Accidents happen, we all know and understand that, and sometimes these acidents can cause irreversible damage, or at least that’s what you may be thinking.
One issue with pet snakes that is more common than we like to think is the snake losing a few scales, whether that’s because they got stuck to something while moving (like tape), or because it was injured by something in their tank, or something else.
If this happens, most snake owners will panic right away and wonder what can even be done at the moment. So, should you panic?
Let’s start by answering the main question; do snake scales grow back? Snake scales will grow back but not always, whether the scales of your snake will grow back will depend on how deep they were injured. If the snake’s softest, deepest skin layer is damaged it will irreversible and the scaled won’t regrow.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news (for some), but there is still some good news mixed in with the bad news, which is that even with the scales missing, your snake is probably going to be just fine.
To understand when is it not fine, when it is, and what you can do to help your snake’s scales grow back quickly, keep reading.
What are snake scales?
The scales on a snake’s body are dry and are closer to nails than they are to skin. These scales, like our nails, are composed of keratin, a powerful protein.
Scales are not reptiles’ skin; rather, their actual skin is under this tough layer, which helps them survive in the hard living conditions of their environments by performing a variety of functions.
For example, these scales are crucial to how snakes move as they can create friction with the imperfections and rough parts of surfaces to help them move forward (and backward!)
The scales on snakes’ bellies actually move to grab onto tiny imperfections on surfaces to create friction to push the skin forward.
The thick exterior also protect snakes from predators as it makes it difficult to bite and can even injure predators. The colors of the scales on some harmless snakes also play a defensive role by mimicking the colors of venomous snakes.
The sclaes can also retain moisture and prevent the water evaporation that happens through the skin, pretty useful for snakes that live in the desert.
As you can see, the scales on your snake’s body are pretty important.
What to know about your snake’s skin layers
To be able to accurately judge whether the scales will grow back or not, we need to take a deeper look into their skin.
Your snake’s skin is made up of 4 layers. The first (top) two layers are the enamel layers that the snake will shed, and the third layer in particular is the one with the color pigments. This one is called the chromophore layer, and you are able to see it more clearly during the shedding process.
That’s why you will see your snake’s color change when it sheds its skin.
Important note to mention here is that you should definitely be able to tell the difference between the normal discoloration and the discoloration that happens as a result of a skin condition. You can learn more about this in my guide to snake scale rot here.
Okay, now for the last layer, which is the most important one. The last and deepest layer of your snake’s skin is a soft membrane-like layer with a pale or white color.
This soft layer is often protected by the other three layers, and any severe damage to this layer is unfortunately permanent.
Do snakes scales grow back?
Although I have already answered this question with yes, the honest answer is that you just will never know unless you wait.
Sometimes the snake scales grow back. This the majority of the cases, and it’s often when the damage to the snake’s skin is shallow or light and is limited to the first one or two layers to the skin.
However, if the damage is to the fourth layer, the soft membrane-like one, then the scales will probably not grow back.
What happens if the scales don’t grow back?
The good news is that even if the scales don’t grow back, your snake will still survive. I have seen many old snakes with a few scales missing, and they have been leading perfectly normal lives.
However, if your snake is to live a normal life with the missing scales, you will need to make absolutely sure it doesn’t get injured. Injuries can lead to infections and for a snake that doesn’t have the layers of protection a normal snake will have, even small injuries can lead to fatal infections.
What can you do to help your snake regrow the scales faster
If you want to help your snake’s scales grow back faster, there are a few things you can do:
- Maintain the right temperature and humidity. If you have not already been checking your snake’s tank temperature and humidity a few times per day, make sure to start now. Keeping the right temperature and humidity plays a big role in keeping them healthy and helping them regrow their scales.
- Feed Them the best diet possible. Now is not the time to start saving money on your snake’s diet. Make sure your snake gets enough of the right foods for its species, age, and health. Maybe now is a good time to start feeding them thawed mice.
- Bathing them could help. By removing any old skin that’s still stuck, you will be helping them regrow their scales more quickly.
- Don’t overhandle them. Overhandling the snake can stress them and cause their body to not work as optimally. You can learn more about how stress affects snakes here.
- Keep the routines consistent. Snakes appreciate routine and are not big fans of changes and surprises. Keep the routine consistent to avoid stressing out your snake.
- Talk to your vet. If you think their skin is too damaged or it is taking too long for them to regrow their skin or scales, you should talk to your vet or take your snake for a quick check up.
How long does it take for snake scales to grow back?
Snakes usually shed twice every year, but older snakes shed and regrow their skin more often. It can take 3-4 weeks and up to a few months for a snake to regrow their scales depending on many factors like the snake’s age, overall health condition, and how severe the damage is to their skin.
It can take 3-4 weeks and up to a few months for a snake to regrow their scales depending on many factors like the snake’s age, overall health condition, and how severe the damage is to their skin. So, do snakes scales grow back? The answer is yes, but it’s not always a guarantee. Make sure to keep an eye on your snake and if you notice any changes in their health or skin, talk to your vet.
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