The first - some would say most important consideration, is the danger of
impaction. Impaction is where the digestive tract is blocked by a solid or a semi-solid mass.
If it is not treated it can become fatal.
The most common cause of impaction is housing them on loose substrates. This
will develop over a longer period of time and is a gradual process. Sadly you will tend to miss it
until it has become to late to save the gecko. As is mentioned in other sections of the site - sand
based substrates such as Calci Sand - and its equivalents; are generally not recommended as they
encourage eating the sand due to the calcium content! All such products clump together like cheap
cat litter when wet. You've seen what that looks like? Imagine that in the digestive tract of your
It's worth bearing in mind that one of the oldest Leo's in the world in
captivity was raised his whole life on sand! - The general consensus nowadays though is that only
adults should be kept on sand and then at the owners risk. I personally don't
think the risk is worth it myself and steer clear of it. Please refer to the section on
substrate for a more indepth account of my opinions on substrate materials.
RECOMMENDED as sole or majority substrate
- Pine (poisonous anyway)
- Aspen (poisonous)
- Wood chips
- Dirt - fine like sand
- Corn cob
- Crushed walnut shells
- Cheap cat litter
- Small pebbles
- anything else that is small and
- Reptile carpet
- paper towels
Other causes include feeding Leo's food that is either to large or
inappropriate. You should feed insects that are generally no larger than the width of the reptile's
head and never longer than the measurement from the tip of the mouth to the back of the head
as an absolute maximum. Hard bodied insects that are too large can get stuck in the digestive
tract, causing blockage. Feeder insects that have a hard Chitin outer-shell can, also cause
impaction - one reason personally for me that I prefer to feed soft bodied young locust as opposed
From Heat and water:
Low temperatures can cause improper digestion. Leo's
require belly heat versus air heat, so take my advice on heat mats in the housing
section. One other possible cause of impaction is lack of water - always ensure that there is
suitable water in the Vivarium at all times.
Symptoms of impaction would be along the following:
| Medium to
- Slight leg trembles .
- Regurgitation of food.
- Bumps along spinal area.
- Paralysis in one or both back legs
(impaction in Lower Dig'
- Paralysis in one or both front legs (impaction in
upper Dig' Tract).
- Lack of appetite compared to normal.
- Blue bruised abdomen area.
- Difficulty breathing.
If you have caught the impaction early enough you may have a chance to
successfully treat it. Set up the Leo in its own tank. Ensure heating provides the proper floor
temps as discussed elsewhere. Use kitchen towels as the substrate in order to ensure there is no
further substrate ingestion. NOTE: you will only be able to treat
mild symptoms - more severe symptoms require the attention of a vet as soon as
- With the use of a small eye dropper administer a small drop of mineral
oil, olive oil or vegetable oil to the gecko daily.
- Provide warm water soaks for the gecko daily - ensure water in no
hotter than 95ºF maximum.
- Try diluted weak solution of glucose laced conditioned water every now
If you haven't noticed a significant improvement and loss of
impaction visible in faeces in 10 days - the only remaining option is veterinary care. Do not
even consider administering your own enema to your Leo!! Leave it to the vet - preferably one
specialised in reptile care.
MDB is caused when a leopard geckos diet does not contain enough
calcium. In order for the Leo to acquire suitable levels of usable calcium the body begins to
extract calcium from its own bones.
Symptoms include rubber-like flexibility of the limbs and lower jaw;
deformities of the skull, spine, and tail; inability to feed; paralysis; and eventually
With leopard geckos being more resistant to complications regarding low
calcium you should almost never see this problem so long as you observe proper healthcare
procedure. To prevent MBD all you need to be aware of is that you need to add calcium or
calcium containing supplements to the live food you feed them and to ensure you have a source of
calcium in the tank at all time.
Use of a UV light can be beneficial if you find yourself treating a gecko
with MDB - you have rescued one for example.
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A parasitic disease caused by Cryptosporidium, a protozoan parasite. It
affects the intestines of mammals and is typically an acute short-term infection. It is spread
through the fecal-oral route, often through contaminated water. It is one of the most common
waterborne diseases and is found worldwide. The parasite is transmitted by environmentally hardy
cysts (oocysts) that, once ingested, exist in the
small intestine and result in an infection of intestinal epithelial tissue.
In recent years, there has been a trend of captive-bred leopard geckos
hosting the parasite, which hobbyists typically refer to as crypto. This is
more often down to breeders and pet shops keeping their animals in less than adequate housing and
conditions - or breeding wild caught geckos without sufficient quarantine procedures.
Lizards afflicted with this parasite often appear to be wasting away, losing
a significant amount of weight and regurgitating their food despite good environmental conditions
and treatment. Medication, along with nutritional supplements and fluid and electrolyte therapy,
can stabilize an infected gecko, but because this parasite can't be totally eliminated, the
prognosis is grim for animals that contract it. Also, Cryptosporidiosis can be transmitted to
humans, so the use of disposable gloves and effective hand washing is critical when dealing with an
animal infected with the protozoan.
Sadly if your stock becomes infected with this parasite there is very little
that can be done - although treatable in humans with healthy immune systems where it's duration is
short - it is more often than not fatal for Leo's. The only protection you have against this
parasite it to purchase your stock from reliable breeders. Ensure proper cleanliness at all times
and quarantine new stock for a minimum of 3 months before introducing to the fold.
Mites are external parasites that sometimes affect leopard geckos. They are
tiny (a few millimeters in diameter and a member of the
spider family) and difficult to spot. They appear as tiny red, black, or gray
flecks and tend to congregate around the eyes, ears, armpits, cloaca, mouth, and nostrils of their
hosts-areas where the skin is thin and the number of blood-filled capillaries are high and easily
accessible. If many mites are present, they can work together and quickly drain a significant
amount of blood. Because of how quickly an infestation of mites can seriously affect the Leo's
health - when you notice them you should act as quickly as possible.
Check for the presence of mites by wetting a white paper towel and scrubbing
your lizard gently. If you see flecks moving slowly on the paper towel, your gecko has mites,
confirm with a jewellers loupe or suitable magnifying glass.
Thoroughly bathe the Leo, paying particular attention to the eyes, nostrils,
vents, and skin folds, and housing it in a separate Vivarium while you clean its
home. When cleaning the Vivarium, dispose of the substrate, any live plants, and other furnishings
that are able to be thrown away. Any items that are kept should be treated with a suitable mite
killer following all safety precautions provided. Next, if your Vivarium is glass, soak the
Vivarium in a bleach solution, letting it soak for 18 to 24 hours. Then, thoroughly rinse it
and air it out. Alternatively use a mite killer commercial application on that also.
One final option is to take your pet to the veterinarian. They will
prescribe a mite killer that will usually need to be applied on both the gecko and his
Vivarium. This treatment should soon eradicate all mites.
Stress weakens the immune system and makes your leopard gecko more
susceptible to disease. Minimizing stressful conditions is a simple and effective way to prevent it
from getting sick.
Many factors, including handling, over feeding, breeding, poor environmental
conditions, overcrowding, and being moved to a new enclosure, can cause stress in your gecko. Keep
interactions with a stressed leopard gecko to a minimum, and ensure that its surroundings meet its
needs to keep its immune system up to par.
A leopard gecko sheds its skin regularly. If your lizard takes
on a dull, cloudy almost ghostly appearance, this indicates that the shedding
process has begun. Its skin peels off the body in pieces, which the gecko tugs and
pulls off and then consumes. (It's not known if
geckos do this for nutritional benefit or to reduce the chance of attracting
Occasionally, problems can occur while shedding, usually
when the skin adheres to the toes. If some of the shed skin becomes stuck on the
toes, parts of the toes can become necrotic (dead) and fall off. Unlike the tail, toes that
have fallen off never grow back. If a toe is lost by a bad shed, put a bit of
antibacterial ointment on it to prevent infection.
Shedding problems are mainly the result of low humidity. If the skin won't
peel from the toes or other portions of the body, a soak in warm water may fix the problem. To soak
your gecko, place it in an escape-proof container with water that just reaches its belly for an
hour or until the water cools. (Always supervise a soaking
lizard.) Hatchlings in particular, being completely new to this experience - take
a few times to learn the procedure and often encounter problems with their first few
After the soak I use a moistened cotton bud and gently roll off the sloughed
skin from the affected areas until it is finally removed. The hatchlings soon cotton on to
what I am doing and invariably joins in the process! I recently had a hatchling that had done
fairly well but had itself a new head cap where it had been unsuccessful removing it; it had dried
and shrunk leaving the poor thing unable to open it's eyes properly.
I gently applied moisture using a cotton bud to the old skin being very wary
not to let water drip into the nostrils and once the skin had been softened enough I used a
clinical tweezers to gently tug away the skin - be careful if you ever have to do this as you may
encounter a similar situation to mine where the remainder of the skin was partly down the geckos
throat. This necessitates a gentle but gradual pressure to slowly extract the partially swallowed
skin without damaging the internals of the gecko. N.B. do not be tempted to use
tweezers on tight skin remnants on toes - it's far too easy to misjudge and break the toes doing
more harm than good. Use the cotton bud rolling technique and be patient!
After about 4 months geckos will usually get the process down to an art -
but you should always carefully monitor the geckos feet and eyes whenever handling them for signs
of bad sheds.
One area to keep an "eye" on is the eyes
themselves. If a gecko is experiencing troublesome sheds it may not be successfully
removing the lining on it's eye and this can quickly develop into a very nasty
complication where there will be multiple layers of unsuccessfully un-shed eye
linings coupled with a build up of pus that can ultimately lead to blindness and/or
loss of the eye itself.
These are commonly nicknamed eye caps or
spectacles. They need to be removed by a vet - do not attempt to
remove them yourself! They can get to this stage surprisingly quickly - so it's
very important to monitor your Leo's. It can start with a simple thing like a bit
of irritation from gritty substrate getting stuck under the eyelid.
This is almost certainly a result of poor diet,
substrate and poor humidity - follow the advice given on this site and
thankfully you should never have to witness this.
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Mouth rot is a bacterial infection that can affect both the mouth and gums
of a leopard gecko. Symptoms include bleeding gums, loss of appetite, blackening of the teeth,
swollen mouth, and a cheesy, yellowish buildup between the teeth. This disease almost never occurs
in healthy geckos, as it is generally brought on by dirty living conditions and low temperatures.
It is extremely painful for the reptile and can prove fatal if not treated by a veterinarian as
quickly as possible. To prevent mouth rot, maintain a clean Vivarium and be sure your pet is
getting an appropriate level of heat.
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With leopard gecko's respiratory infections can be caused by prolonged
exposure to temperatures less than 73º F or humidity levels that are too high.
Low temperature causes a suppressed immune system, which allows respiratory
infections to take hold. Symptoms are usually not easy to identify and may just be the signs that
your Leo is in a distressed state and seems to be panting and leaving the mouth slightly open most
of the time. you may hear the occasional sneeze too.
Mild cases can easily be cured by making the temperature in the enclosure
slightly higher, a day time temperature of around 84-90 degrees Fahrenheit with a night time temp
drop to no less than 80 degrees. If symptoms persist it is recommended that you seek expert advice
from your local Vet.