Every chameleons’ owner will witness a fascinating process which is chameleon shedding. When I first saw it, I was pretty nervous. I worry it might be some illness or health alarm.
So why is chameleon shedding? Chameleons are reptiles and like snakes and crocodiles which belong to the same class, they grow throughout their lives. As they grow, their skin gets too small for their bodies, and they have to shed some of it.
However, unlike snakes, chameleons do not shed their skin all at once, instead, they shed it in bits and pieces. Therefore if you see your chameleon’s skin suddenly start flaking off, don’t be alarmed. It is a sign that your chameleon is growing properly.
There are more about chameleon shedding, I’ll discuss in the rest of the post.
How often do chameleons shed?
Chameleon shedding varies according to species, some chameleons shed a large chunk of skin at once, while some others just shed the skin in tiny bits and pieces. There is no set age or time for a chameleon to shed. Some pet owners have reported chameleon hatchlings as young as one month old shedding, on the other hand, three to four years old chameleons also shed. Shedding times in chameleons also vary and depend on size and species.
A chameleon can shed its whole skin in bits and pieces in as little as 4 minutes (the chameleon was an 8 week old hatchling), while another chameleon can take four or five days to shed its entire skin. Some chameleons may even dramatically shed, dramatically, with pieces of skin exploding everywhere. It makes for interesting viewing, but there is no cause for alarm.
Chameleons can shed at any time. Pet owners have reported chameleons who shed every month while some other pet owners claimed that their chameleon didn’t shed for seven months. It is generally accepted though that younger chameleons shed more frequently than older chameleons. This is because the young chameleons are still rapidly growing while the rate of growth of the older chameleons have slowed somewhat.
All species of chameleons shed their skins. As noted, chameleons grow throughout their lives, and as a result, they all have to shed their skin sooner or later. The largest species of chameleons like veiled Chameleons, Parsons chameleons, Jackson chameleons, and Panther chameleons do not shed frequently- an owner reported that her male Jackson chameleon didn’t shed for seven months, while the other smaller species like pygmy chameleons shed their skins far more frequently.
Pet owners should note that chameleon shedding is still dependent on the individual animal. Therefore if you see your Panther or veiled chameleon shedding more frequent than it is supposed to be, there should be no cause for alarm, but you should alert your animal doctor just in case.
Do chameleons shed when stressed?
Animal care specialists say that sometimes your chameleon’s shedding may not be a natural shed.
Chameleons often shed when they are stressed, such as when they are introduced into a new environment or due to travel. If the animal is introduced to a new cage, what it does is to hide in a corner of the cage and turn very dark. This may be followed by the familiar white spots that precede a shedding.
It is advisable in this conditions that the chameleon owner not attempts to touch the chameleon but should instead make the animal’s environment more comfortable by turning on the humidity and misting the animal.
Shedding may also happen if the chameleon is ill. Therefore it is important that you as the chameleon owner monitor your pet in order to know if the shed is a natural one or there is a problem. Vets also advise chameleon owners to pay attention to their pet’s way and time of shedding. A disruption in manner or frequency of shedding may indicate an abnormal shed, which is a sign of a problem.
How do you know when your chameleon is about to shed?
Again like the periods of shedding and the age of time of shedding, this also varies according to not just the chameleon’s species, but the chameleon itself. Here are a few signs showing that your chameleon is about to shed.
Generally, though chameleon owners report that they find white spots on their animals prior to a shedding. These white spots then metastasize into white patches of skin flaking off the chameleon’s body. Once the shedding is complete, the white spots disappear. This means that generally, whites spots on the animal’s body is a reliable judge of whether the animal is about to shed or not.
Furthermore, some owners also report that they see wrinkly and drier skin than normal when their chameleon is about to shed. Like snakes, a chameleon’s skin will also flake and dry when it is about to come off. You may also find the blister-like patches on the chameleon’s skin, especially if the chameleon is shedding its skin in bits and pieces.
Sometimes this shedding may cause the chameleon to itch and look for a rough surface to scratch itself against so that the shed skin can peel. Make sure you provide plenty of plants and leaves for the chameleon to scratch its body with and keep it away from actual rough surfaces because rough surfaces can cause injuries to the new skin.
Another sign your pet may be about to shed is that it becomes restless and starts to wander around its cage. Sometimes the chameleon also tries to peel the skin off with its tongue or try to eat the shed skin. The shed skin is not harmful to the animal in any way.
Sometimes the process of shedding might cause loss of appetite in the chameleon or cause it to be irritable and moody. It may also cause the animal’s colours to become dull and to develop loose edges and flaps on the surface of the skin.
All these symptoms depend on the individual chameleon because not all pet owners report this. This is due to the stress of shedding and will soon abate once the animal has shed its skin. Some species of chameleon tend to turn black a lot around this time. Some chameleons may contort and stretch. Some even make yawning motions. Pet owners have also seen chameleons puff out their eyes in preparation for a shed. It may be alarming, but it is part of the shedding process and your chameleon will be alright afterward.
How to care for Your Shedding Chameleon
A normal shedding does not require any intervention of the owner.
When your chameleon is shedding, its skin can become quite dry, therefore it is important that you keep the chameleon’s cage humid. The other thing a chameleon owner can do when a chameleon starts to shed is to mist.
Misting can be done in two ways (1.) You can spray your chameleon’s skin directly with water, and (2.) You can get an artificial water spray into it enclosure so that the animal can bask under the spray and mist itself.
Some use cold water and some use warm water, both methods make no difference to the chameleon. The misting process is important in that not only does it reduce the chameleon’s itching and dry skin, it also helps to moisten the skin so that the flaking skin can come off quicker and easier. In fact, it has been reported that a lack of humidity in a chameleon’s cage can cause the chameleon’s shedding to be drawn out longer than usual.
Can I help with the process?
If the chameleon requires assistance, such as if a piece of its skin appears to be hanging precariously. If the skin is ready to come off, it makes no difference to the animal. If it is not coming off, then the best thing to do is to wait, as removing shedding skin by force can harm the animal. Some chameleon owners argue though that the chameleon owner should not touch the chameleon when it is shedding because touching the animal when it is enduring the stress of shedding can have unintended adverse effects on the animal’s physical well-being.
Notwithstanding, the chameleon owner must be vigilant during the shedding process so that he or she can easily detect when a piece of skin is not properly shed. When a bit of the chameleon’s skin is not properly shed, it can pose a danger to your chameleon. If a piece of unshed skin is not properly removed from the chameleon’s body, it poses the danger of skin or limb death- the unshed skin cuts of circulation to a particular part of the chameleon’s body, and that body part may die due to lack of circulation of blood.
If the animal experiences loss of appetite during a shedding, you must make sure that the loss of appetite doesn’t continue after the shedding because it may be a sign of ill health. If the animal darkens, you must make sure it gets back to its true colours after the shedding.
Chameleons are aesthetically beautiful creatures, but they can be a bit tricky to take care of. Therefore as a chameleon owner, you must ensure that you pay attention to them always, especially at the time of shedding.
Taking care of chameleons is a stressful activity, but the opportunity to see these breathing works of art makes the experience worth it.
Hope you enjoy the post. If you find anything wrong or outdated, please leave your comment below. I’ll update as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading.