Abnormal skin shedding, or disecdysis, is one of the most common health problems affecting pet reptiles. Some species of snakes and lizards shed their entire skin in a single complete piece, while other reptiles shed their skin in patches. In all cases, however, once the process is complete, the reptile should be completely covered in a fresh, new layer of skin.
Symptoms and Types
After an incomplete shed, pieces of old skin often remain attached around the toes and tail, or over the surface of the eye. Bands of unshed skin may act as a tourniquet and cause tissue death and the loss of toes or portions of the tail. Infections can develop underneath patches of unshed skin leading to red, irritated areas that may drain pus. Spectacles that have not shed give the reptile’s eye a milky and sometimes wrinkled appearance.
The most common cause of abnormal skin shedding is a humidity level within the terrarium that is too low. Other contributing factors can include the lack of a surface on which to rub, poor health, external parasites, and an inadequate diet.
Abnormal skin shedding can be diagnosed by close examination of the reptile. Uncovering the condition’s cause may require researching a reptile’s preferred humidity levels and nutritional requirements, analyzing the environmental conditions within the terrarium, and performing a complete health workup.