Dysecdysis in Reptiles
Dysecdysis describes the failure to shed skin properly.
All reptiles grow by shedding their skins periodically. In the case of snakes the old skin is normally shed intact while in lizards and the scaled skin of chelonia it flakes off in pieces.
Chelonian shell is either shed into water or, in the case of terrestrial species, is retained on the shell producing growth rings.
The process by which skin is shed and replaced is complex – as new skin is produced so a fluid is produced between old and new layers (hence the milky appearance of snakes due to shed) before the old layers lift and are rubbed off..
As with any complex process, it can easily go wrong!
Failure to shed properly can be due to a number of problems:
- Low temperature
- Inappropriate heating
- Low humidity
- Nowhere to rub against
- Parasitism (internal or external)
- Underlying internal disease
Dysecdysis cases must, therefore, be thoroughly investigated as failure to understand the underlying problems will result in treatment failure.
While investigating these, the shedding problem itself can be relieved by bathing the reptile daily and by gently rubbing the affected areas with damp warm towel. Retained sheds should not be pulled off unless they are very loose and lift away with ease.
"While investigating these, the shedding problem itself can be relieved by bathing the reptile daily and by gently rubbing the affected areas with damp warm towel."
Special attention should always be paid to the eyes, feet, tail tip, edge of the mouth and sensory pits.
There is one particular problems associated with dysecdysis in snakes;
Retained spectacles in snakes. Snake eyes are covered in skin (clear “spectacles”) and so shed with the rest of the skin. Failure to shed these produces thickened wrinkled opaque coverings to the eye. The snake will often be bad tempered and have trouble feeding as it will have trouble seeing. On no account should the retained layers of skin be pulled off – this can lead to eye damage and permanent blindness. Instead, the spectacles should be gently bathed each day until they lift away. In some cases this will not be until the next shed. Underlying health and environmental problems must also be addressed.
© Copyright 2015 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.