Shedding is a normal part of life for most animals, although it comes in different forms. Humans shed thousands of skin cells every day, and 50-100 hairs along with them. Birds shed their old feathers (molt) 1-3x each year. Snakes shed their skin all in one go. Turtles, however, tend to shed one scute or patch of skin at a time (although young turtles are more likely to shed their whole body at once).
If you notice that your red-eared slider is shedding a scute or patch of skin and it seems to be stuck, you can use a soft toothbrush, warm water, and gentle scrubbing to help the process. If it stays attached, DO NOT pull it off, as this can cause damage to the underlying tissue and it will be painful for your turtle.
What to do when your red-eared slider has stuck shed:
Stuck shed (also known as retained scutes) happen when your turtle is unable to shed properly. Over time, the old material build up and start to cause problems for your turtle, inviting infection and compromising circulation.
Stuck shed can happen for a number of reasons, including:
- high water temperature
- poor nutrition
- poor/no lighting
- not enough vitamin D3
- few/no basking opportunities
- poor/no water filtration
If you notice persistently stuck shed that won’t come off despite gentle(!) brushing, take your turtle to an experienced reptile vet to have the area examined.