Long-time owners of leopard geckos may agree with us that it can really give us a mini-heart attack when we see our leopard geckos struggling. Are they injured? Are they sick? Are they dying? It can definitely throw us in a loop when we do not know what signs to look for.
A dying leopard gecko will show signs of extreme weight loss, abnormality or even lack of droppings, lethargy, sunken eyes, and lack of appetite. Very often, the most fatal sign is lack of appetite because it signifies that your leopard gecko is ill, impacted, or just waiting for its death.
In this article, we are going to talk about the dying signs of a leopard gecko. We are also going to discuss the reasons why your leopard gecko is dying. In this way, we can find possible solutions that may just save your leopard gecko from dying.
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Signs That Your Leopard Gecko Is Dying
Although a difficult topic for us leopard gecko lovers, it is still vital for us to know these signs. In this way, we can make the process easier for our leopard geckos. Also, in some cases, we can prevent their eventual death upon seeing the early signs. So do not worry, there is still a bit of hope left!
1. Extreme Weight Loss
Leopard geckos have a fast metabolism which is why they need to eat frequently. The interesting thing about leopard geckos is that they can store food and water in their tails. In this way, they have enough stores to keep their nutrition at bay when the food source is limited.
This is also the reason why their tails look plump. Now, the immediate sign of weight loss in your leopard gecko is the fact that its tail is looking quite thin. This is called “stick tail” or “sick tail.”
It is very dangerous for a leopard gecko to have this very thin tail as it simply means that they do not have enough fat deposits where they can get sustenance. Extreme weight loss may stem from a number of things.
Let us take a look at the following:
- Poor nutrition
- Poor living conditions
There are some cases where you can still remedy this situation. These situations are when the cause of weight loss is due to poor nutrition, parasites, and poor living conditions. If the cause is parasites, then it is best to seek the help of a vet ASAP to get rid of them.
If you want to learn how to identify parasites in leopard geckos, we highly recommend getting this book. This knowledge can save your leo from getting really sick and it can “protect” you from high vet bills.
Further, for poor nutrition and poor living conditions, you can adjust how you take care of your leopard gecko. Learn to set up their enclosure properly as well as getting the right temperature and humidity. A change in diet is also needed in this case.
It is a different story when the cause is illness or impaction. It is not because you cannot remedy these situations, it is just that it is extremely difficult to catch the early signs of these causes unless they are already extremely obvious.
In fact, impaction is the leading cause of sudden deaths in leopard geckos because we cannot really see signs of impaction from the get-go.
2. Lack Or Abnormality Of Droppings
We have mentioned earlier that impaction is the leading cause of sudden death in geckos. The surefire way of knowing that your leopard gecko is suffering from impaction is the abnormality or lack of droppings. The bad news is, this sign is usually seen during the final days of your leopard gecko.
Therefore, you almost always have to check the droppings of your leopard gecko just to make sure that they are not suffering from illnesses or impaction. Take a look at the guide below to see the differences of the droppings as well as what they mean.
|Type of Dropping||What it Looks Like||What Does it Mean|
|Normal Dropping||Composed of three parts: waste (dark color), uric acid (white/yellow), and slight pee (transparent/yellow)||Nothing is wrong with your leopard gecko. It is getting proper nutrition and his environment is well-maintained.|
|Undigested Dropping||There are still obvious bits and pieces of insects in the dropping. Sometimes, the poop can also look watery.||The tank temperature is too low which does not help with digestion. It can also be a sign of parasites and an early sign of impaction.|
|White Dropping||The dropping has a chalk-like color. There are times when it may look grey, just like a soft pebble.||This happened due to the ingestion of shed skin. It can also mean the ingestion of bright substrates if you house your leopard gecko with a substrate like sand.|
|Worms in Dropping||It may look watery with some weird red or pinkish curves nestled in the dropping. Worms are not easily visible to the naked eye.||A sign of a parasitic infection. It can also be an effect of an aggravated bacterial infection. The worms in the dropping do not necessarily mean that they are parasites.|
|Soft Dropping||Gloopy and soup-like dropping. Usually, it has a white or yellow color. There can also be liquid brown bits.||This can happen when there is a sudden change of diet. It can also be a sign of weak immunity. Lastly, this can also mean that there is a parasitic infection like Pinworms, Entamoeba, and Crypto.|
|Green Dropping||Can be a soft or hard dropping that has a mint-like color at the tail of the dropping. It can be a combination of brown and green or just green overall.||This is due to a change of diet. It can also mean that your leopard gecko ingested some substrate in its enclosure. It may also be suffering from diarrhea where bile is not properly broken down so it colors the dropping green. If it is runny and green, it is an indication of internal parasites.|
|Substrate in Dropping||Characterized by having a foreign object in a normal dropping. Can easily be spotted as the foreign object is hard and extremely dry.||This happens when your leopard gecko ingested foreign objects in its enclosure. This can be sand or even pebbles. Usually, baby leopard geckos are the victims of this type of droppings as they lick almost anything in their surroundings.|
When you have noticed that there are absolutely no droppings, however sad it may seem, it means that your leopard gecko is nearing its curtain call. The reason behind this is that there is nothing to poop out. It may not be eating anymore nor does it have the energy to eat something.
Leopard geckos are very curious in nature. They would want to explore their enclosure and get a feel of everything around them. By default, they are extremely active, at least during dawn and night.
This activeness is displayed when they explore their home, bask in the warming light in the evening, and also hunt for live prey. Therefore, you should be alarmed when they start to slow down and just exhibit signs of general sluggishness. Here are other signs associated with lethargy:
- Being stationary for hours on end
- Always inside their hides
- Lying near their water bowls
- Walks extremely slowly
We have an example of a lethargic leopard gecko in the video below. The good thing is, this specific leopard gecko is not dying. However, it exhibited lethargy which is a symptom of a mass in its stomach that needed to be removed surgically.
You can see in the video how the leopard gecko was hiding in its hide and it is not as responsive as it should be. Those are general characteristics of lethargy that we discussed earlier.
The good news when it comes to spotting this sign early on is that you can get your leopard gecko checked by your vet immediately.
Keep in mind that lethargy does not necessarily mean that your leopard gecko is dying. It is just one of the signs that can give you a hint that something is wrong with your leopard gecko which is hopefully not that serious.
4. Sunken Eyes
One of the most lovable things about leopard geckos is how stunning their eyes are. Their eyes are just out there to charm the coldest of hearts. Therefore, it is easy to spot when they have sunken eyes because the difference is pretty apparent.
Usually, this happens because of dehydration. Their enclosure may be too dry or they were not misted properly or they do not have clear access to water.
What a lot of people do not know is that this also happens before a serious illness takes place. Yes, that’s right! So you have to check your leopard gecko’s eyes more frequently than you think as it is almost always the first sign that it is going down with something.
In a lot of leopard gecko forums, a lot of owners have discussed this weird instance wherein the first tell-tale sign of an impending illness is having sunken eyes and not long after (if they do not go straight to the vet) their leopard geckos will actually get sick.
There are a high number of the same experiences. that it has been the norm for determining if leopard geckos are going to be sick by just looking at their eyes. At the same time, you should not confuse this with the normal glum stare of a leopard gecko.
Keep in mind that during the day, the eyes of a leopard gecko sink in a bit because sometimes, they pull their eyes so that their eyelashes will fall over them, thus protecting their eyes. However, as the day progresses, their eyes would look normal again.
Therefore, it is safe to say that when you realize that your leopard gecko has sunken eyes, something may be seriously wrong with them or something bad is about to come.
Instead of just blaming it on dehydration and just up the intake of water or misting, it still best to consult your vet immediately, to be on the safe side.
5. Lack Or Loss Of Appetite
Lack of appetite is closely related to loss of weight. This is usually brought about by internal factors such as illnesses or the presence of parasites, and the very famous impaction.
But it can also be due to external factors that contribute to the stress of your leopard gecko, like when they are not getting the proper diet, temperature fluctuations in the enclosure, or other geckos bullying them.
Loss of appetite is a different story. When your leopard gecko outright refuses food even though you hand-feed them, then surely something is wrong.
It is either they cannot eat anymore or eating is too difficult or painful for them that they would rather starve. Yikes!
Note: Leopard geckos with a very fat tail sometimes just stop eating. That is because they store enough energy and don’t need to consume any more food. Usually, if the leo displays normal behavior and shows no other symptoms, there is nothing to worry about. A well-fed leo can go without food for weeks.
What Are The Causes Of Death Of Leopard Geckos
Now that you know the signs to be on the lookout for if your leopard gecko is dying, let us now discuss what are the possible causes of the manifestation of the said signs.
Of course, in the event that your leopard gecko dies, you would want some sort of closure, right?
Further, knowing the cause of death would also help you immensely the next time you encounter the same situation. Gone will be the days when you panic when you see the first signs!
Impaction is the nightmare of every leopard gecko owner. Simply put, this is what happens when your leopard gecko ingests something that it should not have. This can be a number of things like pebbles or substrate, or even moss ingestion.
The result of such ingestion are digestion problems and other internal problems related to improper digestion. Some leopard geckos display symptoms like the following:
- Lack or loss of droppings
- Lack or loss of appetite
However, in many cases, leopard geckos do not exhibit symptoms of impaction. Therefore, you are left surprised when you see your leopard gecko dead in its enclosure.
When caught early, there are ways to ease impaction, like giving your leopard gecko a warm bath and also gently massaging its belly.
But more often than not, impactions are too severe and add to the fact that your leopard gecko may not exhibit the signs, so you really do not have any time to do something about it or consult your vet.
Impaction mostly occurs in enclosures that have sand as a substrate or any substrate that has loose and little particles that will be easy for a leopard gecko to ingest. For example, in the video above, the leopard gecko was impacted due to the ingestion of shredded paper tissues.
However, that does not mean that you can’t use loose substrates or similar substrates. Very often, the reason why leopard geckos or other reptiles eat substrate is calcium deficiency.
So dusting the feeder insects with calcium will help preventing the leo from eating substrate.
Many people just put a bowl with shredded sepia bones into the cage so that leopard geckos can get their minerals whenever they need. We recommend getting this sepia bone right here.
In Germany, leopard geckos are only kept on a mix of soil, sand, clay, or similar substrates. Reptile carpets or kitchen roll as substrate are uncommon and even frowned upon there.
2. Wrong Temperature
Getting the right temperature and humidity in the enclosure of your leopard gecko is vital for their health. For those who have gone through the sudden death of their leopard gecko with the knowledge that they did not die from impaction, diseases, parasites, etc., the problem could be the temperature.
Usually, exposing your leopard gecko to extremely high temperatures would literally fry them to death. It is not enough that they have access to water or a hide. What matters is, that a regular and optimum temperature is consistently maintained in the enclosure.
A lot of owners tend to forget that the placement of the enclosure itself plays a huge part in regulating temperature. Was it placed near a window? Beside a heater? Is it in the basement?
You should still take into consideration the actual temperature of the area that the enclosure was placed as that will affect the internal temperature of the enclosure.
Also, most reptile keepers use quite cheap thermometers for their habitats. Those thermometers are often not accurate at all and that could lead to your leo becoming sick without your knowledge.
We highly recommend using a temperature gun (like this one) as it allows you to measure the exact temperature in every corner of your leopard gecko habitat – and even on your leo!
3. Parasitical Or Bacterial Infection
The most common parasitical infection in leopard geckos is called Cryptosporidiosis or Crypto for short. Crypto is a protozoal parasite that attacks the gastrointestinal system of your leopard gecko.
Some of the symptoms of Crypto are lethargy, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. Usually, “stick tail or sick tail” is a manifestation of Crypto.
It is a bit difficult to diagnose Crypto because the parasite is too little to even be visible in a stool sample. You really need to take your leopard gecko to the vet for several diagnostic screenings. As a rule of thumb, if your leopard gecko is suffering from rapid weight loss, then it probably has crypto.
When your leopard gecko has crypto, the treatment process is long and enduring. A lot of owners would suggest to just let your leopard gecko be, instead of letting it endure this tough process without the assurance that it will live in the end.
Sad stuff, we know, but it happens. It is still best to consider your options which should always be for the benefit of your leopard gecko.
A common bacterial infection is also caused by salmonella. No matter how clean your leopard gecko’s enclosure is, if these bacteria decide to exist there, then there is nothing else you can do. The problem with salmonella poisoning is it can rapidly be distributed from one gecko to the other.
The good news is, there is a high success rate of complete recovery when the infection is a bacterial one as opposed to a parasitic infection.
Again, to be able to catch problems with parasites in your leopard gecko early, we highly recommend getting this book on parasites in reptiles. It’s not cheap but definitely cheaper and less stressful than losing your leo.
Besides impaction, the second major cause of sudden death in leopard geckos is dehydration. This might be too simplistic to some, but we cannot stress enough how important water consumption is to leopard geckos.
It does not only have to be offering them water for drinking, but their bodies should also be exposed to water. At first, the symptoms of dehydration are not that evident, but eventually, when your leopard geckos are so dehydrated, they will exhibit the following:
- Sticky mouth brought about by the loss of saliva
- Loss of elasticity of the skin
- Wrinkled appearance
- Skin is flaky and dry
- Loss of muscle
It is extremely scary to lose your beloved leopard geckos. However, it is our responsibility to be aware of the signs to look for in order to determine if something is wrong with our leopard geckos. If only they can speak to tell us that something is bothering them, but they cannot.
The key to preventing such drastic situations is to always maintain their enclosure when it comes to its temperature and cleanliness.
At the same time, they should get the proper diet and enough water. Always observe their behavior and if something is a bit off, consult your vet immediately.