Understanding how happy and healthy our pets are is essential in taking care of them, but also quite rewarding! So if you’re here to see whether you’re doing well as a pet parent, we welcome you!
Happy and healthy leopard geckos are curious and active, have a good appetite and sleeping schedule, and follow their thermoregulatory instincts. They respond well to external stimuli and react when you touch them. They poop regularly, move slowly, and have thick tails and clear eyes.
While it would be impossible to list every possible behavior of a leopard gecko, we’ve prepared a list of the most common signs indicating that your leo is happy and healthy. Additionally, we’ve included symptoms of stress and potential health conditions in geckos.
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Signs That Your Leopard Gecko Is Happy and Relaxed
Although it hasn’t been scientifically confirmed that geckos can feel what we call happiness, we can associate it with comfort, alertness, and responsiveness.
Today you’ll learn how to spot the slightest signs of what we like to call “happiness” in leopard geckos!
1. It Is Active and Curious
Leopard geckos are active and curious creatures. They enjoy exploring their surroundings, hunting, and even spotting you approaching their tank! They’re usually open to investigating the areas outside their tank as well!
When they’re hungry, they might approach the front of their enclosure, signaling that it’s feeding time! Sometimes they may even bark if they’re hungry – how amazing is that?!
2. It Explores Its Surroundings Effortlessly
If your leopard gecko is exploring its surroundings, it’s a good sign – we’ve already established that. However, it’s essential to note how your reptile is moving. Does it move effortlessly through its tank, or does it have shaky moves?
If it’s happy and healthy, a leopard gecko will move boldly, but slowly, in its enclosure, especially at dawn/dusk, since that’s when these reptiles are primarily active.
Observe your gecko’s body posture. A content leo will have a relaxed tail, an upright head, and wide ear openings!
Watch this adorable leopard gecko called Sylvia exploring her tank!
3. It Doesn’t Mind Being Handled
Leos are typically friendly lizards, but they are not too fond of being handled.
On the other hand, if you offered your gecko enough time to settle after you’d got it, as well as enhanced the fact that handling can be a positive experience, your reptile is probably already used to it.
Moreover, since leopard geckos are curious reptiles, your pet won’t mind spending some time exploring new surroundings outside its tank. Therefore, they’ll regard your hand as a bridge toward new experiences!
In short, if your pet doesn’t mind being handled, as long as you’ve reinforced this as a positive activity, this is a sign of content! If it climbs on your fingers when you approach it – the better!
4. It Flicks Its Tongue
If your leopard gecko flicks its tongue while on an exploration mission, it’s comfortable and happy. That’s how they taste their surroundings!
Their tongues collect samples from the air and deliver them to their vomeronasal organ, also called Jacobson’s Organ.
It’s located on the upper part of the mouth and helps geckos decode the message transmitted by their tongues.
That’s how leos are aware of their surroundings – it is, in fact, demonstrated that they flick their tongues much more while moving.
Therefore, if your leopard gecko flicks its tongue and is normally active – it’s definitely enjoying its life and satisfying its curiosity!
5. It Enjoys Its Basking Area and Thermoregulates
Your leopard gecko is an ectothermic animal – it relies on the environment to regulate its body temperature.
As such, if you see your gecko spending time in the warm area, then moving to colder places to avoid heating itself up, your pet is probably happy and healthy!
If your gecko’s routine of using the basking area and the warm/cold side of the tank changes – something might be wrong.
6. It Has a Sleeping Schedule
Leopard geckos often develop sleeping schedules that depend on various external factors.
They sleep around 10-12 hours during the day, and since they’re typically crepuscular reptiles, they’ll start being active when you’re going to sleep.
However, it’s not uncommon for leos to bask during the day, especially in the morning.
If you know your gecko has a sleeping schedule and notice it’s been disrupted lately, something might be stressing it out.
Watch this cute gecko called Lemon putting himself to sleep!
Signs That Your Leopard Gecko Is Healthy
A healthy leopard gecko equals a happy owner! Signs of comfort and thriving are indicators of balanced care. So if your leo looks healthy and relaxed, kudos for your efforts!
1. It Has a Good Appetite
Naturally, a good appetite is a good sign – for humans as well, not only reptiles! This isn’t only a sign that your pet is healthy; it’s also an indication that it’s happy and comfortable!
Leopard geckos are particularly known for having a huge appetite and will never say “no” to feeding times!
However, remember that this may sometimes get reptile owners too excited! It can lead to overfeeding, which, in turn, can cause other health issues.
Therefore, if your gecko is happy when you’re offering it food – very good! Just ensure to stick to a feeding schedule appropriate for its age and size.
2. It is Alert and Responsive
If your leopard gecko is alert and responsive, this is a sign of good health. It should have lots of energy, be driven by curiosity, and be open to roaming around its tank, as well as exploring the environment outside it.
Moreover, if your leo responds to external stimuli, like light, temperature, and insects to hunt, they’re feeling just fine!
Leopard geckos like hiding, so this shouldn’t worry you. However, if it spends more time hiding than being active, something may be bothering it.
Look how responsive this gecko is to feeding and hunting!
3. It Has Clear, Open Eyes
Leopard geckos are believed to have much better eyesight than humans! In fact, they might be seeing 350 times better at night than us. How cool is that?!
Since leos are primarily crepuscular, their eyes are of great help. As such, they should always be clear and open. In low-light conditions, your leo’s pupils may be dilated. In contrast, they’re slit-shaped in the daylight.
If your reptile’s eyes are cloudy, swollen, or look anything different than usual (e.g. only one pupil is dilated) – this may indicate eye infections, trauma, or shedding issues.
Did you know that, unlike most geckos, leopard geckos do not lick their eyes? That’s because they have functional eyelids that clean their eyes when they blink.
Learn more about your leo’s eyes here:
4. Its Skin Looks Healthy
Here’s what you can check to ensure your gecko’s skin is healthy:
- The skin should not look discolored or pale (except right after shedding).
- There should be no signs of ticks or mites.
- There should be no lesions, blister-like ulcers, or wounds.
- There should be no dry, patchy areas on your gecko’s eyes, head, limbs, and tail.
It’s essential to keep an eye on your gecko during shedding. Dysecdysis (shedding complications) is one of the most common leopard gecko diseases.
Although a leopard gecko’s habitat should generally register 30-40% humidity, these reptiles also require a humid hide with 70-80% humidity. This, alongside a healthy diet, will help your leo shed its skin in a natural way, thus preventing further complications.
5. It Poops Regularly
Adult leopard geckos usually poop once a day, although some may do so only several times per week. Babies, on the other hand, poop more often – around 2-3 times a day. This depends on how much your reptile eats.
As such, if your baby gecko hasn’t pooped for a few days, this might be a problem. Adults, however, probably have no serious issues if they go without pooping for up to five days.
Anything beyond that might be a symptom of indigestion, constipation, or other illnesses.
Generally, a gecko’s droppings are relatively dry and consist of feces and urate – the latter being white and the former dark.
Tip: Also read: How to find out if your leo is a boy or a girl.
6. It Has a Fat Tail
Just as camels store fat in their humps, leopard geckos store fat in their tails, that’s why they’re so thick!
In the wild, they rely on the fat stored in their tails as an energy source when food is scarce. The thicker the tail, the better! It is believed leos can survive months without food only thanks to their amazing tails!
That’s why a thick tail is one of the best signs that your leopard gecko is healthy!
7. It Has a Clean Vent
A leopard gecko’s vent should be clean. You probably already noticed that your reptile licks its vent often, right?! This is normal behavior! It licks its vent for the following reasons:
- To clean it after pooping or marking its territory.
- To clean it after mating.
- To prevent infections and parasites.
- To reduce discomfort caused by impaction, constipation, or egg laying.
- To ease the shedding process.
However, it’s crucial to notice any changes in your gecko’s licking habits. If it starts licking its vent more frequently or stops this activity altogether, this may indicate discomfort and health issues.
Therefore, you should check your gecko’s vent frequently to ensure it’s clean, doesn’t look irritated or crusted, and isn’t blocked by anything.
Here’s how to identify sperm plugs in the vent:
Signs That Your Leopard Gecko Is Unhappy and Stressed
Humans exposed to stressful situations are at a higher risk of developing diseases. The same goes for reptiles – stress can suppress their immune function, therefore making them prone to infections and illnesses.
Unfortunately, reptiles, leopard geckos included, tend to hide their stress, so it’s of utmost importance to notice any slight changes in your pet’s behavior.
Stress is sometimes linked to things you can change (tank conditions, for example), while others may help you reveal diseases that make your pet unhappy.
1. It Drops Its Tail
Leopard geckos drop their tails when they feel threatened, stressed, or sick. It may also happen during rough handling or upon accidents. This behavior is called autotomy.
If your gecko dropped its tail, this indicates that there was something stressing it out. If it didn’t happen while you were handling it, there must be something else going on.
Does your reptile share its space with another leopard gecko? They’re solitary and territorial reptiles, so if your gecko shares its tank with another reptile, it’s probably time to separate them.
Observe whether the tail drop can be associated with other behavior changes or illness symptoms.
2. Stressed Body Language
A stressed and unhappy leopard gecko will keep its eyes closed even if it’s not sleeping. This might be caused by incorrect light set-up, injuries, or health issues.
Moreover, as we already established, leos should move effortlessly and smoothly. Quick movements are often a sign of fear or distress.
Besides this, leopard geckos are pretty vocal, which makes them unique among other reptiles. Geckos will chirp, squeak, or scream if they’re stressed.
Last but not least, a leo often waves its tail while hunting right before catching prey. Afterward, it will relax its tail. This is normal behavior.
Sometimes, however, a leo may waive its tail in defense – if it’s around other geckos or if it’s warning you to leave it alone.
This may sometimes be accompanied by an arched back. If you pick your gecko up while it waives its tail, you may cause it much stress.
Watch this video to observe the body language of a scared leopard gecko.
3. It Spends More Time Sleeping
We already know that leopard geckos should sleep 10-12 hours a day. So what if your pet changes its schedule and starts sleeping 15 hours or even more? Well, that’s not a good sign.
The reason behind it can be anything, starting from overfeeding and stress and ending with diseases and parasites.
If you believe this is caused by stress, check whether your gecko has a proper diet and see if there’s anything you can do to improve its tank set-up. Check out our leopard gecko care guide here if you need more help.
4. It Shows Aggression
Leopard geckos aren’t typically aggressive but can become pretty agitated if something bothers them.
For example, they’re extremely territorial and can become aggressive toward male reptiles. This is also valid during the breeding season because their territorial instincts are enhanced.
The above examples represent normal leo behavior. The only thing you can do regarding these is to ensure your gecko doesn’t share its tank with other mates.
However, geckos may sometimes show aggression if something bothers them in their tank – the most common cause is the temperature. If you think that’s not the case, ensure to check the whole tank set-up to see whether you missed something.
Remember that your leopard gecko may also show signs of aggression if you’re new to each other. Give it time before handling it.
Tip: Also read our article on signs your leopard gecko likes you!
Signs That Your Leopard Gecko Is Unhealthy
Noticing signs of disease in leopard geckos is pretty difficult because they tend to mask their symptoms. Otherwise, they risk appearing weak for potential predators. Here are what symptoms you should look out for.
Note: If your leopard gecko seems to be unhealthy and you fear that it might be dying, read our article on dying leopard geckos here. It will show you if your leo is dying and what you should do now.
1. Digestive Problems
Any change in your leopard gecko’s feeding habits and digestive behavior may indicate an illness. These reptiles love their feeding times!
If you notice that your pet loses its appetite – that’s a big red flag! Here are some other things to check:
- Does your gecko vomit?
- Does it poop in unusual places?
- Is it constipated?
- Is there blood in your gecko’s stool?
- Did it lose weight? Can you easily notice its hip bones?
- Is it bloated?
- Is its tail getting thinner?
- Is your gecko’s vent alright? Check whether it doesn’t suffer from a vent prolapse.
It’s important to observe any slight changes in your pet’s routine because many digestive illnesses often go unnoticed.
For example, geckos with fatty liver disease will rarely show any symptoms besides the fact that they’ll stop eating.
If your gecko stops eating altogether and doesn’t poop – this can be a symptom of impaction, a digestive blockage, and can be fatal if not addressed in time.
2. It Is Lethargic
Here are some signs that your gecko is lethargic:
- It appears weak and doesn’t move around that much.
- It spends more time hiding.
- It doesn’t “greet” you when you bring food.
- It doesn’t drink from its water bowl.
- It sleeps more.
While lethargy can also be caused by stress associated with tank conditions, it is often a consequence of an underlying disease. If you’ve already ruled out external stress factors, it’s time to take your leo to a vet for a check-up.
Lethargy can be caused by many diseases, including parasite infections, gout, egg binding in female leos, intestinal impactions, and nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (or Metabolic Bone Disease).
3. Its Mouth Area Is Swollen
If the area around your leopard gecko’s mouth is swollen, you may be dealing with mouth rot (stomatitis) – a mouth inflammation caused by viral or bacterial infections.
Traumas and unclean tanks are the most common causes of mouth rot. Moreover, improper lighting and humidity levels weaken the immune system and allow the infection to spread more rapidly.
Here are some other symptoms your gecko may exhibit if it suffers from stomatitis:
- Yellow pus
- Blackened teeth
- Bleeding gums
- Appetite loss
- Excess salivation
- Your gecko uses only one side of its mouth to eat.
Watch this video to learn more about this disease.
4. It Breathes With its Mouth Open
Leopard geckos shouldn’t typically breathe with their mouths open. If you notice this symptom in your gecko, this may be a sign of respiratory infection.
It is usually caused by improper tank conditions and a poor diet. You’ll have to get your reptile to a veterinarian, who can assess how severe the infection is.
Other signs of respiratory infection include:
- Appetite loss
- Increased effort to breathe
- Discharges from nostrils or eyes
5. It Has Skin On Its Toes or In The Eyes
Baby leopard geckos shed every 1-2 weeks, while adults every 4-8 weeks. This is normal behavior as long as it doesn’t cause your reptile any issues.
During shedding, you might notice your pet spending more time in the humid side of its tank because this facilitates the process.
Geckos typically shed large pieces of skin within one or two hours. Once they shed their skin, they become paler. Oh, and they eat their skin – don’t be surprised if you don’t find any skin pieces in the tank!
Sometimes, however, the shedding may go the wrong way. If you see skin sheds on your leo’s body (usually toes and eyes), your pet has trouble shedding or suffers from the so-called dysecdysis.
The abnormal skin shedding is caused by the lack of a humid side inside the tank and vitamin A deficiency.
The retained skin on your pet’s toes may lead to avascular necrosis and toe loss. Eyes affected by dysecdysis eventually develop keratitis and conjunctivitis.
This, in turn, leads to secondary infections. Therefore, if you notice any issues and you’re unsure how to help your leo, take it to a vet right away.
6. It Cannot Move Properly
If your gecko is a male and it’s dragging its hind legs to attract females and warns other males not to attempt anything with their mates, there’s nothing to worry about!
That’s normal behavior during the breeding season.
If you notice that your leopard gecko has trouble moving in any other situations, is reluctant to move any of its feet, or cannot move its legs at all – your pet should be seen by a vet as soon as possible.
The most common reasons behind these symptoms are injuries or Metabolic Bone Disease, which is usually caused by a lack of calcium and vitamin D3.
However, trouble moving can also be caused by impaction because digestive swelling can put pressure on a gecko’s spinal nerves.
If you feel a lump or swelling on your pet’s abdomen, you’re probably dealing with impaction. Constipation can sometimes cause reduced mobility as well.
7. It Flips Over Onto Its Back
If your leopard gecko flips over onto its back, a behavior called “death roll” – it’s a bad sign. This is a symptom of Enigma Syndrome, a neurological disorder caused by irresponsible breeding and faulty genetics.
Other symptoms besides the death roll include star gazing, moving in circles, inability to catch prey, seizures, and head tilting.
If you suspect that your leo has Enygma Syndrome, you should take it to the vet. While there’s no cure for this disease, you can help your gecko have an enjoyable life by reducing external stressors.
Learn more about the disorder by watching this video:
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