I know how worrisome it can be to watch a leopard gecko go from being active, social, happy, and stress-free to sluggish, wobbly, and even sick overnight or over the course of a few days. And sometimes the cause of their sudden change in behavior could just be something as little as getting ready for a shed or too much stress. But when you’re dealing with a gecko that is all of a sudden shaking without knowledge of why it started acting that way, you should get help for it immediately.
Why does my leopard gecko shake when it walks? Well, your leopard gecko could potentially be shaking because of metabolic bone disease (MBD). Metabolic bone disease causes soft, rubbery bones and is usually the result of a calcium deficiency.
A leopard gecko that hasn’t gotten the right amount of calcium can easily suffer from this disease and the only true way to cure it is to get help from a veterinarian immediately after it starts or at home if it’s in its early stages. Calcium intake for geckos is an absolute necessity when it comes to their nutritional needs and if its body is neglected by consuming too much or too little of it then the outcomes are usually always the same. Nobody wants to see their leopard gecko suffer, so let’s look into what we can do to prevent and stop it from happening or getting any worse.
Signs of MBD
It’s very unfortunate when we have to watch our geckos go through this horrible disease, but luckily, there are pretty obvious indicators that we can look for so that we can get them the attention that they need as soon as possible.
The signs of MBD in leopard geckos usually include:
- Trembling Limbs
- Bones Frequently Breaking
- Jaw Deformation
- Twisted/Distorted Vertebrae
- Gut Rot
And sadly, there are even more symptoms than that. If your leopard gecko is showing a combination of these symptoms, though, or just shaky legs alone, then this is a strong sign that they may be suffering from this devastating condition.
Luckily, in mild cases, MBD can actually be treated at home. If you catch the disease in its early stages, you can cure your gecko of it by simply dusting all insects that you feed them with, with a calcium + D3 supplement and then placing a container full of this same supplement without D3 in its tank so that it can lick out of it when it’s not being fed.
If after you’ve done this for up to 1 month and you still don’t see improvement, it’s time to seek professional help about what you should do from there. Mistakes happen all the time when it comes to pet owners, especially new ones, so there’s no shame in reaching out and getting more professional advice about your gecko’s condition so that you have a much better chance at saving its life.
The Importance of Calcium and D3
Just like humans drink milk to build strong bones, leopard geckos eat calcium to build theirs. Calcium to geckos is like water to us, they need it to survive. Without it, they become very deficient and no longer have the strength to get up and even move around.
Their bones basically turn into jelly and they eventually suffer until they no longer can anymore. Many new reptile owners don’t know this, so, unfortunately, this is a very common issue in the reptile community.
In the wild, leopard geckos naturally know how to get their calcium through UVB rays and wild insects, but in our homes in a tank, they can’t get these natural sources unless we provide them with it artificially.
If you don’t own a UVB light, then it’s important that you supplement your gecko with D3 as well. But if you do have UVB, which to my understanding most leopard gecko owner’s don’t, then you won’t, in fact, have to give your gecko D3 as it will get it from the light.
Keep in mind that a geckos food needs to be calcium dusted every single time you feed them, and this goes for juvenile geckos and adults. And regardless of if your leopard geckos has MBD or not, it’s good to always have a container of calcium in its tank so that your gecko has free access to it whenever it feels like it needs it.
Feeding Amounts with D3 and Vitamins
Your feeding amounts will vary depending on the age of your gecko. And it can be a little hard to remember how much you need to do it when you’re first starting out. So after dusting your feeder insects with calcium with or without D3, feed your gecko according to the ages below.
Feeding with Calcium + D3 + Vitamins
- 0-6 Months = Everyday
- 6-12 Months = Every Other Day
- Over A Year = Every 3-4 Days
Feeding amounts can be a little hard to catch on to at first, but if you write this information down or even come back and look at the table above, eventually it’ll just become second nature.
And when dusting your feeder insects, it’s easiest to just put some of the supplement in a Ziploc baggy or container along with your insects and shake the bag until they’re all dusted. I’ve been using this brand for calcium, D3, and vitamins for years.
Too Much Calcium
Naturally, you may think that the more calcium you give your leopard gecko, the healthier it’ll be, but that’s not the case. Giving your gecko too much calcium is just as, if not worse than giving it too little and will usually result in death due to overdose if this happens.
Just like us, they need a balance in their diet to function normally. For example, if you eat too much sugar-heavy junk foods over a long period of time, you’re body will eventually become sluggish, you’ll have very little energy to do anything, and it might even affect the way you sleep and think properly until you balance your diet back out.
This is the same for geckos. When they get too much of something, their little bodies just cannot cope and they crash. Calcium is good for them and they need it, yes, but too much of a good thing has never been that good for anyone.
To avoid giving your gecko too much calcium, please refer to the tables above.
Also, if you’d like to check out an article that I wrote that goes way more into detail about supplementing with calcium in general, then click here.
Give Them Lots of Space
It’s important that we show very special care towards our geckos when they fall victim to this life-threatening illness, but at the same time, we want to make sure that we give them their time, respect, and space while they go through it.
Animals don’t like to be roughed around too much when they’re not feeling good, so it’s best to keep handling, playing, and stress to an absolute minimum. These three things can cause your gecko to feel even worse and could even hinder or make the condition become more severe.
It’s not a good idea to leave them alone completely, because they still need our love and care when going through this, but we have to remember to be a lot more gentle than we were before they got sick with this disease.
Like stated above, mild cases of MBD can be treated at home with the love, care, and support, but if you feel overwhelmed with what your gecko is going through and don’t feel like you’re up to the task or too busy to properly take care of it, then it’s a good idea to call the vet immediately and ask what you should do.
You can usually always tell if your leopard gecko is suffering from MBD because the symptoms are pretty significant and not hard to identify due to the severity of them, but if you notice that your gecko’s legs shake very slight as they walk at a slow pace then this is completely normal and not something that should be a cause for concern.
It should only be worrisome if the shaking is constant and is happening even if your gecko is not moving.
Metabolic bone disease may seem like something that just happens out of nowhere, but 9 times out of 10, it starts with us and how well we take care of our geckos. Leopard geckos are not very hard pets to take care of once you get in a healthy routine with them, but for beginners, there sometimes is a bit of a learning curve that we must understand in order to properly raise and care for them so that they live a long and healthy life.
Remember that if you find that your gecko has this disease, try to treat them at home by following the steps in this article and if there’s little or no improvement over the course of a month, reach out to a professional for further advice if you feel stuck on what to do.
If you accidentally find yourself forgetting how much calcium and D3 you need to give them, what the signs are that your gecko might be deficient in calcium are, or how much you should be feeding them, then please feel free to frequent this article so that you can avoid hurting your leopard gecko by not giving it enough of what he or she needs to remain in good spirits.