How to Help Your Snake Through Reptile Molting

Reptiles shed their skin (called ecdysis) for two main reasons: to replace old, worn scales; and to remove parasites. The process of shedding can be tricky, but there are things you can do to help your snake through it.


A few days before a snake is about to shed they become a little dull and their eyes look whitish. They often rub their head against something abrasive like a rock or log to create a rip in the old skin layer around their mouth and nose area.

Pre-Shedding Period

If you’ve owned reptiles for a while, chances are you’re familiar with the shedding process. Shedding in reptiles is a natural process that occurs as the animal grows, and it also helps to protect against disease and other threats such as evaporation, UV-rays, and parasites.

A sign that a reptile is about to shed is when the old skin becomes dull and opaque, and this is especially evident in brightly colored reptiles like chameleons or certain types of snakes. They may also start to have a whitish blue tint to their eyes, which is due to lymph-like fluid building up underneath the old eye covering layer. This is a normal occurrence, and it’s best not to handle the reptile during this time as they can become very nervous.

As the molting period nears, your reptile will begin to rub its body against rough surfaces such as rocks and branches to help with the shedding process. They may even refuse to eat at this point, but this is completely normal and should not be interfered with. The shedding process will typically last anywhere from seven to fourteen days, and your snake will remain very fragile during this time.

You can sometimes help the shedding process along by giving your reptile a bath. This will loosen up the old skin and make it easier to get off. Just be sure to keep the water tepid and not too warm, as it can be dangerous for your reptile.

Post-Shedding Period

The molting process, also known as ecdysis, is a reptile’s normal way of shedding old skin to make room for new growth. The first indication that your pet is about to shed is usually a dulling of the skin and the eyes becoming a milky or blue color due to fluid buildup under the eye covers. This is a very important time and it’s recommended to leave them alone during this process. If you have to handle them, do so with gloves as they can be quite sensitive and prone to injury during this stage.

As the pre-shed period continues, the reptile will rub against objects to help loosen the old skin. It may also lose interest in food and become irritable or aggressive, especially when handled. In the wild, reptiles often eat their own shed skin, which helps them recoup nutrients they’ve lost during the shedding process.

During this phase, it’s best to leave them alone and to give them plenty of opportunities to hide away in their favorite hiding spot. Shedding can cause the reptile to become insecure and they will want to avoid being startled by anyone, even their owner. This is why a large or full-body shed can be so stressful for them. If your reptile gets too cold during the shedding process, you can help them recoup by placing a heating pad under their tank or providing a humid retreat box for them to use.

During Shedding

All reptiles shed their skin periodically. The shedding process, known as ecdysis, is an important part of the somatic growth of these animals. In addition to allowing for the growth of new cells, the old layer provides protection against UV-rays, evaporation and parasites. Reptiles will begin the shedding process when their eyes become opaque and a whitish blue color to them (this is caused by lymph-like fluid between the old eye covering layer and the fresh, newly formed layer).

Once this happens, the old skin will slowly slough off, revealing the new, soft, pink and supple layer underneath. The shedding process can be assisted by the reptile rubbing itself on surfaces such as rocks and branches. Reptiles may exhibit less activity, and some species, such as iguanas, will lose their appetite during the pre-shed period.

During this time, you may see your reptile spend more time in its hide or tank than usual. It will also tend to rub itself on objects in the enclosure in an attempt to loosen the skin. If your reptile becomes irritable or aggressive during the shedding process, don’t worry. This is all normal. Be careful not to reach in and grab a piece of shedding skin that isn’t ready to come off, as this can cause mites. If you notice a bit of shedding in the corner of your snake’s eyes, leave it alone.

After Shedding

A reptile’s old skin will slough off and the new layer beneath it will grow to replace it. This process is called molting, also known as ecdysis.

Snakes usually shed their whole body at one time, and if they are preparing to do so, it is important that they not be handled. They will typically refuse to eat and can become quite irritable and temperamental. They may also strike if harassed or held during this period.

They will seek out rough objects like branches or rocks, rubbing their bodies against them to help facilitate the shedding process. This will cause the skin to loosen and break apart, revealing a new, soft skin underneath. It is this layer that is discarded during the shedding period, and it helps to protect the reptile against UV-rays, evaporation, parasites and other threats.

After the old skin is removed, the basal cells will enter a resting phase, which has a different duration in each species. The resting period is necessary to ensure that the cellular regeneration takes place at the right pace and time, ensuring that it does not occur too quickly or too slowly.

Reptiles will often utilize microclimates during this period, such as rocky crevices or under windthrow (or even discarded boards around human habitation) to create humid retreats. This is the preferred method of shelter for many snakes, as it offers them a more comfortable and secure environment to relax in. If your snake or lizard has a humidity retreat box, you should try to encourage them to use it. This will allow them to benefit from its protective properties and prevent them from being exposed to too much UV-rays while they are preparing for a molt.