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Why Do Lizards Eat Their Skin? (Nutrition or Instinct?)

If you have see your pet lizard eat its own skin you ma be shocked, or wondering why this happens…

Why do lizards eat their skin?

Lizards eat their skin for several reasons such as its nutritional benefits, helps them grow new skin, and comes naturally to them (instinct). Regarding the latter, instinct, they don’t think twice about eating their skin because they are pre-programmed to eat the skin, same as a baby drinks its mother’s milk.

So, now you know. But, is it healthy for them to do this? Is it OK to help them shed by peeling off the old skin? Is it painful for lizards to shed their old skin? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

3 Reasons lizards eat their skin:

Why do lizards eat their skin?

A lizard eating.

Earlier, I briefly explained some reasons why a lizard may eat its own skin. Therefore in this section, I will explain each one in more detail:

01. Contains minerals

A lizard’s skin is known to contain nutritious minerals that are beneficial to them. When they consume this shedded skin they can digest and make these minerals to help them grow and function their body.

To help this cycle to continue, it will need its old skin , and a good balanced daily diet.

02. Use it to grow new skin

When a lizard consumes its own skin, it can help it grow its next replacement skin. To keep shedding and growing healthy new skin requires a healthy and nutritious diet, and their skin helps with this.

When the old skin comes off it’s a good sign that is growing and getting fresh skin coming through. To help this cycle continue, it will need its old skin and a good balanced daily diet.

03. Instinct

Although lizards benefit from eating their own skin they eat out of instinct. Meaning, they don’t consciously look at the skin, weigh up its nutritional benefits, they simply eat it out of instinct.

This can be compared to us humans. For some reason, a baby will instinctively seek and suck its mother’s milk. This is just built into a baby’s instinct.

Is it healthy for lizards to eat their skin?

It is healthy for a lizard to eat its own skin. In fact, some would say it’s a bad sign if a lizard doesn’t eat it’s old skin. because it’s regarded as a healthy sign. Because of the nutrients, their skin has it is likely to benefit them.

From a human’s perspective, one may assume it’s not. Why? Because it looks weird to us, right? But, in the lizard’s world this is the done thing. And, it is actually expected behavior.

Do bearded dragons shed and eat their old skin?

A Bearded Dragon on a rock.

A Bearded Dragon on a rock.

Bearded Dragons do eat their own skin. However, the theory is they eat it to help with their calcium deficiencies. These Bearded dragons are also known to eat their skin as a survival tactic. Meaning, by eating it they remove traces of them from their predator’s detection.

Regarding the latter, avoiding detection, is similar to why cats bury their poop. Meaning, they wish to keep it away from their predators, to avoid detection, in the wild. Hence the similarity.

Is it OK to peel lizard skin?

It is not OK to peel a lizard’s skin. This is because it could accidentally peel away newer skin that was not intended to be removed. This is because their skin is unlikely to come off in one big piece. It is more likely to come off in stages.

Therefore, if you pull off a piece of skin assuming it was old skin, it could then tear some new skin in the process. This can cause the lizard pain and make the shedding process worse.

What can you do if your lizard has skin shedding problems?

If your lizard has skin shedding problems then it’s best to offer it a warm water soak, alternative a hide that is quite humid. This will help to ease the old skin off naturally rather than trying to manually remove the skin.

Depending on the lizard, you can also try misting them frequently such as crested geckos. This will moisten their skin which is likely to help them shed easier.

Is it painful for lizards to shed skin?

It can be painful for lizards to shed their skin. This is because of the amount of skin they shed in a small period of time. Us humans shed flakes of skin here and there, while a lizard doe sit all in one go.

Also, this can be worse for them if they do not have enough humidity, which helps the skin off easier. Hence the reasons I suggested some ways to improve this to mak it easier.

How long does it take for a lizard to shed its skin?

It is expected for a lizard to shed its skin within 1-2 weeks. But, this is assuming it is healthy and kept in the correct living environment. If they are unhealthy are anxious in some way this could be increased quite considerably.

This is why it is important to have a good environment for your lizards so that they can not only shed quickly and safely, but also lead a happy and healthy life.

Do lizards not eat when shedding?

Some lizards, and reptiles in general, may eat less while they are shedding. This is why some pet owners and experts say they should get mineral or vitamin supplements (Click here to see the reviews, on Amazon #Ad) during this time to help them get through it.

The theory is they will need the extra nutrients to help them shed quickly and keep healthy while their food intake is reduced.

Can hermit crabs eat lizard skin?

Some Hermit crab owners feed them lizard skin. The theory is it is full of nutrients and the crabs will eat it if they eat it.

Howver, some say its not a good idea because the pet lizard needs it more because it offers them nutrition during their sheding process.

Why do leopard geckos eat their shed skin?

Leopard geckos do eat their shredded skin. One of the theories for this is it helps to restart their digestive system after stoping, or slowing down their eating during the shed. This is believed because, like other lizards, their eating habits change during this time.

Apart from this, they have the same reasons for eating their skin as other lizards. For example, hiding the evidence of their presence from their predators in the wild, and retaining the minerals contained in the skin.

Do lizards tug and wriggle their old skin off?

Some lizards do tug and wriggle their old skin off. This mainly happens if they have a small piece that is proving stubborn to come off. The shed takes a lot from them so they usually are eager to get the last pieces off to move on.

Some lizards may still struggle to get the last piece off even after wriggling and tugging at this old skin. And, as discussed earlier, even though its tempting to help, you shouldn’t try to remove it with your hands or any other object.


Hi, this is me with my daughter and my Lizard friend. I hope you enjoy my research. Please feel free to check out my "About Me" page to find out more about me.