Mad About Geckos
Leopard geckos are on the whole both
hardy and relatively long-lived providing the correct care and attention
is given to them. Most problems are usually caused through stress, poor
hygiene or unsuitable conditions.
Recently we have received
a number of emails regarding our quarentine practices with our reptiles.
What is quarentine? ~
Quarentine is a period of time that an animal is isolated from any
What about Hygiene?
In our opinion normal hygiene should be the same high level for quarantine because, we feel between every individual reptile you should wash or sanitise your hands using an alcohol hand gel as standard. You should however try to minimise direct contact between yourself and the new reptile as this will stop cross contamination. Try to keep any reptiles that are in quarentine in a seperate room or as far away as possible from any other reptile you may have.
How We Quarentine
When we receive any new
reptile it under-goes 3 months intense quarentine with a number of
full feacal tests done during this period.
What to Look For
These are the most common
things to look for when quarentining:
These are the most common question
we get asked after explaining our quarentine procedures.
Here are some of our tips
Tail Loss (Caudal Autotomy)
Leo's shed periodically ~ the time between sheds
varying with age and or growth rate ~ which they usually eat. Sometimes
the shedding doesn't go smoothly with old skin stuck especially to
toes, tail and head which
if left or ignored can cause serious problems
for the leo with old skin eventually tightening and causing loss of
toes etc or getting infectioned. If skin is left on the toes then standing
the leo in a small container of warm water for a while to soften the
skin should help before gently trying to remove
the dead skin. A cottonbud can be used to soak patches of skin on the body
~ caution should be taken to not forcibly remove the skin as this can do
A few of the more common causes of eye problems with leo's are retained shed ~ which can eventually form a 'plug' of skin and/or pus over the eye ~ injury, dehydration, vitamin A deficiency and substrate ie: fine or dusty sand, dirt, peat moss etc which may cause irritation to the eye or beneath the eyelids. Symptoms may include squinting, failure to open eyes, sunken eyes, bulging, weeping or crusty inflammed eyes. Depending on the causes the eyes may need to be flushed, cleaned and/or treated by a Vet and any deficiencies treated and corrected.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD ~ Hypocalcemia)
This is usually caused by incorrect
or no dietary supplements especially of calcium and the vitamins needed
to utilise the calcium in their diet, causing the leo to use it's own
bodies calcium from its bones ~ this leads to soft bones, swollen or
mishapen legs/joints, weakness/ lethargy with
poor movement, trembling when walking or standing, paralysis (either
complete or hind limb), spasms and/or seizures, stunted growth and
other deformities with
the leo eventually dying if not treated soon enough.
Mouth rot is a bacterial infection
that can affect both the leo's mouth and gums; symptoms include bleeding
gums, loss of appetite, teeth going black, swollen mouth, and a cheesy,
yellowish pus between the teeth. This infection does not usually occur
in healthy, well-kept leo's, as it is generally brought on by dirty,
overcrowded viv/tank conditions and low temperatures combined with stress.
It is extremely painful for the leo and can prove fatal if not treated
by a vet. Early stages of mouth rot can be diagnosed if you notice the
mucous membranes along the teeth and along the lips show a bright red
Impaction can be caused by several
things; by the leo trying to eat food that is too big; by parasites;
too low a temperature to digest it's food; or more commonly by eating
substrate ~ either deliberately in the search for calcium or by accident
whilst hunting. If not caught and treated early enough the results are
both painful and deadly for the leo as with it's stomach and intestines
blocked it slowly starves while internal organs begin to give way inside
it. Syptoms can include loss of weight, loss of teeth, repeated bone
fractures, paralysis and convulsions.
Burns are commonly caused by either unprotected heat rocks, unregulated heat mats or unregulated heat lamps (or having the heat lamp too close). Ways to prevent this occuring include using the correct heating equipment for leo's, always use a thermostat and keep regular checks on the temperatures, make sure any heating elements are covered and protected to avoid the leo from direct or too close contact. Heat rocks are not really suitable for leo's; heat lamps do not provide the underneath heat that leo's require.
Faeces, Fecals and Poo
Some of the more usual questions
often asked about leo poo/faeces are "does my leo poop/faeces look
ok?" and "whats the white bit?" ~ the second question is easy to
that the white bit is the urates which tend to be passed in a semi/or
solid form although leo's can pass more liquid urates on occasion
~ usually if drinking more water then normal or fully hydrated.
Gastroenteritis can be caused by parasites, bacterial infection and/or unhygenic conditions; symptoms include vomiting of half-digested food and soft (diarrhoea-like), foul-smelling stools, combined with a yellowish white mucus, sometimes there are also traces of fresh blood. Stool samples taken to a vet can help identify the cause and offer the right treatment~ it is important to isolate the sick leo(s) and thoroughly clean the viv/tank and decor. Prevention again is the best way.
Parasites (External & Internal)
Mites are small spider-like creatures with those generally affecting leo's being 'blood mites' (Ophionyssus) that settle in the armpits, joint areas, base of the tail, around the eyes, in the vent area and underneath the scales. They are usually reddish-brown in color and if left untreated can cause skin damage as well as transmiting other bacteria and parasites which mites can act as intermediate hosts for. Mites can be easily treated and re-infestation can be controlled by rigorously cleaning the viv/tank and all decor at the same time as treating the leo.
internal parasites such as pinworm, roundworm and hookworm may be
found in leo's and being captive breed does not mean nor guarantees
Cryptosporidium is a highly contagious
parasitic infection which though normally associated with snakes has
become a growing problem with leopard geckos.
Coccidiosis is a fairly common
problem ~ the coccidia are tiny protozoan parasites which are highly
contagious; they invade
intestinal lining where they then reproduce. The coccidia 'eggs'
is these which are the infectous stage and they are passed in the
leo's stools where they remain until, for example, the leo walks
and its skin becomes covered. By then eating it's skin when shedding
the leo's parasitic load increases until it becomes what is called
a 'super-infection'. The irritation that coccidia cause in the intestines
can lead to mal-absorbtion of food, anorexia and dehydration ~ all
of which can then leave the leo open to further secondary infections
and parasites ~ and eventually if untreated, death.
Respiratory infections are usually caused by normal bacteria which take advantage of a stressed or weakened leo; causes are usually related to incorrect/cool temperatures, drafts and/or too high a humidity. Symptoms are usually mucus discharge in the mouth or nose which may resemble mouth rot, but the gums are usually normal, open-mouthed breathing or gaping along with wheezing. Respiratory infections are usually treated with antibiotics and/or a correction of tank/viv conditions.
Fungal infections are usually caused by warm conditions where the humidity is too high and can spread quickly causing damage to a loe's skin. Infections usually start underneath the stomach area and look like raised brown-spotted scales with these becoming open, weeping areas on the skin as it spreads. Veternary advise is needed to identify the fungi responsible and to correctly treat. Any affected leo should be quarentined till clear and the viv/tank and decor scrubbed and disinfected with a recommended anti-fungal wash.
Egg Binding (Dystocia)
binding is caused by many different things but typically it occurs when
female leo's are either stressed
ie: too young and/or small for breeding or not provided suitable conditions
and/or boxes for egg-laying; the eggs too large or deformed, obesity
or the female being deficient in supplements particularly calcium. Symptoms
swollen stomach, lack of appetite, straining to lay with possible prolapse
~ if binding is suspected then a vet should be consulted. Sometimes the
female will absorb the eggs but if not then they may need to be surgically
removed which carries it's own risks.
Prolapse can be down to several reasons; it can occur from the leo straining either through egglaying or as a symptom of impaction/parasites or sometimes with males when their reproductive organs (hemipenes) stay outside the body after mating. Prolapse can lead to further complications including infection or fatality if not quickly treated. Do not allow the area to dry out ~ keep the area moist by placing the leo on damp kitchenroll ~ I do not advise covering the prolapse with Vaselin, KYJelly or similar as this coats the area and can not only hinder the Vets attempts to reinsert or handle the tissue but can also hamper healing if surgery is required ~ sometimes soaking the area in a sugar and water solution can help the tissues retract back through the vent but I recommend in all cases that veterinary help is needed. Do not attempt to push the prolapse back yourself!
Obesity, Xanthomatosis and Hepatic Lipidosis
Obesity ~ Leopard geckos can be opportunistic
eaters and ~ unlike their wild counterparts ~ captive leo's can easily
become obese especially if fed too much fatty livefood such as waxworms.
The leo’s tail is it's fat reserve and should be normally be
a decent size, but not excessively big; likewise checks should be kept
on other areas where excess fat pockets are likely to form ie under
the armpits. Obesity can be prevented by feeding a varied diet and
limiting food such as waxworms.
Brumation and Aestivation
Leopard Geckos like many other reptiles
and animals will go into a period of brumation ~ a hibernation like
state ~ when temperatures drop below a certain level ie: during winter
months or when temperatures are dropped to trigger breeding.
During this time a healthy gecko will slow down, eat little and use
Poor appetite can be caused by numerous
problems; incorrect temperatures (too high or too low),
stress, parasites, impaction, eggbinding and dehydration to name a
Although leo's can be kept together
ie: two or more females; they are not really sociable animals and I've
found that they will set up a heirachy with one becoming more dominant.
Fighting can happen with the tell-tale signs of bites, scuffs and often
resulting in deep bites, loss of tail sections
and/or limbs and ~
in a worse case scenario ~ even death.
First Aid Items
A First-Aid kit is something that I feel
always comes in handy whether for something as simple as helping with stuck
shed or for more complicated use to help keep a leopard gecko comfortable
until it can be taken to a vet ~ a first-aid kit is not a substitute for
seeking veterinary help nor should it be used as such.
From time to time, geckos that are experiencing ill health
or are generally in poor condition are offered for rehoming by their owners
(or, where the owner or even pet shop is unscrupulous, they can even be advertised
for sale as 'healthy' specimens). While seeing the plight of such animals
can make rescuing them very tempting, serious consideration should be given
before such a course of action is embarked upon. Anyone wishing to rescue
a gecko should seriously reflect upon the following before making such an
When shedding their
old skin off leo's and Fat-tails will eat it to regain valuable nutrients.
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