Leopard geckos are just as prone to becoming overweight as any other animal. We just find the idea implausible because we’re only used to seeing fit and agile lizards in the wild. This is true – most wild lizards, if not all, are slim and athletic. This is because of several reasons, including food scarcity and more space to run around and hunt for prey.
Captive-bred geckos don’t need to worry about all of these hardships. They have plenty of nutritious food available and don’t need to move an inch to get it. They also don’t have ample space to move wherever they please or be forced to do that because of not enough food in their area. This can lead to geckos gaining more weight than they should.
So, let’s talk about what that entails, the risks associated with excess weight gain, and how you can fix the problem.
Signs of Overweight in Leopard Geckos
You can tell that your leopard gecko has started gaining weight if it shows fat deposits on the belly, tail, legs, and neck. The fact that your gecko is gaining weight is generally a good sign. It means your gecko is healthy, and it eats well.
Gaining too much weight, though, is by no means acceptable. So, if your gecko shows signs of becoming overweight and has difficulties moving around, consider taking measures fast.
Causes of Overweight Leopard Geckos
The primary causes of weight problems in leopard geckos include:
There are 2 main problems here. One relates to meal size, the other to meal frequency. It’s important to learn how much and how often your leopard gecko needs to eat based on its size, age, appetite, etc. The problem is that leopard geckos can be confusing at times, especially if you compare them to other lizards.
For instance, baby and juvenile geckos eat much more often than adults. They may require approximately 2-3 smaller meals per day for the first 2-3 months of their lives. That’s to support their more demanding metabolism.
Adult geckos often eat once or twice per week, although this won’t stop them from eating more if you feed them more. This is the main point of confusion because most other adult gecko and lizard species eat more often than that. Green anoles, for instance, have one meal per day, while crested geckos need one meal every other day.
Only leopard geckos can handle one or 2 meals per week. You should stick to this feeding pattern, no matter what your geckos’ opinion on the matter might be. So long as your gecko looks healthy and in shape, you shouldn’t cave into its demands unless they get grumpy and actually need feeding.
Too Many Worm Treats
Leopard geckos feast on a variety of worm species, depending on availability and preference. The main point here is that worms are tasty due to the excess fats, but they pack too few nutrients to make them a reliable food source. This is why you should only feed your geckos worms sparingly.
Worms will significantly increase your gecko’s caloric intake, which can spell obesity when paired with the reptile’s already sluggish digestive system. Worms are more fitting for baby and juvenile geckos that could use the extra caloric intake.
Only feed your geckos one or 2 worms per week as occasional treats. You can even skip them altogether if you notice that your gecko has started gaining weight because of them. Your lizard won’t miss them, nutritionally speaking.
Not Enough Physical Activity
The same principles governing weight gain influence reptiles and any other animal. If you absorb more calories than you spend, you gain weight. The math is simple, yet we’re biologically set to overlook it. That’s because accepting the truth puts the weight of responsibility on our shoulders, which is why it’s easier to think that your weight gain is out of your control.
It may seem like I digress, but this applies to the gecko’s case almost perfectly. In other words, make sure that your gecko is working out properly to stay in shape. Fortunately, you don’t need to do much since leopard geckos are always inclined to navigate and explore their habitat.
You can help them in this sense by constructing a rich ecosystem with several climbing areas, hiding spots, vegetation, bark, logs, rocks, etc. The gecko will use all of these elements to navigate its environment, look for food, and simply explore the ecosystem.
Consequences of Overweight in Leopard Geckos
Excessive fat accumulation can lead to a variety of health issues in geckos, as it does in all animals prone to obesity. These include:
- Even more weight gain – This may sound like a weird one, but it makes sense. The heavier the reptile gets, the faster it will accumulate additional weight, even if you’ve already tweaked its diet. That’s because the reptile won’t move as much due to all of the excess weight, so it won’t spend as many calories as it used to. At this point, the gecko may start gaining weight even if you adjust its diet. Which can be a problem for obvious reasons.
- Fatty liver disease – The liver will accumulate fat over time, causing it to lose its effectiveness. As a result, your gecko will experience bloating, lethargy, lack of appetite, color changes, unhealthy weight loss, etc. In this case, you need to contact a vet to figure out the problem and find a solution fast.
- Heart issues – The gecko won’t be able to exercise anymore due to the excess weight. This will lead to accelerated weight gain and fat deposits forming on the animal’s organs, including the heart. This will increase the likelihood of a heart attack significantly.
- Injuries – A fat gecko is one that moves with increased difficulty and has problems maintaining its balance and grip when elevated. It’s not uncommon for geckos to fall off their branches and hurt themselves in the process.
A fatty gecko is an unhealthy gecko, so you need to fix the problem soon before the gecko accelerates its weight gain.
How to Help an Overweight Leopard Gecko?
The easiest and most obvious solution is fasting and diet tweaking. You simply assess the gecko’s meal plan and reduce the meal size and frequency. If your gecko has 2 meals per week, either reduce the meal size or drop the feeding frequency to one meal per week. Neither will hurt your gecko, given that the reptile already has a significant caloric deposit to burn through anyway.
An important note here: make sure you assess your gecko’s nutrient intake properly. Fasting is good for reptiles for a while, but not constantly. Even overweight geckos can experience nutrient deficiencies, especially calcium and D3. So, always speak to a reptile-proficient vet about your gecko’s overweight issue, even if for a piece of advice on the matter.
Preventing Overweight Leopard Geckos
Naturally, you want to prevent your gecko from becoming overweight rather than dealing with its weight-related problems once they’ve appeared. To achieve that, consider the following:
Understand your gecko’s caloric and nutrient needs – Geckos have different nutrient and caloric requirements based on their species of provenance, age, size, and even specimen. Some leopard geckos eat more than others, despite being of the same age and size. Learn your gecko’s behavior and appetite and adjust to it accordingly. Do not feed your gecko more than it can eat with excitement in one go.
- Stick to a specific feeding schedule – Always try to feed your reptile in the same days and at the same hours. This will help your gecko get accustomed to a specific feeding pattern, lowering the chances for it to ask for food outside of those windows.
- Set up the right layout – Consider adjusting the reptile’s layout so that it promotes physical activity. Your leopard geckos should have a variety of areas to navigate and climb over, even if they’re not the best climbers in the world. A diverse and lush ecosystem will keep your gecko healthy and active. Make sure you set up the right layout from the get-go instead of adjusting it. Geckos don’t appreciate layout changes, as these can stress them out.
- Prioritize live insects – Many people feed their geckos dead insects, which can work, except they’re not as exhilarating to consume. Live insects, on the other hand, will peak your gecko’s interest, triggering its hunting instincts and forcing it to work for its meal. This will keep the gecko in top physical and mental shape.
Ultimately, you should always discuss all of these aspects with your vet or any other trustworthy professional, for that matter. Gather some expert insight and learn how you can keep your leopard gecko healthy and fit for years to come.
Leopard geckos are prone to becoming overweight as much as the next animal. Fortunately, whatever applies to everyone else in terms of weight loss also applies to them. Learn your gecko’s feeding behavior and nutritional needs and adjust the animal’s meal plan accordingly.