Overview: Shedding cycles - what's normal and what's not; how to avoid or resolve shedding issues.

     It's probably not any surprise to you that blood and short-tailed pythons, like all snakes, shed their skin. Since snakes actually outgrow their old skin, shedding is a process that will occur many times over the course of your python's life. Sometimes shedding occurs as a result of other factors, such as injury or ovulation. Understanding your python's shedding habits, and knowing what is normal and what isn't, is an important aspect of any husbandry routine. In this section we'll go over shedding basics, as well as what to do if your blood python encounters any issues while shedding.

Shed Cycles
      For most blood & short-tailed pythons, an average shed cycle lasts 10-14 days. The beginning of this cycle is usually noted by the snake's overall dull appearance, and a pinkish hue to the snakes ventral (belly) scales. Many new keepers are often alarmed at the sight of this pink tone and worry that it is a burn, infection or some other problem. Not to worry though, as this is a normal part of the shedding process.
      Usually within a couple of days of the dull skin/pink belly combo, the python's eyes will cloud over as a result of fluid building up between the old, outermost layer of skin and the new skin underneath. This is typically referred to throughout herpeteculture as "going opaque" or "going blue." During this time it is not uncommon for bloods and Two albino blood pythons, one in shed. STPs to refuse food, although we've known plenty that will eat while in shed. If your snake won't eat while in blue, that's nothing to worry about. Simply wait until it sheds and try offering food shortly thereafter. Some pythons also become irritable or defensive throughout the entire shed cycle, and especially when their vision is greatly reduced from the aforementioned fluid layer.
      Most short-tailed pythons remain opaque for about a week (give or take a couple of days), and then their eyes will clear up again. This is another cause of confusion among newer keepers: they see the clear eyes but can't find any sign of shed skin in the snake's enclosure and wonder what happened or went wrong. Again, this is all part of a normal shed cycle, and even with clear eyes the python's skin usually noticeably duller than normal. It's not a bad idea to take notes during each phase of the shed cycle to understand how long each part lasts, if for no other reason than your own understanding as a keeper.
      Finally, after a day or two (again, give or take) of the snake's eyes clearing up, it will finally shed its old outer layer of skin. Your blood python will begin this process by rubbing its nose against the sides of its enclosure, its hide box, water bowl, or other cage furniture (when present). Some snakes even rub against their own bodies if another suitable surface isn't available. Once the python has rubbed the old skin free of its lips and nose, it will continue to crawl forward while rubbing until it is able to crawl out of its skin. Often this old skin will roll backwards as the snake is shedding, creating a perfect ring that can be gently unrolled to reveal a complete or nearly-complete shed. It's a good idea to check this skin to determine whether or not your python shed its eyecaps along with the rest of its skin, or whether they were retained (more on this in a bit). Many times blood pythons will also defecate as they shed, so take care when you unroll that perfect skin...you may be in for a surprise!
      At this point you should have a freshly-shed python with gleaming new skin. This is usually a great time to take pictures, when your snake is looking its best and vibrantly colored. Complete sheds, even if the skin comes off in pieces, are signs of correct humidity and good husbandry techniques. If your blood python does not shed completely, this is usually a good indicator that something in your husbandry routine needs tweaking, even if only during the shed cycle, and we'll discuss how to deal with those issues next.

Shedding Problems
     As much fun as it is to find a perfect shed in your blood python's cage, they won't always happen. Fortunately, the most common shedding problem is one that can be easily remedied and prevented. Incomplete or retained sheds are the most frequently-encountered shedding problem when it comes to keeping snakes, and this goes for justBlood python with retained shed. about any species, not just bloods and short-tails. An incomplete shed happens when patches of the python's skin remain stuck to it instead of shedding off normally. This skin may remain adhered to the snake's head or body, and it may occur in several places. More infrequently, a blood python will completely retain it's old skin from head to tail; this is a more serious condition that requires prompt attention, particularly in younger animals.
      Incomplete sheds most often point to humidity that is too low in the snake's enclosure, whether all the time or just throughout that particular shed cycle. Stuck sheds can also indicate a snake that is dehydrated due to the lack of fresh water, the presence of snake mites, or some other condition. Speaking of snake mites, a blood python with a heavy mite infestation may shed in tiny pieces, right down to individual scales. Whatever the reason for an incomplete or stuck shed, it is important to identify and remedy the issue to prevent more complicated health issues with your short-tailed python.

      First things first, removing stuck shed from your blood python is usually an easy process. Soaking the snake in shallow water for several hours, or even overnight, should soften the adhered skin enough to make removal a snap. Many times you'll find that the snake will rub this adhered skin off while soaking, and requires no additional help from you. If your blood python still has large patches of retained skin, you can help to remove these by gently rubbing the edges of the stuck shed after a soak. The skin Sumatran short-tailed python with a retained eyecap. should loosen up and come right off without further issue.
      Whenever you soak a snake (no matter the reason), make sure that the water remains at an appropriate temperature so that the snake doesn't get too hot or too cold. As with regular cage temperatures, 80-82° Fahrenheit is a great temperature for soaking. Also, ensure that the water isn't too deep - usually a depth to one-third up the snake's sides is sufficient. You don't want the water to be so deep that the snake has to constantly swim, as the animal could tire and drown. Snakes that are dehydrated, sick or otherwise weak should not be soaked.

      Usually, soaking is all it takes to help a blood python remove its retained shed, even in the case of sheds that are completely stuck from head to tail. Juvenile bloods and short-tails seem to have a harder time dealing with completely retained sheds, and these smaller snakes can quickly become dehydrated and overwhelmed by this condition. We've seen youngsters with entirely stuck sheds even after soaking, and there's an easy remedy for this that also reduces undue stress on the snake. Rather than soaking and possibly picking at a small, stressed blood python with a completely retained shed, we'll set it up in a 6-qt plastic baby tub that is half-full of damp sphagnum moss. The moss doesn't need to be overly wet - we spray it down, wring it out & set it up, then put the snake in this tub. A few hours of crawling around through damp moss usually does the trick, and we're left with a little python that has shed entirely without further issue.
      We've heard of a variation on this theme that involves leaving a snake in a damp or wet pillowcase to crawl around, but don't recommend such a practice. It doesn't take much for a pillowcase to end up too wet and potentially suffocate the snake inside. Shallow soaks or damp moss don't pose any danger to the snake, especially when coupled with a little common sense on the keeper's part.

     When addressing stuck sheds, take care to check for skin retained around the end of your python's tail. This is a common spot for skin to stick & can be a hard one to shed out, especially if the snake is too dry. If multiple layers of shed skin build up on a python's tail, they will eventually restrict the blood flow to the tail tip, resulting in tissue damage and necrosis. In severe cases amputation may be necessary, otherwise the snake may develop a systemic infection that could be life-threatening. As with many health issues, the best cure in this case is prevention. It doesn't take much effort to check a python's tail tip post-shed, so make this part of your husbandry routine and be observant during handling.
      Another important part to check when dealing with a stuck shed is your snakes eyes. Retained spectacles, or eyecaps, are not uncommon in cases of especially lowBeautiful freshly-shed blood python. humidity. Normally these retained eyecaps will easily come off in a following shed with increased humidity, or you may want to remove them yourself. Along with stuck eyecaps, any retained shed on your python's head should be removed for your snake's overall comfort. Often you can soak a blood python and it will rub this skin off without any help from you. If you do need to help your snake with this, soak the animal for a couple of hours beforehand to soften up the stuck shed. If your short-tailed python is small enough you can gently but firmly restrain it yourself to remove this skin, otherwise we strongly recommend enlisting the help of a friend. One of you can restrain the snake while the other quickly yet carefully removes the retained shed.

Additional Considerations
      While standard remedies for shedding problems should be part of any keeper's arsenal of tools, it can be easier to avoid shedding issues than to fix them. Maintaining proper humidity levels on a regular basis, and misting your python's enclosure during a shed cycle are easy steps to take that help to ensure great sheds with few problems, if any. You can find additional information on correct humidity for bloods and STPs in our Captive Environment section. Additionally, discussions pertaining to shedding and shedding issues can be found in the husbandry forum on our message boards; threads on the subject of shedding have been tagged as such.

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