Leopard geckos are generally hardy, resilient, and adaptable reptiles, but that doesn’t mean they can’t struggle with various health issues.
One of them is diarrhea, a more serious problem than you might think. Severe diarrhea can become deadly in reptiles due to accelerated water loss leading to dehydration.
But what causes leopard geckos to develop diarrhea in the first place, how can you treat it fast, and can you prevent it? Let’s discuss all these aspects and more in today’s diarrhea article!
Causes of Leopard Gecko Diarrhea
You can only address and prevent the issue once you’ve learned what triggered it in the first place.
Here are the main causes of diarrhea in leopard geckos:
This section includes several variables, such as excess fat, not enough protein, excess fibers, insufficient nutrient content, etc. Feeding your leos inadequate food items can also cause a similar problem.
For instance, many inexperienced gecko keepers seem to think that leopard geckos are omnivorous. It’s uncertain why; probably, it’s from confusing leopard geckos with crested geckos, which are omnivorous.
So, feeding your leo veggies and fruits is bound to cause digestive problems because the lizards’ digestive system cannot process the nutrients.
The same happens if you force a lion to go vegan. Leopard geckos are insectivorous lizards and should be fed a fitting meal plan.
Overfeeding can also cause diarrhea, but it can also cause constipation, depending on the situation. It all depends on how overfeeding interacts with your gecko’s digestive system.
Parasites and Infections
Bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections can also affect the gecko’s digestive system, leading to diarrhea, significant physical discomfort, dehydration, and many other health problems.
In this case, identifying the culprit fast can make the difference between life and death. Some pathogens, like giardia or coccidia, are extremely aggressive and can cause severe symptoms.
Not to mention internal parasitic or bacterial infections can also spread to affect other organs, triggering an array of different health issues along the way.
If you can’t identify the pathogen yourself, contact your vet for an immediate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Stress or Environmental Conditions
Reptile stress is a recurrent issue because it’s responsible for most of your gecko’s health problems. Leopard geckos are used to live in captivity, but they can still experience stress for a variety of reasons.
- An improper diet like spoiled, inadequate, or insufficient food
- Insufficient water
- Fluctuating humidity or temperature, leading to severe discomfort
- Inadequate lighting disrupting the gecko’s day-night biorhythm
- Aggressive tankmates paired with overcrowding
- Improper tank layout with insufficient hiding spots
- Improper handling and petting, causing the gecko to fear or avoid your presence, etc.
All of these potential causes may make leopard geckos seem like overly-sensitive animals, which is only partially true. All pets demand specific living conditions, and leopard geckos are no different.
These lizards are actually easy to manage and keep in good health, so long as you stick to the ideal feeding, housing, and maintenance routine.
Also, keep in mind that leopard geckos can get stressed when moving into their new home.
They might avoid eating for the first several days and spend more time in hiding, but this is normal. Give them time, and they’ll eventually come around.
Inadequate environmental or housing conditions can also result in geckos becoming stressed and restless.
These include fluctuating temperatures, excessive humidity (20-30% is enough for leopard geckos), improper lighting, not enough space, etc. Regular maintenance is also necessary to keep your leopard geckos in good health over the years.
Treating Leopard Gecko Diarrhea
If your leopard gecko shows signs of diarrhea, you need to handle the matter fast.
Prolonged diarrhea can cause dehydration which is a potentially deadly condition for reptiles. If the situation isn’t as severe, you most likely can treat your gecko at home.
Consider the following steps:
- Identify the cause – It goes without saying that you should first identify the causes before tackling the condition. As we’ve already discussed, diarrhea can have several causes when it comes to geckos, including improper diet, housing conditions, parameters, and overall stress.
- Adjust the diet – If you’ve determined that your gecko’s diet is the cause, that’s where you need to work first. Lower the amount of fat and protein in your gecko’s diet and increase fiber intake. Your gecko should show gradual improvements, depending on the disorder’s severity.
- Ensure sufficient water – Geckos that experience diarrhea can become dehydrated fast. This is due to them losing water considerably faster than before, so you need to counteract this effect. Your gecko should always have clean water available, along with a water bowl for bathing. Watch humidity levels and keep them between the ideal 20-30% range for optimal results. If your gecko also shows signs of dehydration, despite your efforts to the contrary, you might want to contact your vet.
- Adequate medication – This is recommended only once you’ve identified the pathogen responsible for the gecko’s health deterioration. The type of medication and doses to use depend on multiple factors like the pathogen itself, the severity of the infection, the gecko’s age, overall health, size, etc. I recommend speaking to a reptile expert before committing to any treatment.
- Monitor the gecko – This is necessary to determine whether the gecko is responding to the treatment properly. If not, you may require professional assistance.
Recommended Veterinary Care and Tests
If you’ve done everything in your power to fix your gecko’s situation but to no avail, it’s time to let the experts take over.
The reptile vet may recommend the following, depending on your lizard’s symptoms:
- Fecal investigation – Collect a fecal sample and submit it for inspection. This will allow the vet to rule out potential bacteria, parasites, or any other pathogens responsible for the symptoms.
- X-Rays – The X-ray procedure looks into the digestive system to notice any abnormalities. Sometimes, diarrhea is the result of impaction coming from the gecko ingesting something it wasn’t supposed to.
- Blood work – Blood work isn’t always necessary, but it can be if the vet suspects that the gecko may be dealing with additional health issues.
- Specialized treatment – The treatment usually consists of targeted medication like antiparasitic drugs and antibiotics, depending on the nature of the problem. Probiotics may also be necessary to restore the gecko’s intestinal flora.
Overall, I would recommend contacting your vet at the first sign of diarrhea because you have no way of knowing how fast the disease can progress.
Leopard geckos can experience accelerated dehydration, which can prove fatal in a matter of days.
Nutritional Supplements and Changes in Diet
If your gecko is experiencing diarrhea, lower the fat content and protein intake. These are standard procedures, as fatty foods can cause the gecko to experience poor digestion and diarrhea on a standard basis.
So, cut down on the number of worms and focus more on insects like crickets, dubia roaches, black soldier flies, etc.
Gut-loading and powdering the insects with calcium and D3 is necessary for proper nutrient intake.
Especially since diarrhea causes geckos to experience accelerated nutrient and electrolyte loss, aside from dehydration. Probiotics may also help tremendously in this case, at your vet’s recommendation.
Things to Avoid in Treating Leopard Gecko Diarrhea
If your gecko is dealing with diarrhea, avoid the following:
- High-fat and high-protein diets – Diets relying on high fat and protein content can exacerbate the condition, causing your lizard to experience accelerated dehydration and nutritional deficiencies via electrolyte loss. Providing more fibers may help as these absorb excess moisture, counteracting the effects of diarrhea.
- Abusing antibiotics – Antibiotics are great in case of bacterial infections, but they have well-known side effects, such as destroying intestinal flora. This can lead to digestive issues, with diarrhea being the most prevalent. You should only use antibiotics at your vet’s recommendation to prevent causing more harm than good.
- Over supplementation – Geckos need calcium and D3 supplementation to stay healthy and strong. But too much calcium or D3 can actually backfire and cause health issues along the way. Always consult with your vet to determine the right amount of supplements, depending on your lizard’s physiological profile.
- The use of chemical disinfectants – Sterilizing your gecko’s habitat may be necessary when dealing with parasitic or bacterial infections. But you need to use reptile-friendly products, or you’ll end up hurting your gecko in the process. You should always do your research in this sense and even speak to a professional beforehand if you’re not sure what to choose.
- High sugar and fat foods – Minimize the fat intake, which means you should avoid mealworms, silkworms, or any other type of worms. These are low in protein but high in fats, making them detrimental to geckos dealing with diarrhea. Sugar shouldn’t even be present in your leopard gecko’s diet, to begin with.
Tips to Prevent Leopard Gecko Diarrhea
Yes, you can actually prevent your leopard gecko from experiencing diarrhea.
Some of the tactics you can use include:
- Manage the reptile’s diet properly – This tip includes 3 aspects. The first refers to food quality. You should always feed your gecko clean, fresh, and healthy food, free of contaminants, parasites, bacteria, or mold. The second one refers to the adequate nutrient content. Keep the fat and protein within the acceptable parameters, depending on your gecko’s requirements. The third and final aspect refers to food and meal size. The insects shouldn’t be larger than the distance between the gecko’s eyes. This is to prevent digestive issues like impaction, which can be deadly. Meal frequency is also important because you don’t want geckos to experience overfeeding, which is known to cause a variety of health issues, including diarrhea.
- Ensure adequate maintenance – The lizard’s enclosure should be clean, comfortable, and dry as much as possible. Leopard geckos aren’t known as dirty animals, but they still require frequent maintenance and cleaning. Replace the substrate weekly or every 2 weeks, depending on the situation, and clean and disinfect the tank weekly, especially if you have more than one leopard gecko. A good cleaning routine will prevent bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are responsible for numerous health problems.
- Ensure proper lighting – Leopard geckos demand adequate UVB radiation to remain healthy and comfortable over the years. UVB lighting is also necessary to support the geckos’ digestive system, keeping the lizards safe from health issues like diarrhea and nutritional deficiency.
- Avoid overcrowding – This refers to a system with more than one gecko occupying the same enclosure. The more overcrowded your leopard geckos are, the higher the likelihood of them transmitting various diseases and infections to each other.
Furthermore, you should always keep close contact with your vet to diagnose your lizard’s health issues in time.
Leopard geckos can experience diarrhea and other digestive issues for a variety of reasons.
Fortunately, most of them are easily preventable and manageable with the proper know-how and professional assistance.
I hope today’s article can also make a difference in this sense.