Understanding if bearded dragons eat their shed (and if this is something to worry about) is important as a new owner. There are a number of interesting behaviors you’ll witness as a beardie parent, and this is one of them!
This guide will teach you everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
Do Bearded Dragons Eat Their Shed?
Part of the joy of caring for a bearded dragon is that there is always something new to discover. Sometimes it may be its funny or cute antics, but sometimes you may observe behavior that seems downright bizarre.
One behavior that many bearded dragon owners find baffling is when their pet eats its shed. This is a perfectly normal thing to do and shouldn’t be a cause for concern. In fact, other reptiles, such as chameleons, iguanas, and geckos, also eat their shed. A bearded dragon won’t always eat its shed, but it is definitely a possibility.
All reptiles shed their skin, and depending on the age of the beardie, the shedding process could be fairly frequent. Hatchlings, due to rapid growth, will normally shed every one to two weeks. Juveniles will shed every six to eight weeks, and adults go through it several times a year.
Once in a while, your bearded dragon may have trouble shedding. If this is the case, never try to help it by pulling on the old skin. This will not help your beardie, and it may cause severe harm. Instead, you can try giving your bearded dragon a short bath followed by a gentle rub with a soft cloth. You can also try using special oils that are formulated to help with the shedding process.
Why Do They Do This?
As weird as it seems, your bearded dragon has a few very good reasons for eating its shed. And once you look at it from the point of view of your pet, this behavior actually makes sense.
Some reasons why they may eat their shed include fear of predators, a calcium deficiency, and the need for extra nutrients. Let’s go into each of these reasons in a little more detail.
One reason why bearded dragons eat their shed is the need to stay hidden from predators. In the wild, leaving shed around is just asking for trouble. Any predators (such as birds, snakes, dingoes, or goannas) that find old, freshly shed skin will know that there is potential prey in the area. So one way for a bearded dragon to cover its tracks is to eat its shed.
Even though your pet bearded dragon doesn’t have to worry about being eaten by a predator, it may still decide to eat its shed. It might be feeling anxious or stressed and feels like it needs to go into survival mode, or it may simply be hardwired behavior.
For The Calcium
A diet that’s rich in calcium is very important for bearded dragons and other reptiles. A bearded dragon that does not receive enough calcium has the potential to develop several very painful and even fatal conditions, such as incomplete shedding and metabolic bone disease.
If you see your bearded dragon eating its shed, it could be that your pet is not getting enough calcium in its diet. Always make sure that your bearded dragon is given a balanced diet that includes proteins and plenty of calcium-rich, leafy greens. You can also supplement its diet with a calcium supplement.
Some signs that your bearded dragon may be suffering from metabolic bone disease include lethargy, swelling, broken bones, weakness and twitching. This is a potentially fatal condition, so you’ll need to reach out to your veterinarian if you suspect metabolic bone disease.
Your Dragon May Need Extra Nutrients
Shed contains lots of nutritious goodies, such as keratin, vitamins and protein, that your bearded dragon needs. It is also a good source of the energy that your beardie needs post-shed.
Bearded dragons will often eat their shed if their body needs the extra nutrients or energy. This is a perfectly normal and natural way for them to boost their nutrition, and the added nutrients are thought to help with the formation of new skin.
Should You Stop Them?
Most of the time, it’s totally fine to let bearded dragons eat their shed. However, there are a few instances when you should discourage this behavior.
An Unclean Enclosure
If you’ve been a bit lax with cleaning, and your bearded dragon’s enclosure is a bit dirty, then allowing it to munch on its shed is not a good idea. A dirty enclosure could potentially contaminate the shed with the beardie’s waste, with parasites, and with other things that could make them sick.
All shed that’s found in a less-than-clean enclosure should be removed right away. Then, you should clean the area.
Not all substrates are appropriate for a bearded dragon’s enclosure. If they eat their shed in a tank with small or loose substrate, then there is the potential for your beardie to pick up some of the substrate along with the shed. Swallowing substrate can lead to dangerous conditions, including impaction. If you use loose or small substrate, then all shed should be removed right away.
If you would like to let your beardie eat its shed, then you should change the substrate to something safer. Reptile carpet, newspaper, paper towels, or ceramic tiles are all acceptable substrates.
So, should you stop your bearded dragon from eating its shed? Probably not, but you should definitely make sure that its environment is clean and safe.
However, eating the shed can sometimes be an indication of other, more serious conditions. If you see your pet eating shed and also chewing on parts of its body, then a call to the vet is necessary because there could be a bigger, underlying issue.
Do Most Beardies Do This?
Some eat their shed, and some don’t. You may notice that your bearded dragon will eat its shed one time, and then it won’t the next. It depends on if your lizard is hardwired to do it, and it also depends on whether it feels the need to in the moment.
It’s fine if your beardie eats its shed, and it’s fine if it doesn’t. However, if you do notice this behavior, take a look to see if there’s an underlying reason.
Some bearded dragons eat their shed, and others don’t. And for the most part, this isn’t behavior that should worry you!
If you see this happen and want to be safe, refer to this guide or send a question directly over to us! We’re always happy to help.