Leopard Gecko Health
Leopard geckos are one of the easiest reptiles to care for and are generally pretty hardy providing they are given the correct care. Most health issues are caused by stress or poor hygiene. When you purchase a leopard gecko, you should endeavor to find your nearest reptile specialist vet before an emergency occurs as most small animal vets are not sufficiently trained in treating reptiles.
Your new leopard gecko should be quarentined on their own for 2 months before they are introduced to any other reptile and during this quarentine period, you should take extra precautions not to cross contaminate between your vivs - handle your new leo as little as possible, always handle or clean out your new leo last, ensure you use alcohol hand wash after handling your new leo or anything in the new leos viv, do not put any uneaten livefood from this leo into any other reptiles viv and preferably quarentine your new leo in a seperate room from the rest of your reptile collection.
Quarentine has several purposes - to ensure your new leo is eating, defecating and shedding normally, to allow your new leo to settle in and for you to observe its behaviour and to establish whether your new leo has any health issues without it spreading round the rest of your collection with potentially devastating results.
Symptoms of Ill Health
The most common symptoms of ill health that you may notice are - lack of appetite, diarrhoea, regurgitation of food, weight loss, lethargy, abnormal behaviour and lumps bumps or cuts. A leo may only show one of the above symptoms, not all of them! You should consult your vet if you have any concerns.
If you suspect your leo may have parasites, it is strongly advisable to have a fecal test done. A reptile vet can organise a fecal test if you provide a fresh sample or you can apply for a pack and send a fecal sample directly to PALS lab for testing. If your leo has weight loss, diarrhoea or a lack of appetite, I can strongly recommend having a fecal test done.
**THE FOLLOWING SECTION DOES NOT REPLACE VETERINARY ADVICE AND A SPECIALISED REPTILE VET SHOULD ALWAYS BE CONSULTED IF YOUR LEOPARD GECKO IS UNWELL OR INJURED**
Some Common Illnesses/Injuries you may encounter are -
Problems shedding skin are fairly common. Some leos never have any problems shedding, some may have issues occassionally and some leos require help every shed - usually those who have some form of deformity. A wetbox should always be provided for your leos and you should not interfere with shedding unless the leo is clearly having problems. The most common areas for leos to have difficulty shedding are the eyes and toes. Any stuck shed should always be removed as if left it can result in the skin tightening and leos can lose toes, become blind or suffer from infections. If you notice your leo has any stuck shed, you should bathe it in some lukewarm water and rub the shed gently with a cotton bud to loosen it. Eyes are much more delicate and stuck shed is better left to a reptile vet to flush the eye.
Leos can drop their tails if they feel threatened. This is a defense strategy - in the wild they would drop their tails and hope that the predator will focus on this, allowing the leo to escape. There are other reasons a leo can drop its tail - bites, infection and stuck shed. A leos tail is fat storage so if your leo drops its tail or part of its tail, it should be kept on kitchen roll to prevent infection and fed regularly to give it the resources to grow a regenerated tail. A regenerated tail does not look the same as the original tail - it is normally smoother, shorter and rounder than the original tail.
Bites, Cuts and Burns
If your leo is bitten by another leo or they are fighting, they should be seperated immediately. You should also take care to ensure that there is nothing sharp in your leos environment that they could hurt themselves on. Burns can be caused by heated rocks or heat sources without a stat. Cuts, bites or burns should be kept clean with warm water and diluted pevodine can be used. If the injury is severe, a vet should be consulted immediately.
There are 2 types of prolapse with leos. Prolapse of the intestines occurs in male and female leos and can be caused by straining to pass eggs or faeces, particularly if a leo is impacted. Hemipenal prolapse only occurs in male leos and is caused by the leos reproductive organs not going back into the body correctly, this sort of prolapse normally happens after breeding. Sometimes a hemipenal prolapse can be repaired by putting the leo in some warm sugary water. If you notice your leo has a prolapse, this is an emergency. A reptile vet should be contacted immediately and an appointment booked as soon as possible (preferably within 24 hours). The leo should be placed in a plastic tub on some damp kitchen roll to prevent the prolapse from drying out. You should NEVER try to push the prolapse back inside the leos body by yourself.
Impaction is caused by a leo eating livefood that is too big or by a leo eating a loose substrate such as sand or bark chippings. This causes a blockage in a leos digestive system. If caught early enough, impaction can usually be reversed by a qualified reptile vet. If untreated, impaction will cause a leo to starve to death. Symptoms of impaction are - lack of appetite, lack of stools, weight loss, bloated looking stomach, lethargy, paralysis and convulsions. Please note, an impacted leo may not show all symptoms and prevention is far better than cure for impaction.
Metabolic Bone Disorder (MBD)
Leos are unable to produce their own calcium so it is important to provide them with calcium and vitamin D3 to enable calcium absorbtion. You should have a calcium dish in your leos viv to allow them to self regulate and also dust all of their livefood with calcium and vitamin D3 (found in nutrobal). If leos are not given adequate calcium or vitamin D3, they become calcium deficient. Symptoms of MBD include soft and rubbery bones, mis-shapen or swollen legs or spine, lethargy, trembling when standing or walking, paralysis, spasms, stunted growth and eventually death if not treated. Any deformities caused by MBD will remain even after the MBD has been treated.
Egg binding occurs when a leo is unable to pass her eggs. Egg binding can be caused by breeding from a female who is too young or small to be bred from, not providing a laying box for your leo, the eggs being too large, breeding from an overweight female leo or calcium deficiency. Symptoms include lethargy, lack of appetite, eggs looking very large when viewed through a leos stomach and a leo straining to lay. If you suspect your female leo is egg bound, you must take her to a reptile specialist vet. If left untreated, an egg bound female leo will die.
Fatty Liver Disease
This is caused by a leo having too much fat in their diet or by being obese. The leo will stop eating and the fat stored in the leos body will be mobilised to the liver where it would normally be converted for energy but with Fatty Liver Disease, the liver is unable to cope and becomes saturated with fatty lipids, causing liver failure. The best way to avoid Fatty Liver Disease is ensure your leo does not become overweight and limit how many fatty treats your leo is allowed (waxworms, silkworms and butterworms are all high in fat).
Internal parasite infections include roundworm, pinworm, hookworms, coccidia and cryptosporidium (see below for info on crypto) and are all contagious. Parasite infections normally occur when a leo has been stressed, such as when a leo has been moved and are one of the main reasons why quarentine is important. Symptoms include lack of appetite, weight loss, diarrhoea, dehydration, lethargy and straining to defecate. Parasites are diagnosed by feacal testing and treated by a reptile specialist vet. Leos with parasites should be quarentined and it should be noted that a high level of cleanliness should be maintained whilst treating for parasites to prevent the leo from becoming re-infected. A second faecal test should be carried out after treatment to confirm that the parasites are no longer present.
Cryptosporidium is a highly contagious parasite infection. Symptoms include rapid weight loss, regurgitation and diarrhoea but some reptiles can carry crypto without showing any symptoms themselves for months. Cryptosporidium is always fatal and can only be diagnosed by feacal testing. False negatives are possible so it is recommended to have one fecal test done at the start of your quarentine and another at the end before placing the leo near your other reptiles. Crypto has been known to wipe out entire reptile collections. Any leo suspected to be suffering from crypto should be placed under strict quarentine. Once confirmed, the leo should be euthanised immediately and anything the leo has had any contact with including viv, food and water bowls, hides etc should be destroyed.
Respiratory Infections are caused by inadequate temperatures, drafts or high humidity. Symptoms include mucus from the nose or mouth, opened mouth breathing or wheezing. Respiratory infections are treated with antibiotics prescribed by a vet and its important to correct the conditions which caused the infection to prevent it re-occurring.
Fungal infections are caused by a warm damp environment and usually start on the leos stomach or toes. Symptoms are raised, brown spots which then become open weeping sores and spread over the leos body. Fungal infections are treated with antibiotics prescribed by a vet and its important to quarentine a leo who has a fungal infection to prevent it spreading to your other reptiles. The viv and contents should also be scrubbed with an anti-fungal wash.
Mouth Rot is a bacterial infection. Symptoms include loss of appetite, swollen lips, bleeding gums and yellow pus or scabs on the lips or inside the leos mouth. Mouth Rot normally occurs in leos who are kept in dirty or overcrowded conditions with inadequate heating. A leo with Mouth Rot should be taken to a reptile specialist vet as left untreated, it can cause death. Its important to correct the conditions which caused the infection to prevent it re-occurring.