Witnessing your leopard gecko dropping its tail can be jarring for first-time owners. How traumatic losing a tail is for a gecko? How easily do leopard geckos drop their tails?
Young leopard geckos are more likely to lose their tail than adults. The act of losing its tail voluntarily, as an act of defense, is called autotomy. Leaving behind a twitching tail acts as a distraction for predators and helps these lizards to flee. This action is always triggered by intense fear and stress.
While this act is understandable in a wild setting, there are no natural predators in captivity. Let’s explore the whats and whys of the problem and guide you on what to do when your leopard gecko loses its tail.
Table of Contents
Tail Losing Behavior In Young Geckos Versus Adult Geckos
Young geckos are easily spooked and stressed by everything, especially in the wild. In captivity, they will initially be spooked by you, fellow gecko mates, or anything they perceive as a threat.
In response to it, they will lose their tail. Once you start familiarizing yourself with them and socializing them, they will become more at ease and less stressed.
Adult geckos don’t often lose their tails. They seem to get adjusted to their stress levels if they know what to expect.
This relaxed state is often observed in captivity, not in the wild. In captivity, it has no natural predators – especially if it is living alone, kept in the same room, and being interacted with the same bunch of people.
However, if you keep a bunch of geckos together, it can cause stress to each one of them. The adult geckos can bully young geckos. One young gecko can nib on another young gecko’s tail if it assumes it as food or is simply attacking it.
Social interaction like this can cause stress to geckos, especially younger ones.
In another case, change in their environment can cause them such stress. We will get on it later in another section.
The Importance Of Tail In A Leopard Gecko’s Body
Even though it seems like their tail is the most disposable part of their body, it is one of the essential parts. A leopard gecko’s health is mostly determined by the fatness of its tail.
If it is skinny, it is mostly unhealthy. If it is fattened up, it is deemed to be healthy. The tail stores essential fat and fuel to keep them going.
Losing its tail means losing the fat storage. Therefore, it keeps them at risk of dying from it as well.
They lose their tail to distract their predator, set themselves free from an unperceived obstacle, and the likes. But it takes them a great amount of energy and distress to complete this action.
While they can do it on their whim, it is not something they do it for fun.
Tail Losing, Regeneration, And Pain
Does losing a tail causes leopard geckos any pain? How long does it take for leopard geckos to regenerate their tail? Let’s understand from the start.
When leopard geckos feel a life and death kind of stress, their body automatically prepares its tail to shed off. It doesn’t matter if the predator was a hawk or a rock that pinched its tail, its brain is not going to differentiate and categorize threat.
Every threat is treated with a tail losing event
Are leopard geckos in pain when they lose their tail?
Their tail has fracture points surrounded by rapid vasoconstricting muscles. This means that as soon as the tail sheds from these fracture points, these muscles shuts itself off fast to cause minimal blood loss and damage.
Since they are not rapidly losing blood, they are not intensely hurting from the wound. But in every case, it is still a wound that needs to be treated.
How long does it take for leopard geckos to regenerate their tail
The regeneration process takes about two to two and a half months to complete. After 3-4 weeks, the wounds close down and start to develop into a new tail.
However, the tail might not look like the first one. Each regenerated tail doesn’t resemble the previous one.
Some don’t even have the same fracture points after the regeneration process (while it may have the same number of fracture points). This means that the fracture points would be moved a little further than the original fracture points.
Also, their new tail will be shorter, blunt, and of a different color. Their new tail will be made only of cartilage and no new bones. This is true for most of the lizards that can regrow their tail.
Some lizards aren’t capable of autotomy. Some lizards are capable of autotomy but not the regeneration of the tail. And some lizards can regenerate their tail but only once or for a limited number of times.
How To Take Care Of Your Leopard Gecko When It Loses Its Tail
Your leopard gecko likes peace and wants to live in peace. Losing a tail is a sign of distress that you shouldn’t ignore, especially in captivity. You should check the following things when you first observe them losing their tail.
- Are they living with new geckos in their tank? Is there a possibility of them being bullied by other geckos?
- Did you introduce anything new in the gecko’s environment? Rock, hide, substrate or anything?
- Did you mishandle your gecko? Did you pick it up by its tail by accident or intently?
- Was there something new on the outside of a gecko’s environment that spooked them? For example, a cat, a dog or even a bird by whose presence they got startled.
- Did you change anything about their environment – temperature, humidity, diet, number of inhabitants?
If the answer is yes in one or many of the options, it could be a cause for stress for them. This is how you can make it all right.
- Be gentle with them while handling them. Let them crawl to your palm or pick them up gently by putting your fingers under their midsection. Make sure you never pick them up by their tail (again).
- In case it was your mishandling that caused them stress, leave them alone for a while. Talk calmly and gently with them, making them feel secure enough to let you touch them.
- Put them in another tank if they are already living with other geckos in a tank. Other geckos can attack their wound knowingly or unknowingly.
- Put them in a separate tank where the substrate is something that will not stick or scrape their wounded area. Paper roll works the best in this situation. Make sure that you change paper rolls every day to decrease the chances of infection.
- Clean their wound. Remove any debris from their wound gently. Use a cotton bud to apply an antiseptic such as betadine or triple antibiotic ointment but without the painkiller.
- Keep a watchful eye over the wound. Seek veterinarian’s help in case of infection. A cut-off tail can also show you signs of infection early-on on its ring. Inform the vet in such cases.
- Make sure that you regularly feed the gecko. As they have lost their essential fat storage unit, they will need a consistent amount of meals to regrow their tail without losing their energy.
- Keep clean water available for them. Feed them gut-filled worms and insects to keep them thriving. Make sure you do not feed them insects that can chew on their wound such as crickets.
- Make sure that their tank is clean and temperature and humidity-controlled.
These tips will help you take better care of your leopard gecko when it loses its tail.