Stuck sheds. It happens to the best of us. Here are The Serpenty’s best tips and trick to remove stuck shed and prevent future issues.
Normal snake sheds should be mostly in one piece with visible eye caps. Stuck shed can look like a few dry patches of skin, shed “confetti” all over the cage, or like the snake is completely wrinkled and covered in old skin (severe). Sometimes the snake may fully shed everything but the caps over the eyes. The eyes will look cloudy or you may see a corner of the eye cap pulled up.
The best remedy for stuck shed is prevention. Your snake needs more humidity in the enclosure. This can be achieved in a few ways.
- Offer a moist “hide”. This can be a pile of damp sphagnum moss in the corner or it can be placed under a hide/in a small container.
- Try a different substrate. Coconut husk/Reptichip and cypress mulch hold more moisture than aspen without growing mold.
- Spray your snake’s enclosure with water a few times a week and more frequently around shedding.
- Reduce ventilation. This is more of an issue for people that use tanks with screen lids and overhead heating.
To remove stuck shed, you want to dampen the old skin so it can be removed. Remember to never use very hot or cold water. Use room temp water to avoid causing your snake discomfort. We also don’t recommend soaking your snake directly water, as this is very distressing for some smakes. A few tricks…
- Our favorite trick! Place your snake in a small container (with air holes) and a handful of very damp sphagnum moss. Put the cup slightly on the heat pad to create a sauna. Leave the snake there for 30-60 min, checking on them frequently. The snake will usually work off the shed just by crawling through the moss. Viola! Shiny hydrated skin. This can also be done with paper towels.
- Flood the substrate. Unconventional and creates a lot of cleanup, but it works! This works better is small tubs/cages. Simply get the substrate very damp without creating standing water. Leave overnight and the shed should come off easily. Make sure you clean the tub immediately as the moisture can lead to scale rot, respiratory infection, and mold if not cleaned.
- For really stubborn sheds that remain stuck after using the previous methods, you may have to help the snake. You will not hurt your snake by removing moist shed that is already coming off. You can assist by letting your snake crawl through a towel in your hand. The pressure and rough texture will help the shed fall off. We have also “rolled” the shed off with our fingers. This can be distressing for some snakes and we recommend leaving stubborn pieces of shed in place. Most stuck shed will come off with the next shed, so make sure you offer extra humidity for the second shed.
- Eye caps usually come off with the above methods, but you may need to gently assist. DO NOT try to pick them off with tweezers. You can remove the scale covering the eye and cause infection or worse. When the snake is damp you can try gently wiping the eyes with a finger or soft cloth/Q-tip. This rarely works. We usually choose to wait until the next shed. Most of the time the eye caps come off easily as long as the second shed goes well.
If the snake has multiple layers of stuck shed, it will have to be removed (and you need to reevaluate your husbandry). This can take multiple soak sessions and manually removing shed. It is very important to at least break any pieces of shed that form a ring around the snake, as this can eventually cut off circulation if it gets tight (mostly happens at the tail tip). We occasionally have to use a fingernail to remove the shed at the very tip of the tail. If multiple layers of eye caps are stuck, the best option is to take your snake to an experienced reptile vet for removal. Please research your vet. We have had inexperienced vets remove the eye scale on a customer’s snake and it resulted in the snake losing the eye.
Remember, the best defense against shedding issues is prevention through proper husbandry!