure that their tanks are humid and their humid hides are moist so that they’ll have enough moisture in the air to properly shed their skin off.  That being said, according to your hygrometer (humidity reader), your humidity should be at around %20 to %40.

If you don’t have a hygrometer, then I highly suggest you look into getting one.  Knowing what your humidity levels are is important for not only ensuring that your leopard gecko has a safe shed, but to maintain their overall health as well.  Too much and too little humidity is bad for them, so by having a hygrometer, you won’t have to worry about that.

If you’d like to know the one I use, then check it out here over on Amazon.

If you’re having trouble maintaining the humidity of your tank, then I recommend spraying your tank with a spray bottle once every night before your leopard gecko wakes up and then adding a water bowl inside of your tank if you don’t have one already to help keep the humidity levels up.

Water creates humidity, so the more you have in the tank, the more humidity will be created.

As far as your humid hide goes, you’ll need to put something safe inside of it that can hold moisture and then place it on the warm side of the tank.  Moisture in the humid hide is created by heat, so if it’s on the colder side of the tank, there won’t be a whole lot of moisture being created.

As for what to actually put in your humid hide, I recommend either paper towel or Eco Earth substrate.  Both of these substrates hold water very well and aren’t dangerous if consumed by your leopard gecko.

I use Eco Earth which can be bought here over on Amazon but if I ever need paper towels, I just go to my local retail or dollar store and pick some up.  Both of these two items are great to use, so whichever one you decide to go with is completely up to you.

For paper towels, you’ll want to get it nice and soaked and then place it on the bottom of your humid hide.  For Eco Earth, you’ll just want to spray enough of it to cover the bottom of the hide and place it in there or lift the hide up and spray it if it’s already down.

Both substrates should be sprayed a considerable amount, but not enough to where water is dripping out of the hide.

Giving Assistance

If your leopard gecko is having trouble getting their shed off and they’re doing things like rubbing up against hard objects or tirelessly biting and licking at the spots where the shed is being stubborn, then at that point it’s probably best to give them assistance so that no harm is physically done to their bodies not only in the process of getting it off but also in the case where the shed gets stuck for a long period of time as well.

Leopard geckos who are having a hard time getting their shed off will rub up against hard or rough pieces of equipment in the tank until their skin is raw and having that happen can be problematic for the owner seeing as the wounds will need to be cared for so that your leopard gecko doesn’t get bacteria in them and potentially get an infection.

On top of that, skin that is left on their body for too long can cause serious issues with their overall health and that’s not something that any owner wants their leopard gecko to go through.

In order to prevent any of these potential issues from happening, the best thing you can do whenever your leopard gecko can’t get the shed off their self is to soak them in shallow lukewarm water and help gently rub it off of them.

Just keep in mind that when doing this to not fill the water up too high.  You’ll want it to be just high enough to reach the bottom of their bellies.  A lot of the time the shed that is stuck is wrapped around their toes, so usually, having the water at that level will be high enough for what you need to get done.

If the shed is stuck on other parts of the body, just dampen a washcloth with more lukewarm water and very gently rub in a circular motion in the areas where they’re having a hard time getting it off at.  As stated above, leopard geckos are very fragile, so it’s important to not be too rough when doing this as it can cause them more pain than they’re already in from the stuck shed.

Also, don’t pull on the skin as this can be very painful for them as well.

Getting Assistance

Helping a leopard gecko get their shed off isn’t too complicated of a process but for those who are new owners, it can be a little intimidating to do so.

Between leopard geckos being very squirmy and sometimes even a little aggressive, getting them to sit still long enough for you to do what you have to do can be a little challenging if you don’t have the experience and because of that, you may need a little help.

If getting their shed off is something you absolutely feel like you can’t do, then asking for assistance is something you will, at some point, need to do to avoid complications.  If you have a friend or family member who owns a reptile that has more experience with them, then it might be a good idea to reach out and ask if they can give you a helping hand.

If you don’t have a friend or family member to reach out to, then you could always contact your nearest herp veterinarian and schedule a time to get in with them to have your leopard gecko seen for further assistance.

If a veterinarian isn’t an option, then searching online for video instructions may also help you understand a little bit better for how to get their shed off.

Assisting your leopard gecko with their sheds isn’t something that you should have to do frequently if you have everything in your tank setup correctly.  But in a time where you need to help them and you have nobody around that can give you assistance, knowing how to do it will be very helpful in the long run.

Conclusion

Most of the time, leopard geckos can get their shed off fairly quickly and with no issues.  But in the case where issues do happen to arise, the whole experience for them can be a little, or a lot, painful.

It’s sad to say, but unfortunately, there have been tons of owners who have had problems with their leopard geckos shedding and most of the time, it’s because their tanks weren’t humid enough, their humid hide wasn’t very moist, or both.

In order to avoid going through that type of experience, always check your humidity levels and make sure your humid hide is moist enough to avoid any of the complications that I’ve stated above.

If you have everything in your tank set up correctly, then it’s likely that you won’t even know when your leopard gecko sheds.  There are some owners out there who haven’t seen their lizard shed in years because they keep up on the conditions of their tank and if you do the same as they have, then you may never see your leopard gecko shed either.

Although missing out on a shed seems a little disappointing, it’s a good problem to have because then you know that you’re doing everything right.