Seeing your Leopard Gecko biting at itself can be very disconcerting, especially if you’ve never seen this behavior before. However, you’ll be glad to know that in most cases, it is perfectly normal for your Leopard Gecko to bite itself.
Leopard Geckos usually bite at themselves because they are removing skin while they are shedding. In rare cases, your Leopard Gecko may be biting itself because it is irritated by mites, has an open wound that it is not allowing to heal, or because it’s suffering from brain damage or seizures.
Here’s what you need to know about why Leopard Geckos bite themselves, when it’s normal and when it’s not, and what you can do to help.
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The Most Common Reason for Your Leopard Gecko to bite Itself
When your Leopard Gecko is beginning to shed, it will bite at the skin as well as rubbing up against things in the terrarium to remove the loosened skin. If you do not realize what is happening, it can appear quite traumatic.
Your Leopard Gecko may bite at themselves fairly intensely, pulling off large swaths of skin at a time. What may be even more surprising to the novice Leopard Gecko owner is that the gecko will not only pull off the skin but also consume it.
Their old skin has a lot of valuable minerals that your Leopard Gecko does not want to have go to waste. Consuming the old skin can make it easier for your Leopard Gecko to form new skin without tapping into stored resources.
Furthermore, leaving old skin around their burrow can attract predators in the wild, so Leopard Geckos instinctually consume the skin to hide it from predators.
Don’t worry, your Leopard Gecko consuming its own skin is perfectly normal when it sheds.
Here’s what it looks like when a Leopard Gecko is shedding:
Tips for Successful Leopard Gecko Sheds
- Access to clean water. Dehydration is one of the primary culprits for a poor shed, so be sure that your Leopard Gecko always has plenty of access to clean water and that they are drinking enough.
- A humid hide. Your Leopard Gecko should have both a dry hide and a humid hide. You can keep the humid hide humid by putting in damp sphagnum moss like this one here or regularly wetting paper towels within it.
- Soak Leopard Geckos prior to shedding. Soaking your Leopard Gecko ensures that they are getting sufficient moisture before they shed. Use just enough water to cover your Leopard Gecko’s shoulders but not so much that they have to swim.
- Check regularly for parasites. Parasites like mites can result in poor shedding, so check your Leopard Gecko and enclosure regularly for these pests
What if Your Leopard Gecko is Biting off More Than Just Outer Skin When They Shed?
Sometimes, if Leopard Geckos do not have sufficient humidity when they are shedding, the outer layer of skin will stick to the inner layer. When your Leopard Gecko tries to pull off the skin, they may also pull off part of the inner layer of skin or even parts of their body.
This is most common at the toes and the tip of the tail. It may also occur around the eyes and vent. If you notice that your Leopard Gecko is having a hard time getting the skin off, you can soak them in a shallow pan of room temperature water to loosen the skin and provide the necessary humidity.
You can gently assist in rubbing off the skin with a little bit of friction from your fingers or a towel, but if the skin does not come off readily, do not pull on it.
If the skin does not come off within a day or two or if there has already been damage done to the skin, it is best to consult a veterinarian. Your veterinarian can remove any retained skin and treat injuries.
Seek veterinarian help if your Leopard Gecko pulls off more than just the outer layer of skin, resulting in injuries.
Other Reasons for Leopard Geckos to Bite Themselves
Skin shedding is by far the most likely reason that your Leopard Gecko is biting at itself. However, if your leopard is not shedding right now, in some rare occasions, something else may be responsible for your Leopard Gecko biting itself:
Mites or other irritating bugs can cause your Leopard Gecko to bite at itself in an attempt to rid itself of the biting insects. If the infestation is quite bad, your gecko may even do injury to itself in an attempt to get rid of the mites.
Look closely at your Leopard Gecko’s skin for signs of mites and also check the enclosure. If mites are found, thorough cleaning of the enclosure with bleach is the first step. If you have other reptiles, it is essential to isolate the affected Leopard Gecko so that mites do not spread.
Soaking your Leopard Gecko every day in water is a good way to drown the mites and eliminate many of them. A light coating of olive oil can also help to suffocate mites when left on for about an hour.
When your Leopard Gecko is rid of many of the mites and is fairly healthy, an insecticide designed for killing mites can be applied.
An Open Wound
Most of the time, if your Leopard Gecko has a cut or small injury, it will heal by itself and be entirely eliminated when your Leopard Gecko sheds. However, in some rare cases, Leopard Geckos irritate the wound over and over again, preventing it from healing.
In such cases, your veterinarian may be able to create a small collar to prevent your Leopard Gecko from getting to the injury until it has time to heal.
Very rarely, some Leopard Geckos that may have brain damage or seizure activity may bite at themselves when they are not shedding and cause injury. You may see your Leopard Gecko circling around and biting at the tail or back legs.
Biting may be sufficient to injure the skin or even take the tip off of the tail or toes. If you see this sort of behavior, especially when you know your Leopard Gecko is not about to shed, it is best to seek the help of a veterinarian. Medication may be able to resolve the self-harming issues.