Whitney has raised and bred different species of geckos, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and other exotics since 2003.
Leopard Gecko Health
Leopard geckos are one of the more popular pet geckos, as they are docile, small, and have simple requirements.
These reptiles have a lot of personality and they come in loads of colors and patterns (morphs). You can find leopard geckos for sale at pet stores, breeders, reptile shows, and for adoption at rescues. I would recommend finding a good breeder so that you can potentially avoid any health problems that are generally associated with reptiles from pet stores (impaction and parasites being the most common health problems).
When caring for a leopard gecko, you want to make sure that you follow the below basic tips so that you can ensure the health of your gecko:
- Minimum of a 10 gallon enclosure for one gecko, although a 20 gallon long tank is preferred.
- Humid hide to access when in shed.
- Temperatures right around 88-92F on the surface of the tank on the hot side.
- Digital thermometer with a probe to measure proper temperatures.
- Under tank heater to provide proper heat.
- Bowl of calcium (bottle caps work great).
- Staple diet of crickets, mealworms, silkworms, super worms, dubia roaches, laterallis roaches, discoid roaches, etc.
Shedding is a natural process that a reptile goes through as it grows. Younger geckos will shed more often than an older gecko, as while young, they are growing at a faster rate.
Older geckos may shed at least once a month, whereas younger geckos may shed two or three times a month. There really isn't a set timeline as to when the gecko will shed, as all geckos are different, and it is hard to predict based on another gecko.
Sometimes, you may not even notice that the gecko has shed, as they will generally eat all of the old skin. It's thought that the old skin is added nutrients for the gecko, which is why they eat it, but I'm not sure if it's 100% known for sure, as to whether or not that is the case.
Before a shed, you may notice that the gecko is getting a white-gray color. This is where the skin is starting pull away and getting ready to shed. So, if your gecko starts to turn a really light color, don't be alarmed of illness, more than likely, the gecko is just getting ready to shed.
The whole process may take an hour or so, and the gecko should shed the entire body- head, toes, and tail- all at once. In most cases, they will start at the head, and finish shedding at the tail, and then come back for any pieces they may have missed.
Problems With Leopard Gecko Shedding
Generally, shedding is a pretty simple process, but if you notice that your gecko is having problems, you should first evaluate the enclosure.
- Do you have a humid hide?
- What substrate are you using?
- What is the surface temperature in the enclosure?
Also, consider other factors, such as has your gecko been keeping his normal routines, appetite, and behaviors?
If your gecko is normally a good shedder and doesn't normally have any problems shedding his old skin, don't worry if it just happens once, especially if you're meeting all housing requirements and the gecko is still eating and appears fine.
If it continues to happen, you'll want to consider seeing a reptile vet to make sure that your gecko isn't sick and doesn't have any health illnesses that could be causing the shedding problems, as stuck shed can potentially cause infection and loss of limbs (typically toes).
Common places that geckos may have trouble shedding is the snout, toes, and around the eyes.
Causes of Shedding Problems
If you notice that your gecko is having troubles shedding on a regular basis, you'll want to consider what may be causing the problems. It may be something simple or it could be something a little more medical that may need treatment.
- Lack of humidity. If there isn't a humid hide during shedding, the gecko may have trouble shedding. If the enclosure is too dry, the skin is prone to getting stuck.
- Lack of vitamins and proper nutrition. Geckos that aren't supplemented properly may have trouble shedding properly. Make sure that there is a small bowl of pure calcium in the enclosure at all times. Also, make sure that your dust crickets and worms with vitamins and minerals. In some cases, if the gecko isn't getting enough Vitamin A, it may have problems shedding, which is why a good vitamin/mineral dust is recommended.
- Stress. If the gecko is housed with other geckos, there may be some bullying going on in the enclosure. If this is the case, you'll want to separate the geckos into different enclosures. Leopard geckos are solitary reptiles anyway, and typically do better when housed alone.
- The gecko may be ill. The most common illness that may cause trouble shedding skin is parasites. If you think that your gecko has an internal parasite, you need to see a vet to be properly diagnosed, so that antibiotic treatment can be started.
If you notice that your gecko is shedding frequently and more than usual, it may be a sign of illness, as well. In both cases, it's ideal to evaluate your enclosure setup, diet, and overall care of the leopard gecko. You should also get your pet ready and a fresh fecal sample bagged, so that you can visit the vet. It may turn out to be nothing to worry about, but if you think that there is any possibility that your gecko is sick, you should make an appointment with a reptile vet to have your pet checked out, especially if frequent shedding, is accommodated by lack of appetite and failure to eat the shed.
It is not uncommon for stressed and sick leopard geckos to not eat their shed. It is ok if a small piece is missed when shedding, but the rest is eaten, but if large chunks of old skin are not eaten during a shed, and this continues regularly, consider making the appointment with the vet.
Help Leopard Gecko Shed
If your gecko is having trouble shedding, you don't want to just pull off the skin, as this could cause some problems for your gecko.
The best thing that you can do is to soak the gecko in lukewarm water for about 5 to 10 minutes. This will loosen up the skin, so that it can be gently rub it off.
You will also want to evaluate the situation so that you can prevent the problems in the future. The ideal goal is that the gecko sheds completely on its own without any assistance. In order to provide optimal settings, consider adding a humid hide to the enclosure.
Although, leopard geckos don't require high humidity, you need to add a humid hide that you can keep moist when the gecko is going to shed. The extra humidity helps to loosen up the old skin, so that the gecko can peel it off easier.
The humidity really isn't required when the gecko is not going to shed, but you'll want to make sure that the humid hide is moist while your gecko is shedding. It will just make the overall process easier, and it will help ensure that the gecko gets all of his old skin off.
You don't need to purchase a fancy commercial humid hide to get the job done. All you need is a glad tupperware container that is large enough for coconut coir, sphagnum moss, peat moss, or a moist paper towel. Cut a hold in the lid and full the bottom about halfway with the substrate or layer several layers of paper towel on the bottom of the enclosure. This will be a sufficient humid hide.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a specialized reptile veterinarian.
meme on August 06, 2011:
i like geckos im gettin my first one
Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on August 12, 2010:
When I lived in Hawaii, Geckos would crawl on the ceilings. Seems they had no problems shedding! They were good to have around to eat the bugs, but I preferred them not to be inside!