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Leopard Gecko: Clogged Femoral Pores – Causes & Treatment

leopard gecko clogged femoral pores

Not all reptiles have femoral pores. Bearded dragons, iguanas, and leopard geckos are the most notable reptiles to have them. These small openings produce waxy secretions that serve a host of functions. But while they have a purpose, they can get clogged and cause health problems for your leo.

Clogged femoral pores in leopard geckos are usually caused by the lack of rough objects to remove the waxy substances. Insufficient activity, using loose substrates, incorrect tank humidity, shedding problems, and a high-fat diet can also lead to femoral pore clogging.

Sore, infected femoral pores can result from leaving any of those issues untreated. Hence, this article covers everything you need to know about clogged femoral pores so you can help your lizard pal prevent having them.

What Causes Leopard Geckos to Have Clogged Femoral Pores?

clogged femoral pores in leopard geckos

1. Lack or Absence of Rough Objects to Climb On

In the wild, leopard geckos do a lot of walking and climbing across areas of different textures. Since they live in arid, mountainous, or semi-desert areas, the rocks and tree branches there help remove those waxy secretions.

But when these rough objects aren’t provided, the waxy secretions start building up. They will then harden and clog up the lizard’s femoral pores.

Hence, it’s imperative to add tank decor that helps leopard geckos rub off those waxy secretions. Cork bark or cork flats are the most recommended as they naturally provide a rough surface.

You can sterilize them (washing, brushing off the excess dirt, or baking) before placing them in your leo’s enclosure. This is to ensure no harmful microbes or insects infest the leopard gecko’s habitat. 

Tip: Though cork bark is naturally mold-resistant, mildew and mold can develop on its surface if kept in a dirty and humid enclosure. 

You can also add humid hides for an added climbing surface and for anchoring plants to it. The extra moisture in these hides softens the waxy secretions in the femoral pores, preventing clogging.

Zilla Bark Bends and Nomal Reptile Hides are some of the best hides you can buy from Amazon.

2. Incorrect Tank Humidity Levels

Leopard geckos are used to living in arid areas of the world. A 10-30% humidity is all they need to stay happy and healthy

Higher humidity levels make the femoral pores expand and increase the production of waxy substances. Excess secretions can lead to congestion and eventual clogging of the femoral pores.

It’s best to place a hygrometer in the tank to help you keep track and maintain the right humidity levels. Repti Zoo has both digital and analog hygrometers that you can install in your leo’s enclosure.

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3. Using Loose Substrates for the Tank

How do you clean leopard gecko femoral pores?

Most newbie reptile parents think sand is the best substrate for leopard geckos. However, they originally live in the rocky desert and grassland of Asia. The soil’s consistency there is far from sandy.

Also, the fine particles of the sand can easily enter their already-open femoral pores. Combine it with the waxy secretions coming out of those pores, and they’re sure to have a nasty clogging there.

Other substrates that are considered unsafe for leopard geckos include:

  • Calcium sand
  • Quartz
  • Plant-based substrates with loose particles (walnut shells, wood chips)
  • Sharp-edged substrates

Tip: Impaction is also a health issue for leopard geckos placed in a tank with loose substrates.

To avoid both clogged femoral pores and impaction in leopard geckos, use any of these safe substrates:

Substrate What Makes It Safe for Leopard Geckos

Paper Towels 
• Cheap
• Super absorbent
• Easy to change
• Commonly used for baby leos as they eat and poop frequently
• Easy detection of mites and other health issues due to their white color
• Not best to be used as a permanent substrate

• Cheaper than paper towels
• Absorbent
• Leave out to dry for at least 1 week to remove the “newspaper smell” and to dry out the ink used for printing them

Reptile Carpet
• Absorbent
• Allows leopard gecko to have a good grip when walking
• Make sure to buy from a reputable manufacturer as a leo’s claws can get stuck and lose them in the fiber
Wash them regularly as they tend to get dirty and smelly
• Recommended: Vodolo Reptile Terrarium Carpet for Leopard Gecko

Ceramic Tiles
• A cheaper and lighter alternative to stone slabs
• Get the textured type so the leo can have a good walking grip and not slip
• Pile in a single layer to entirely cover the bottom of the terrarium

Blended Substrates
• Specially prepared for leopard gecko use
• Cheaper alternative to bioactive substrates
• For DIY blended substrates, make sure the soil used is fertilizer- and pesticide-free
• Recommended substrate blend: Exo Terra Sand and Eco Earth

• Comes with natural soil, live plants, and bacteria to break down waste
• Closely mimics the leopard gecko’s natural habitat
• Requires less cleaning and maintenance
• Recommended: Terra Firma by BioDude

4. Leopard Gecko Doesn’t Move Around Much

Leopard geckos are naturally curious and active. They quickly react to external stimuli and make sure everyone knows how they feel.

Fun Fact: Leopard geckos are known for chirping, squeaking, and screaming if they feel stressed.

But, when leopard geckos sleep more, become lethargic, or have limited space to move, they can’t rub their back legs. This will lead up to build-up and clogging of the femoral pores.

Place your leopard gecko in a 20-gallon tank to give them enough room to grow and roam around. Use safe substrates, keep the humidity and temperature levels optimal, and clean up regularly to keep them active.

5. Shedding Problems

As leopard geckos are reptiles, they grow throughout their life. Since their skin can’t grow with them, they have to shed the old layer to make way for the new one.

Young leopard geckos shed every 1-2 weeks, while adult ones shed every 4-8 weeks.

Typical shedding time for leos takes 1-3 days, with the skin removal process taking anywhere between 1 hour to a whole day.

But when they’re experiencing health issues (Vitamin A deficiency) or their habitat isn’t properly maintained, they can experience dysecdysis (the scientific term for stuck shed). 

If this happens in the femoral pore area, the accumulated skin can clog it up.

You can help them with the shedding process by bathing or misting them and providing them with a humid hide. Applying shedding aids (a combination of vitamin E, jojoba oil, and aloe) with a Q-tip can also help.

6. High-Fat Diet

what causes clogged femoral pores in leopard geckos?

The secretions that leopard geckos produce from their femoral pores are waxy. If you give too much fat in their diet, excess wax will then build up in their pores, effectively clogging them up.

Examples of food that are high in fat content include:

  • Superworms
  • Waxworms
  • Butterworms
  • Buffalo worms

If you suspect this is the cause, pare down on the fat and give them a more balanced diet rich in the nutrients they need.

How Clogged Femoral Pores in Leopard Geckos Look Like

The presence of femoral pores is one of the signs that differentiate male leopard geckos from females. They’re naturally more prominent compared to the ones you’ll see in females.

If any of the signs below appear, your leo might have clogged femoral pores.

  • Darker or discolored areas surrounding the femoral pores
  • Presence of yellowish to brown waxy or hardened substance
  • Thick and bumpy scales surrounding the pores
  • Red and swollen pores
  • Changes in the leopard gecko’s behavior (licking and rubbing the femoral pore area) 

Cleaning a Leopard Gecko’s Clogged Femoral Pores

Once you’re certain that your leopard gecko has clogged femoral pores, don’t panic. Cleaning their pores is similar to how you do it with other lizards like beardies and uromastyx.

If you think you can manage to unclog the pores yourself at home, follow the step-by-step guide below.

  1. Soak your leopard gecko for 10 to 15 minutes in a shallow tub or dish filled with warm water. The warm water helps soften the wax buildup, making it easier to get out. Supervise your leo at all times while soaking it.
  1. Take the leo out of the water and position it. Don’t flip them on their backs as they can’t breathe and it stresses them out. If they continue squirming, wrap them firmly in a thin cloth or a T-shirt to keep them still.
  1. Gently scrub the pores with a damp towel, damp Q-tip, or soft-bristled toothbrush from the belly to the tail. If the buildup has softened, you can gently tease it out. Never push hard or pull the wax out as it hurts the leopard gecko and can cause further impaction.
  1. Put coconut or olive oil for the night. This step is optional only if you find that the waxy buildup is still hard after the bath.
  1. Apply antibiotic ointment on the clogged pore. You can do this step to further soften the buildup while preventing infection or when the pore’s contents have been expressed.

Repeat the steps daily for at least a week until the buildup softens and eventually comes out on its own. 

Then, incorporate these warm water soaks into your weekly care routine. Do this 2-3 times weekly and gently rub the area a bit to keep the femoral pores clean and free of buildup.

Reminder: If the clogged femoral pores look infected, are sore to the touch, there is pus or abscess, and the legs are swollen, go straight to the nearest vet.

Pierre And The ReptileCraze Team
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