Leopard Gecko Diseases and Injuries

What diseases or health issues affect leopard geckos? Health issues in leopard geckos are not terribly common, but they can occur. It is important that hobbyists make sure their geckos are healthy before acquiring them as pets.

If you find a lizard with symptoms of mouth rot or other diseases, don’t purchase it and don’t let it be sold to another owner. These lizards may be carriers of infectious disease and could pass it on to other leopard geckos.

Other serious symptoms also warrant euthanizing the animal at once so as not to spread or further transmit the illness. Reptiles do not respond well to antibiotics, so these issues must be addressed quickly.

Protecting Your Gecko’s Health with a Healthy Environment

Because illnesses in leopard geckos are not that common, there are many causes of poor health and death, so it is best to avoid these conditions.  The most important thing a hobbyist can do for their gecko’s health is maintain proper hygiene.

An environment should be spot cleaned once or twice a week depending on the number of geckos housed in the living environment and how many messes they make.

A general rule for beginners is to clean every one to two weeks, or as needed. Be sure to check all under tank surfaces like rocks, wood and plants as well as your gecko’s enclosure for any waste that may be left behind so the area can be cleaned well. Don’t forget to wipe the bottom of your gecko’s water dish and fill it frequently with fresh water!

What Diseases Can Leopard Geckos Get?

Leopard geckos are not amazingly sensitive reptiles, but they do require a healthy living environment. As mentioned above, there are many causes of illness in leopard geckos. The following is a list of the most common illnesses and causes of health problems in these lizards.  It’s best to be prepared by keeping your reptiles healthy before they become ill or even worse, pass on their illness(es) to others!

1. Mouth Rot (Stomatitis):

Stomatitis is an inflammation of the mouth and surrounding tissues. This inflammation can lead to ulcers in the mouth, making it hard for a gecko to eat and drink. Lack of food or water intake can be fatal.

Although stomatitis in leopard geckos is not that common, it does occur so taking preventative measures is important. The most common cause of mouth rot in leopard geckos is a result of overcrowding, so lowering the stress levels and increasing space can help with this condition.

Other causes include injuries to the mouth or use of antibiotics. If your leopard gecko has an injury that involves the mouth, it should be taken into a vet for treatment.  If the gecko is taking antibiotics, be sure to contact a qualified veterinarian regarding how long they should take them and what they can do when the time comes to stop the medication.

Unfortunately, mouth rot in reptiles cannot always be treated and may be fatal, but there are some steps that you can take if your gecko does develop mouth rot. The first thing you should do is separate the gecko from any other leopard geckos. Then clean the mouth area well, using warm water and medical saline on a cotton ball or soaked Q-tip.

After cleaning the area with saline, use an antibiotic ointment to treat the sores and lesions. Treat the gecko every day with an antibiotic ointment, making sure to apply it to the sores and any healthy tissue surrounding the infected area.  Continue this treatment until the infection goes away or your gecko is too weak to continue taking care of itself.

1a. Herpes Virus in Leopard Geckos:

Herpes is a virus that usually infects the mouth of geckos. It makes it hard for them to eat and drink, which can lead to death if not treated. The incubation period between this virus and symptoms can be up to two months in leopard geckos, so early detection is key.  If you find your gecko has mouth rot of unknown causes, herpes should be one of the first things you check for.

A gecko with herpes will have little or no appetite and will stay away from its water dish. Their throat area may appear red as well. The fact that leopard geckos rarely show these symptoms make it more difficult to detect. The best way to confirm herpes is through testing.

Vet clinics can run a PCR test on your gecko’s DNA that will detect the virus and let you know whether or not it has been infected. It doesn’t matter if the gecko is being treated for symptoms because there are medications available to treat leopard geckos with confirmed cases of herpes.

The good news is that a gecko can recover from an infection as long as it gets the proper treatment and care. Unfortunately, some infected geckos may pass this disease onto others through mating or other close contact. Since there are no known treatments for herpetic shedding in leopard geckos, it’s important to keep any geckos you have away from others once a confirmed case has been found.

2. Coccidia (Isospora):

Coccidia is a parasitic infection that can lead to diarrhea, dehydration and death in leopard geckos. This parasite spreads easily through fecal-oral transmission, so if your gecko’s tank is kept dirty, it can lead to an outbreak.

An infected leopard gecko will have loose stool and a pot-bellied appearance. They may also refuse food or water in favor of hiding out on the floor of their enclosure.  If you see your gecko exhibiting these signs, make sure they are getting plenty of water to help flush the infection from their system. You can also feed them treats soaked in water to help keep them hydrated. Iodine-only treated water is recommended for leopard geckos with coccidiosis because it prevents bacteria from growing in the water bowl.

Coccidia outbreaks are common when there is a lack of sanitation and poor water quality in the enclosure. This causes a dirty, moist environment that allows the parasite to spread quickly among your leopard gecko’s tank mates. In some cases, you may even see signs of coccidiosis elsewhere in your house if a leopard gecko with an active case managed to pass it on through its stool or saliva.

If you see your gecko exhibiting the signs mentioned above, take it to a vet as soon as possible. There are medications that can help fight off the infection and get it back on track.

3. Salmonella:

Leopard geckos are extremely susceptible to salmonella infections because their immune systems aren’t strong enough to defend against foreign invaders. Most cases of salmonella infection occur when a gecko eats food that is infected with the bacteria, like crickets who have been consuming feces or decaying carcasses on their way to your gecko’s cage.  Antibiotics are available to treat this illness if you suspect your leopard gecko has it, but there aren’t any medications that can rid them of the germs on their own.

There is a vaccination available to help prevent salmonella in leopard geckos, but it will only be effective for three months after it’s administered. This means you still need to wash your hands before and after feeding live insects to your lizard, as well as thoroughly cleaning their enclosure. An easy way to prevent this disease from affecting your leopard gecko is to always feed them sterile crickets and gut-load them with high protein foods like mealworms or wax worms in the days before they’re fed to your lizard.

4. Upper Respiratory Infection (URI):

URI is a common respiratory issue that can affect leopard geckos of all ages. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection or the introduction of a fungal spore into their lungs, but it can also be a reaction to an irritant in the air or excessive exposure to humidity or temperature.

5. Prolapsed Vent:

A prolapsed vent is when a gecko’s vent (the opening from which it excretes urine and feces) becomes exposed as a result of infection or an injury. This is a fairly common issue for male leopard geckos because they may get bitten during mating, and the wound left behind can become infected.

In most cases, you’ll notice your gecko drooping his tail because he’s trying to reach his vent. If the prolapse is on one side, it may cause them to walk with an unusual gait. Younger geckos are especially prone to this issue, but it can occur in older ones as well.

6. Parasites:

Parasites such as mites or ticks can be either internal or external, but they are rarely seen by owners because their bodies are so small. In most cases, you’ll see your gecko scratching at its body when it has a parasite crawling on them. These bugs can carry infections and other diseases that can be fatal for leopard geckos, so if your lizard exhibits this behavior, take it to the vet as soon as possible.

7. Dropsy:

An infection in the body that causes swelling in the internal organs may also cause your gecko to feel like he has dropsy when it’s actually a result of an illness. The skin around their vent and tail may become swollen, causing them to walk with hunched-over posture. Dropsy may be caused by a bacterial infection, so it’s important to take your ill lizard to the vet as soon as possible.

8. Conjunctivitis:

This eye condition is typically marked by red or bloody eyes that are swollen shut and hard to open. It is usually the result of another illness, but sometimes it can be caused by exposure to irritants in the air.

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