Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Removing unshed snake eyecaps

©1995, 2002 Melissa Kaplan


Retained eyecaps are a common occurrence in ball pythons but may occur in any snake. Problems with shedding (incomplete, patchy, delayed) are due to environmental problems (too hot, too cold, too dry) and health problems (systemic bacterial or parasitic infections). If a bad shed or retained eyecaps happen for more than one shed on newly acquired snakes, or at all with established snakes, you will need to evaluate your environment and, if that is set up properly, get your snake to a reptile vet.

  1. Soak the snake in a warm bath for 10-20 minutes.

  2. Remove from bath and dab mineral oil (available from drug or grocery store) on each eye with a cotton-tipped swab. Return snake to tank.

  3. The retained shed should come off within 24 hours. If it doesn't:
  • Wrap your four fingers with scotch-type tape, sticky side out.
  • GentlyGentlyGently touch the tape to the eye and rock the tape across the eye, from nose to neck.
  • If this doesn't work, wait until the next shed. Then, the day that the eyes clear from being opaque, soak the snake in a warm bath. Return to enclosure.
  • When the snake starts working on loosening and removing the head shed, get in there and assist, gently working the shed back over each of the eyes, keeping the shed moist, to make sure both eyecaps are removed.
  • Do not use forceps, tweezers or other sharp, hard, pointed objects to try to remove the shed from the eye!

Dented eyes are common in snakes that are dehydrated or who have previously retained eye sheds. Thus, the eyecap may appear to be still on the eye when it fact it was shed off. Always check the sheds to see if the eyecaps have in fact shed.

If you are unable to easily get the shed off, get the snake to an experienced reptile vet. Injuries can occur all too easily due to forcible removal and infections can develop under the retained shed. These are not treatable at home - they must be examined by a reptile vet.

Related Articles:

Reptile Skin Shedding

Bulging, Drooping, Distended Eyes in Reptiles

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