Chameleon Medical: Shedding



When chameleons grow they shed their skin. The first time this happens it truly looks like your chameleon has come down with a horrible mummy disease. To shed, the entire skin surface  is separated from the new skin underneath by a fluid which evaporates and leaves the old skin to crack off and blow away (or be rubbed off). The nature of chameleons shedding means that it is important not to increase humidity as many advise. Increasing humidity will make it more difficult to shed because the chameleon relies on the evaporation to help the skin disengage.

A healthy shed can take a couple hours. The chameleons will suddenly “explode” in white shreds. An unhealthy shed, on the other hand can take days as pieces slowly fall off and some pieces left stuck on.

During the shed the chameleon may rub his body against sticks and gape dramatically to loosen the skin. He may also try to pull pieces off with his feet. At the end of it all, your chameleon will have a new, brightly colored skin and you will have a pile of white shed skin at the bottom of the cage (or strewn about in the leaves).


Before the peeling of the skin, a shedding can be identified by your chameleon seeming to get cloudy. The colors will be muted. This is the start of the skin separating from the body. The shedding skin will soon break in places and start the peeling off.

shedding female panther chameleon

This female panther chameleon is showing a very rare sight – the beginnings of the shedding process before a breach in the old skin is made. You can see the old skin being separated from the new skin underneath.

female panther chameleon just starting to shed

Breaches in the old skin now show through around the shoulder area and the lower flank. With the first rips, the next steps will go quite quickly.

juvenile panther chameleon exploding in shed

The shed skin now breaks apart all over and pieces will start to flake off.

Bradypodion thamnobates baby

The most dramatic experiences are with first time chameleon keepers that see a shed in their newly purchased juvenile chameleon. It appears their new pet is falling apart! Not to worry. This is a sign of healthy growth!

Meller's Chameleon starting a shed

This Meller’s Chameleon is halfway through its shed.

Shedding juvenile panther chameleon

Large pieces of old skin have fallen off this young panther chameleon as it is in the final phases of shedding.

Baby Jacksons Chameleon shedding

This young Jackson’s Chameleon is almost done shedding the body skin and the tail will finish the process.


Shedding is a normal and healthy process and, usually, happens without any intervention. In the case where there is stuck shed that will not come off, a moistened Q-Tip can be used to gently rub the retained shed off. Stuck shed is not usually a problem, but it can become a medical issue if infection gets under the dead skin. Stuck shed between the toes has been an issue and is a common place for trouble to start.

Jacksons Chameleon

This Jackson’s Chameleon has remnant shed on his head which is being stubborn. In this case you can gently try to lift the old skin off, but do not force it. If the skin is stuck to the new skin for whatever reason you could cause damage to the new skin.

stuck shed on import quadricornis chameleon

This Trioceros quadricornis (Four-horned Chameleon) was imported in the middle of his shed which resulted in an incomplete shed and required patient removal over time.

Stuck shed on flank of quadricornis chameleon

Another Trioceros quadricornis (Four-horned Chameleon) in an incomplete shed.

Husbandry Correction

Husbandry correction is necessary only if the shed would not come off on its own. This could be a sign of the humidity being too high. A healthy humidity cycle is high humidity at night and lower humidity during the day. With this cycle a chameleon can start their shed in the morning and be completed by the afternoon.