How to Bathe Your Pet Reptile

All animals need baths, whether you have a tiny, scaly lizard or a warm, fluffy puppy. The good news is that many pet reptiles will keep themselves clean if you keep water handy. But sometimes, you need to give them a little extra help with some one-on-one bathtime.

Does my pet reptile need a bath?

How do you know if your friendly lizard needs a bath? Reptiles need baths just as much as mammals do — even more so since reptiles also absorb water through their skin. Sometimes leaving out a soaking bowl is enough. Many reptiles will end up bathing themselves when they go for a dip. However, it doesn't hurt to give your reptile his own special bath once or twice a week, especially if he looks dirty or is shedding.

Below are some basic details to help guide you when bathing your reptile. Depending on the species, you may have extra things to consider, so check with your veterinarian if you have any questions.

Your Reptile's Bath Is Different than a Traditional Bath

It's important to keep in mind that a pet reptile's bath is different from the traditional baths humans enjoy or those given to cats or dogs. When you hear the word "bath," you might think about scrubbing off dirt with soap and water. But reptile baths are different. You don't use soap; instead, it's actually a time to soak in water to rinse off dirt or poop.

Tips for Bathing Your Reptile

If your reptile's dirty, hasn't been soaking in water on his own, or just enjoys baths, it's time for a little extra TLC. Follow these steps when bathing your reptile.

  • Don't use soap when bathing your reptile — just use water.

  • Keep the water lukewarm since your reptile adjusts his body temperature to his surroundings. Check with your veterinarian to be certain what temperature is best. For example, some snakes may need warmer water, around 100° Fahrenheit, while bearded dragons need a temperature closer to 85° to 92°F.

  • Change the water quickly if he poops during the bath.

  • Ten minutes is typically long enough.

  • Make sure the water isn't deeper than your reptile's chest, and keep an object like a rock in the tub so he can climb on it.

  • Bathing is a simple process for most species. Let him soak in the water for a few minutes, sometimes lightly misting him with plain water. Be careful not to get the water in his face.

  • Bathe your reptile in a dedicated plastic bowl or tub, not your sink or bathtub. This helps prevent the spread of salmonella.

  • Many species only need a light soak or misting; removing dirt with a soft brush can be too rough. But there are exceptions. If you have a turtle, you may need a soft toothbrush to remove slimy algae on his shell. You can also use a soft cloth to remove dirt from a bearded dragon. Be sure to check with your veterinarian first to make sure what is safest for your pet.

Shedding Is an Ideal Time for a Bath

If your reptile is shedding, you may want to bathe him a little more frequently. A shedding lizard, for example, may benefit from multiple 10-minute baths during the week to help speed up the process.

You can help the shedding along by using Shed-Ease„¢ Reptile Bath. When added to water, this formula of aloe vera and other emollients can help soften old skin, letting it slide off more easily and naturally. This is like a spa treatment for your pet and is especially helpful for any reptiles in poor health, under stress, or in an environment with little humidity.

Note: Don't remove any shedding skin yourself. And don't pull on the skin or try to use a toothbrush to get it off. Your reptile is too delicate. If he's not shedding properly, talk to your veterinarian since this might be a sign of an infection or illness.

Leave a Soaking Bowl in the Terrarium

Most reptiles will benefit from having a soaking bowl available whenever they need it. If they regularly like to go for dips in the bowl, you may rarely need to bathe them yourself. Make sure the soaking bowl meets the following specifications:

  • Only put water in the soaking bowl, no soap or cleanser.

  • The water should be lukewarm or tepid.

  • Change the water daily.

  • Disinfect the bowl once or twice a week. Remove it from the terrarium and wash it in hot water with a reptile-safe cleaning solution.

  • Keep the water shallow so there's no danger of drowning. (Of course, there are some species-specific exceptions. Because turtles live in water, they actually need water deep enough to dive and swim in and still get out easily.)

Bathtime Is a Great Time to Bond with Your Pet Reptile

Bathtime can be a special time for you and your reptile. While not all pet reptiles necessarily need baths, they all will love access to a soaking tub and the occasional extra TLC. Just remember: like a baby or toddler, your pet should never be left alone while soaking during a bath and should always be supervised.