Is your leopard gecko struggling to lift their back legs? Although leopard geckos have various unique behaviors that may cause them to act differently, a healthy individual should have full use and function of all their limbs.
The causes for a leopard gecko to be dragging its back legs can range from severe health issues that need vet attention and treatment immediately, such as impaction, constipation, or metabolic bone disease, to normal and healthy behavior like scent marking.
Continue on to explore potential reasons for your leopard geckos strange behavior and find out whether or not you need to take action. Also, at the end of this article we have a decision tree that helps you finding out why your leo is dragging its back legs.
6 Reasons Why Leopard Geckos Drag Their Back Legs
There are a lot of different reasons why your leopard gecko may be dragging its legs as it moves about. If this behavior is consistent, it is likely a health reason and you should try to gather as much information as you can to get to the root of the problem.
Monitor activity, feeding, and fecal to assess the severity of the issue.
It is also recommended to take regular recordings of the enclosures temperature, UV reading and humidity to monitor the environment and pick up on any changes that may be causing issues.
Reasons why your leopard gecko is dragging it’s back legs include:
- Metabolic bone disease
- Scent Marking
If your leopard gecko cannot move its hind legs at all, take it to an experienced reptile vet immediately.
Some other signs something is wrong and needs vet attention include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of fecal
1. Weak bones: MBD in Leopard Geckos
The most common metabolic bone disease is nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. Sure is a mouthful of a disease! In basic terms, this disease occurs when a reptile does not have enough calcium or vitamin D3.
We all know how important calcium is for bones. When there is a calcium deficiency in leopard gecko blood, calcium from the bones will leach into the blood. Lack of calcium in the bones causes weakness and deformities and this may present itself as a loss of mobility in the back legs.
Supplement your live feedings with calcium powder to boost the calcium intake for your leo. There are a lot of different brands and types of calcium powders, that even come in different flavors!
A popular brand amongst reptile keepers, both professionals and pet owners. is flukers – it even comes with supplementary vitamin D3!
Calcium is only absorbed into the blood if there is an adequate amount of vitamin D3 available. This is where your lighting set up comes into play. Make sure you have an adequate amount of UV and heat available for your gecko.
Leopard geckos are a nocturnal species so they require a lower amount of UV and are less likely to suffer from a lack of exposure, but they may suffer from another metabolic bone disease called secondary renal hyperparathyroidism, which can be caused by too much UVB.
To avoid this, ensure your UV lights are placed correctly and you provide plenty of hides in the enclosure like this one, so your leopard gecko can self regulate its UV exposure.
2. Paralysis Caused by Impaction
Impaction in leopard geckos occurs when they ingest something that is unable to pass through their digestive system, causing internal blockage and swelling. Most commonly this is due to consumption of oversized live food or loose substrate, such as sand.
Interesting fact: Unlike us mammals, reptiles do not have disks between their vertebrate to protect the nerves of their spine.
When swelling occurs in the digestive system of a leo, it can put pressure on these unprotected spinal nerves resulting in loss of function of limbs, usually the hind limbs.
You can do a physical exam of your gecko is see if impaction is the cause of its hind leg issues. Slip your fingers under the abdomen and gently massage and see if you can feel a significant lump or swelling.
If caught early, impaction can be treated at home. See the video below for an at-home treatment for impaction of a warm bath and a gentle massage.
Syringe feeding a small amount of natural oil can also line the digestive system to help shift the blockage. But be aware, oil can take a while to pass through the system and will prevent absorption of nutrients, so use it sparingly!
3. Constipation: Slightly Different Than Impaction
Impaction and constipation are often used interchangeably in reptile husbandry guides. The signs, symptoms, and treatments are largely the same, but they have a different root cause.
Constipation is when food moves through the digestive system at a very slow rate and creates hard and dry fecal. If constipation is severe enough, it can cause an impaction in the digestive tract itself.
Constipation can cause the same swelling that affects spinal nerves as impaction and cause your leopard gecko to drag its hind legs.
Constipation causes in leopard geckos include: dehydration, the enclosure is too cool or internal parasites.
4. Injury Causing Mobility Issues
When an animal has a limb injury, the first signs are usually an unwillingness to use that limb. So if your leopard gecko is dragging one or both back legs around, it may have been injured and it is too painful to use.
If your leo goes out of his tank for adventures or has unsuitable furniture in its enclosure, there is a risk of it getting injured.
Injuries such as a broken bone can occur if your gecko falls from a high place or something falls on it and crushes a limb.
An injury may also be present in the form of a head or spine injury that affects the mobility of the animal and appear as dragging of the back legs.
If you suspect injury, take your leopard gecko to an experienced vet for an x-ray diagnosis.
5. Leopard Gecko Slowing Down With Age
Animals in captive settings tend to have extended lifespans than their wild counterparts.
This is due to the high level of husbandry they can receive when under human care, causing a lot less natural stress and pressures that would natural occur in their environments.
Due to these longer lifespans, captive reptiles including leopard geckos can suffer from age related issues.
The most common of these is arthritis.
The cartilage in joints wear down over time and can become inflamed, causing chronic arthritis. This can cause quite a lot of discomfort and may be the cause of mobility issues in the hind legs.
6. Leopard Gecko Scent Marking Behavior
If your leopard gecko is a male, there may be a totally different and totally normal explanation for the strange behavior of him dragging his hind legs as he moves about.
One of the predominant differences is the enlarged femoral pores under the hind legs. These pores are pheromone powerhouses and just as your dog may love to stop at every fire hydrant and tree to leave chemical messages, male leopard geckos do something very similar.
Male leopard geckos will push their hind legs down so the femoral pores rub on the surface below and they will drag themselves this way to leave love letters in pheromones to any potential mates (or warnings to other males!)
If the dragging of the limbs is periodic and not continual, this may be the cause. Particularly if your male is exposed to other leopard geckos visually or by the scent, he may be stimulated to do this awesome behavior.
How to Identify the Cause of Leg Dragging in Your Leopard Gecko
We have created a decision tree or a “diagnosis” tree to help you figure out the reason why your leopard gecko may be dragging it’s hind limbs. The results will help you bring more helpful information to your vet, it will not make a firm diagnoses, that is for your vet to do!!