Shedding is a natural process for leopard geckos. They need to shed periodically throughout their lives to rejuvenate their outer layer of skin and maintain good health.
It’s quite possible that your leopard gecko actually has shed, and you just haven’t caught them in the act yet. They do it pretty quickly and quietly, some might even eat their shed right away, so it’s easy to miss a shedding, especially if done at night.
However, if you keep a close eye on your scaly friend and sense that something might be off, you could find yourself asking:
Why is my leopard gecko not shedding?
If your leopard gecko is not properly shedding, it could be a sign of underlying health issues or an incorrect habitat. Lack of humidity, poor diet, ovulation, brumation, injury, or stunted development are a few more possible reasons why your leopard gecko could be having difficulty shedding.
The good news is you’re here! Doing some research on what could be wrong is the first step toward improving the situation, and we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know.
Continue reading on to learn nine possible reasons why your little leo might not be shedding and what you can do to help.
Reason 1: Health Problems
There are various health issues regularly found in leopard geckos that could interfere with their natural behaviors. Some of the most common are liver disease, bacterial infections, weight loss, and parasites.
Many of these health issues are consequences of poor living conditions or chronic malnutrition, but some derive from circumstances outside of our control. Parasites like pinworms, for example, can be carried by contaminated feeders (insects) purchased at a local reptile shop.
In any case, such ailments can be dangerous for your gecko and prevent them from properly shedding.
Helpful Tip: Keep a watchful eye on your leopard gecko and contact your veterinarian if you notice any health-related concerns. Look for signs of fatigue, lethargy, or a decrease in appetite.
Additionally, pay attention to your leo’s coloring; if they appear pale in color for more than three or four days without shedding, assume there could be a health issue that needs veterinary attention.
Reason 2: Incorrect Habitat
Like all reptiles in captivity, leopard geckos need proper living conditions to thrive. You’ll want to provide them with the correct temperatures both day and night and humidity which should be between 30 and 40%, as well as desert-like décor with multiple places to hide.
Ultimately, you want your gecko’s terrarium to mimic their natural environment as closely as possible. If any of the elements are off, it could negatively impact your leopard gecko’s health and, in turn, ability to shed.
For proper shedding, there are two instrumental factors in a leopard gecko’s habitat: rough surface objects and a high-humidity area.
Adding things like rocks, logs, and branches to your gecko’s enclosure gives your leo a rough surface to rub against when loosening the skin. Then, they need a high-humidity area to shed their old skin, known as a “moist” or “humid” hide.
Helpful Tip: You can create a humid hide with a reptile cave. For a cheaper solution, tend to use various recycled boxes, but you can also use a clean Tupperware with a small entryway cut out. You’ll want the hole to allow your gecko to get through but not allow for too much humidity to escape.
Be sure to sand or wear any sharp edges down around the hole so they don’t cut your gecko. Then place damp paper towels, coconut fiber, or sphagnum moss inside to create moisture in the hide. The humidity in the hide will help soften and loosen your gecko’s old skin, making it easier for them to shed.
Reason 3: Poor Diet/Nutrient Deficiency
Leopard geckos are insectivores, and because they only eat insects, they can become easily prone to vitamin deficiencies. This is why a nutritious diet and vitamin supplementation play such a crucial part in raising a healthy gecko. If your leo is not getting the proper vitamins it needs, it could become too ill to shed.
When feeding your gecko, be sure to give a variety of gut-loaded insects such as crickets, mealworms, Dubia roaches, and super worms. You’ll want to dust the insects lightly with calcium at every feeding (without D3 if you’re using a UVB light, with D3 if you’re not) and a multi-vitamin once a week.
Helpful Tip: You can also leave a small dish or bottle cap with a spoonful of calcium available in their enclosure for them to consume, as needed. This will guarantee your gecko gets the proper amount of calcium they need to promote healthy skin growth and shedding.
Reason 4: Stunted Development
Stunted growth is usually the result of a poor diet or living environment. However, another cause of this could be housing multiple leopard geckos together.
Doing so can lead to bullying or fighting, especially among males, which can cause continuous stress to the weaker gecko.
Living in a constant state of fight-or-flight will prevent the weaker gecko from eating properly or getting much rest, which can hinder its shedding capability.
Helpful Tip: It’s always best to house leopard geckos separately. That way, each can thrive in their own environment and be able to shed naturally.
Reason 5: Injury
A leopard gecko with a physical injury could certainly have a difficult time shedding. Causes of injuries could be an attack by another gecko, cutting themselves on a sharp object in the enclosure, burning themselves on a heat source, or even getting impacted from ingesting sand or substrate.
If your gecko is in pain or discomfort, any energy needed to shed might be redirected toward healing themselves.
Helpful Tip: Look out for wounds on your leo and take them to the vet if necessary. Injuries should be treated right away to prevent infection and encourage continued shedding.
Reason 6: Brumation
Brumation is a natural form of reptilian hibernation that occurs when temperatures get low, generally during winter months.
During this time, the leopard gecko’s metabolism slows down and they go into a semi-dormant state to conserve energy. Their appetite and activity levels decrease, and they will burrow or find a hiding spot where they can sleep for weeks to even months at a time.
Since temperatures in captivity are usually regulated, brumation is more commonly experienced in the wild. However, it’s still possible that a captive-owned leopard gecko may force its way into brumation by refusing food and going into hiding. Because they are inactive during this time, you most likely will not see any shedding.
Helpful Tip: Keep an eye out for this type of behavior and know which hide your gecko might be brumating in. Peek in on occasion as a wellness check, but try not to disturb it in its natural process.
Once it comes out of brumation, its normal behaviors should resume and you can then be on the lookout for shedding.
Reason 7: Ovulation
If your leopard gecko is a female, it’s possible she could be ovulating. Similar to birds and some other reptile species, female leopard geckos are able to produce eggs, whether they have been paired with a male or not. If not fertilized, she will still lay the eggs or even absorb them back into her body.
Ovulation typically occurs during the months of January-July, and can even go on as late as September. While gravid (pregnant), all of the female gecko’s energy and resources will go toward growing the eggs, so she will not shed during that time.
Helpful Tip: This video does a good job showing how to identify whether your gecko is ovulating.
Some of the behaviors, like lethargy and lack of appetite, can be similar to those of a shedding issue with your gecko. Knowing that she’s ovulating will help to understand her behavior and eliminate worry if she’s not displaying shedding behavior.
Reason 8: Metabolic Bone Disease
Without proper care, your leo could become ill and even end up with Metabolic Bone Disease (often referred to as MBD). This is a common problem in captive reptiles due to a lack of calcium supplementation and/or ultraviolet-B (UVB) lighting.
They need the correct amount of both for their bodies to properly metabolize calcium, otherwise, their bones will start to deteriorate. When this happens, they can lose their appetite, become weak and lethargic, and depending on the severity of it, lose all movement ability.
As one would expect, they won’t be able to shed if this is the case.
Helpful Tip: Since leopard geckos are nocturnal, studies have shown that UVB lighting is not necessarily required for them to survive. If you aren’t using UVB lighting for your leopard gecko, this means they will need supplemented calcium with vitamin D in their diet to absorb and metabolize nutrients.
If your gecko is showing signs of advanced MBD, it would be best to consult with your veterinarian immediately.
Reason 9: Tail Loss
Like many gecko species, a leopard gecko can “drop” its tail as a survival mechanism if threatened enough. But don’t worry, they can grow it back in as little as 30 days. Since tail loss and regeneration require a lot of their time and energy, the shedding process will take a backseat.
Helpful Tip: To avoid a tail drop, try not to handle your leopard gecko too much if they don’t like being handled.
Also, be mindful of their space and be sure not to trap them between two objects or the glass. If they feel stuck, they may drop their tail to escape or prevent further injury.
Is It Normal For My Leopard Gecko To Not Shed?
Simply put, the answer is no. Shedding is essential for your leopard gecko to live a long and healthy life. Not only does it allow for the growth of new, healthy skin, but it helps to conserve nutrients and prevents parasitic skin infections too.
If your leopard gecko is not shedding at all or is struggling to shed, it could be a sign of a serious health problem.
However, it can be normal for a leopard gecko to have difficulty shedding small pieces of skin around parts of their face, tail, or feet. If this happens, there are ways for you to gently assist with removing the stuck shed.
Signs Of A Shedding Problem And What To Do
There are a few visible signs to look out for that could alert you to a possible shedding problem with your leo.
While the video above demonstrates a perfectly normal shedding process leftover dried skin anywhere on the body, face, tail, and feet is an easily recognizable sign.
If you notice this, you can use a moist q-tip or cotton swab to gently remove the skin. Be careful not to rub too hard or cause injury as those are sensitive areas.
Excessive movement, restlessness, and rubbing themselves on surfaces in their enclosure for longer than usual could also be a sign. Providing a shallow dish of lukewarm water for them to soak in for about 10-15 minutes should help to hydrate and loosen the skin they’re struggling to get off (this works with stuck shed too).
Since leopard geckos aren’t adept at swimming you need to make sure the water does not go above their chin level!
Lastly, a lack of appetite or interest in activity could signify an underlying health concern. Consult with a veterinarian if you think your leopard gecko could be sick.
Should You Worry If Your Leopard Gecko Is Not Shedding?
If your leopard gecko is not shedding, it should be a cause for concern. It could mean they already have an underlying health problem caused by malnutrition or poor living conditions, or it could lead to future health problems like infections or mobility issues.
For these reasons, I would pay extra attention to your gecko’s behavior. If you’ve applied each of the provided tips and still suspect that your leopard gecko isn’t shedding, consulting with your veterinarian would be your next best step.
Shedding is a natural process for leopard geckos and is essential for their health. When healthy, they should be able to shed their skin without any problems. So easily, in fact, that it’s possible to miss it since they often do it in hiding or at night.
However, there are some instances where underlying issues can cause difficulties, so we hope this article has been useful in discovering what those could be. Understanding how to properly care for your leopard gecko is the best way to make sure they are happy and healthy enough to shed as needed.