A turtle’s shell is composed of a large number of bones, and their hard shells are always covered by a layer of hardened epithelial skin. This outer layer is responsible for giving the outer shell it’s signature hard and scaly look. That layer of epithelium skin is called Scutes.
Different reasons can contribute to shedding of scutes in your reptile pet. A turtle’s scaly skin that covers their head, arms, and legs can also shed. In today’s article, we are going to discuss the main causes of a turtle shedding skin.
Why is my turtle shedding skin?
The main reason a turtle sheds its skin is to accommodate for growth. However, unhealthy tank conditions can also lead to your turtle shedding its skin.
Natural skin shedding for growth
Water turtles shed their scutes naturally, and it is just a part of their life cycle. It is just like how other animals shed their fur, skin, and scales, and therefore it’s nothing to be worried about.
In fact, if your aquatic turtle is shedding his skin, then it’s more likely a sign that you are taking good care of him, and he is not only happy but is growing well. A turtle must shed both its shell skin and natural skin in order to accommodate room for growth.
Most turtles tend to shed annuall, and as long as your turtle is not shedding uncontrollably, then you don’t need to worry about anything. Common turtle species that shed their skin a lot include Genera Chrysemys, Deirochelys, and Graptemys.
Signs and pre-cautions related to Healthy Shedding
Scutes should always be whole and intact. They should not come off in parts as it can be a sign of some sort of illness. Scutes should ideally be translucent and therefore should never be thick. Moreover, their color and general appearance should be in comparison with the area it came off of.
Turtles generally tend to eat some of their scutes, and therefore owner should be vigilant in keeping the shredded off scute far away from their turtle. This is because scutes are hard and scaly and can easily hurt the throat and other internal organs of your turtle.
Health issues that cause shedding
As mentioned above, a turtle shedding skin can also be caused by medical problems, and therefore owners must be equipped with the knowledge to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy shedding.
The very first thing that owners should do is to check for any deformity in the shell of their turtle. If the shell looks bloody under the scute, has exposed bone, or is deformed, then it’s undoubtedly a sign of shedding caused by some sort of medical disorder.
Abnormal shedding can quickly turn into a severe disorder as it can lead to a skin infection in your turtle. A number of factors can contribute to causing abnormal shedding in your turtle, some of which are as follows.
- Liver problems
- Renal infections and Renal stones
- Bone disorders
- In-adequate functioning of the thyroid gland
- Shell-rot due to Bacterial infections.
- Over-feeding can lead to rapid growth and problems associated with it
- Injuries and cuts caused by sharp rocks
- Basking in sunlight for too long
- Exposure to very high temperature
- High ammonia levels in the turtle’s water which are caused by stagnant and unfiltered water.
- Fungal and Bacterial infections which are caused by bad hygienic conditions in the tank.
How to help a turtle with shedding skin?
The best way to take care of a turtle with shedding skin is to make sure their tank is clean. A turtle tank with hard water can cause your turtle’s skin to shed uncontrollably. You should also make sure that the temperature of your turtle tank water is somewhere between 72 and 80 degrees fahrenheight. The air temperature should be between 75 and 85 degrees fahrenheight.
A turtle’s diet can also play a big role in a turtle shedding its skin. In order to ensure that your turtle has healthy skin, it is important that your turtle is getting enough vitamin A. Most leafy vegetables are high in vitamin A which can be a great option for your turtle. If your turtle will not eat vegetables, you can also find some turtle Vitamin A supplements online.
In order to protect the skin on your turtle’s shell, you should make sure your turtle is getting a lot of calcium. You can either give them food high in calcium such as kale or insects, you can also insert calcium blocks into the water of your turtle tank.
Avoid too much calcium in turtle tank
While calcium is an essential vitamin to keep your turtle’s shell strong and healthy, it can be dangerous. If you expose your turtle to too much calcium, it could result in hard water. This essentially means the water in your tank has too much dissolved calcium and magnesium.
Hard water can cause your turtle’s skin and shell to develop white chalky residue. If this residue is not cleared, it can start to deteriorate your turtle’s skin and shell. In worst cases, it can even cause shell rot.
If your turtle starts developing white residue on their skin, you should quarantine your turtle and keep him/her on land for a couple weeks. This will help keep your turtle shell dry. Make sure to provide some drinking water if you do quarantine your turtle.