Snake Shedding Problems

February 4, 2021

corn snake shedding its skin

Is Your Snake Having Trouble Shedding?

Snakes shed their skin regularly as they grow. How often a snake sheds its skin is determined by their age, and the type of snake. A healthy snake will generally shed its skin in one complete piece from nose tip to tail tip. The entire shedding process will take between 7-14 days. If your snake is not shedding in one piece it is often a sign of improper husbandry (wrong temperatures or too low of humidity). But don’t worry, there are quite a few simple fixes to get your snake shedding in one piece!


How Do I Know When My Snakes About To Shed?

If you’re new to keeping snakes, or if you have had problems with incomplete sheds in the past, you may be worried about your snakes first/next shed. There should be no reason to worry if your snake’s humidity levels (and the rest of their husbandry) are where they should be. 



Here are a few signs that your snake is about to shed:

  • Blue or cloudy looking eyes
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Overall dull coloration
  • Wrinkled skin
  • Hiding or acting lethargic 


Ball python in shed
The blue eyes indicate that this snake is about to shed its skin


What to do if Your Snake Doesn’t Shed Completely

Incomplete sheds, also known as dysecdysis, can be caused by a number of things. A complete snake shed will include the snakes eye caps, so be sure to check for those as you look over your snake's shed skin. If your snake is not shedding in one piece, there is a good chance that they are dehydrated, so make sure to check your humidity levels (your snake’s tank should have a digital hygrometer and thermometer on both the hot side and the cool side at all times). Check and make sure that the temperatures in their enclosure are in the proper range as well. If their humidity is on the high end, and their temperatures are accurate, but their shed is incomplete, it may be a sign of a health issue. Incomplete sheds can also be caused by a number of health problems such as internal or external parasites, nutrition deficiency, or an infectious disease. I recommend making an appointment with an exotic vet to check your snake’s health. 


corn snake shedding
A complete shed will include the snakes eye caps


In the meantime, it is important to get the stuck shed off of your snake. It can be common for stuck shed to be left on the tip of a snake's tail, which if left untreated can lead to the tip of their tail dying and falling off. You should never pull off your snake’s shed yourself. Pulling their shed off can lead to scale injuries. Instead, take a warm damp rag or towel and allow your snake to slither through it. Be patient and gentle with your snake, the shed should come off on its own as they move through the damp towel. 



How Can I Help My Snake Have A Complete Shed?

There are a few things you can do to help ensure your snake will have a good shed. Start by boosting the humidity in their tank. Your snake’s enclosure should always maintain appropriate humidity levels, but it doesn’t hurt to increase the humidity a bit more before they shed. When you see your snake beginning to show signs of shedding, spray the tank down with a mister or spray bottle. Another thing you can do to boost the humidity is moving the water dish to the hot side of your snake’s enclosure. This will cause the water to evaporate and in turn will help raise the overall humidity. You can provide your snake with a humid hide as well. This can be done by adding damp moss to one of their hides. If you’re struggling to keep humidity in your snake’s enclosure, I have an article on increasing and maintaining humidity here.


humid ball python


Having decorations inside of your snake’s enclosure can be good for more than just aesthetics. When a snake is about to shed, they will begin rubbing against objects in their enclosure to help pull their shed off. Things like caves, branches, and rocks can be excellent additions to both help enrich your snake’s life, and help them shed properly (enrichment is the action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something, which in this case, is your snake’s well being). If you’d like to learn more about how to add enrichment to your snake’s life, I have a detailed article on it here.