Pet Care Resources

10 Common Diseases in Leopard Geckos

December 1, 2016

The leopard gecko, also known as Eublepharis macularius, is native to south-central Asia from southern Afghanistan, throughout Pakistan and northwestern India. For more information about the husbandry and care of leopard geckos, go to: “Leopard Gecko History and Care Recommendations.”

Leopard Geckos can be affected by a variety of conditions and below are the most common.

1. Chronic malnutrition 

Malnutrition is common in leopard geckos. Simply put, unsupplemented crickets and mealworms are inadequate. Leopard geckos need a wide variety of insects that are well fed a calcium-rich diet and should be dusted with calcium just prior to feeding.  A common consequence of poor diet is hepatic lipidosis. Long-term stomach tubing or feeding tube support is indicated until the gecko is eating well on its own, usually in 6 to 8 weeks.

2. Hypovitaminosis A 

This is a common problem in leopard geckos due to an inappropriate diet and poor supplementation. It results in retained hemipenal casts, impaired shedding and eye problems.

3. Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism 

Unfortunately, still a common presentation for leopard geckos fed crickets and mealworms. Clinical signs include stuck sheds, anorexia, lethargy, reluctance to move, misshapen limbs, soft mandible and maxillae, kyphoscoliosis, and inability to raise their body off the ground. Treatment generally takes several months so make sure the owner is committed.

4. Phalangeal Dysecdysis (Retained shed on toes and tail) 

This is abnormal in leopard geckos and secondary to multiple retained sheds on the digits from low humidity. As retained sheds build up they progressively restrict blood circulation and avascular necrosis develops. This condition is easily avoided by providing a moist hide/nest box.  Retained sheds can be carefully removed after soaking on damp paper towels or the toes may need to be amputated under local or general anesthesia. Systemic and topical antibiotics are indicated.

5. Intestinal impactions

Common in geckos housed on sand, fine sharp gravel, or crushed walnut shells. Smooth gravel is an appropriate substrate as long as it’s large enough that they can’t eat it. Calcium-enriched sands are not recommended as a substrate. Clinical signs can include lethargy, straining to defecate, and anorexia. Cloacal or colonic prolapse is sometimes a consequence of intestinal obstruction.

6. Abscesses

Leopard geckos are prone to massive subcutaneous abscesses caudal to and sometimes involving the periocular tissue. Treatment consists of lancing and debridement under anesthesia, aerobic and anaerobic culture with sensitivities, antibiotics, pain medications, and nutritional support.

7. Diarrhea

Watery or smeared stools are abnormal, especially with undigested insects. Leopard geckos often present for a good appetite with weight loss, left untreated they stop eating.

8. Ocular Problems 

Solid cellular debris under the eyelids can cause ulcers and bacterial infection, this is possibly related to hypovitaminosis A. Treatment involves removing the solid debris, flushing out the eyes, and broad-spectrum systemic and ocular antibiotics.

9. Stomatitis

Rare in leopard geckos and often involves an underlying hypovitaminosis A.

10. Egg retention 

Leopard geckos are typically good layers and lay two eggs at a time. A single egg is cause for radiographs, and a celiotomy is indicated for egg retention.

We hope this information helps you understand some common diseases of leopard geckos. Please see your veterinarian for more information or visit us at one of our MedVet locations.

Sources and Additional Information for Leopard Geckos:

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