You noticed that your leopard gecko is about to poop. After it finishes, you watch in absolute shock as it proceeds to eat it!
It’s extremely rare, but some leopard geckos may eat their poop. It can occur for various reasons, most likely from malnutrition, starvation, or even stress.
Even though it is very unlikely to happen, poop-eating, also known as coprophagia, can indicate a severe health problem that your gecko is having.
Fortunately, there are ways to curb this behavior whenever it occurs. Read on if you find that your leopard gecko is eating its poop!
Why do leopard geckos eat their poop? (3 reasons)
#1 An improper diet
Sometimes, an improper diet could be the cause of your leopard gecko’s coprophagia. If malnourished, your leopard gecko may eat its poop to regain nutrients it may otherwise be missing.
Calcium deficiency is usually the cause of coprophagia since their poop contains slight amounts of calcium.
For similar reasons, some leopard geckos have been reported to eat strange objects such as sand and moss.
Even though such objects (such as poop) don’t have much nutrition, a portion of the missing vitamins or minerals can be absorbed.
If your pet is eating its poop, it could also be eating other non-food items, which can increase the risk of impaction.
If your leopard gecko is not eating enough, it will resort to eating things it shouldn’t eat.
Even though adult leopard geckos usually won’t need to eat every day, not being fed enough can cause them to feel hungry and eat their poop.
A juvenile leopard gecko should be fed every 1-2 days, and a full-grown adult should be fed around 2-3 times a week.
If you must, create a feeding schedule to ensure that your pet is getting enough to eat.
Prolonged stress can also cause coprophagia in leopard geckos. Like other animals, leopard geckos can become stressed by various factors.
Overhandling, improper temperatures, and loud noises are all common stressors for your pet.
Providing a proper habitat is the best way to reduce stress, with plenty of places to hide and proper temperatures to stay warm (around 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal).
A suitable heat lamp or heat mat attached to a thermostat is ideal for warmth.
Leopard geckos spend a lot of time in burrows or caves in the wild, so be sure your pet has a hiding spot or two (a small rock cave is perfect) to reduce stress.
Though leopard geckos can be handled, too much can stress them out. Keep handling to only around a few times a week.
If you just purchased your gecko, don’t handle it immediately; this can stress your gecko out even more. It is highly recommended to leave your new pet alone for a few weeks to settle into its home.
Loud music and television can also stress your gecko out. If your pet is in an area where loud noises are present, reduce the volume or relocate your pet’s enclosure to another room.
Is it safe for geckos to eat poop?
If your leopard gecko is otherwise healthy, it probably won’t get sick from eating its poop. However, the risk of illness still exists and can cause other unfavorable issues if your gecko doesn’t stop.
Eating poop can cause your leopard gecko to vomit since poop can upset its stomach. Vomiting can also indicate other health problems such as bacterial infections or stress.
Diarrhea is another risk for your leopard gecko. This can be serious if left untreated since diarrhea causes dehydration which can be fatal to your pet.
Make sure that your leopard gecko always has access to a water dish. If your pet’s poop appears runny or watery, seek veterinary attention immediately!
Believe it or not, the infamous bacterium Salmonella is very rare in leopard geckos, and catching it usually won’t impact your pet’s health.
However, Salmonella can be passed on to you and can become a serious health risk for yourself.
Salmonella can form in an unclean enclosure which then can be absorbed from your gecko’s poop. Your gecko becomes a host after it eats poop, which can then be passed on to you!
Parasites can become a risk if your gecko continues to eat its poop. One major parasitic disease that poses a risk is Cryptosporidiosis.
This disease is caused by a protist known as Cryptosporidium. It is commonly known as “Stick-tail disease” since it causes a gecko’s tail to become very skinny.
It often attacks the intestines and can cause severe weight loss. If left untreated, it can be deadly.
Usually, a gecko would have to eat another infected animal’s poop to catch Cryptosporidium, but an unsanitary environment can also easily harbor this unwelcome parasite.
Another parasite your leopard gecko could catch is pinworms.
Pinworms, like Cryptosporidium, are mainly caused by unsanitary environments, and geckos can also consume both worms and their eggs by eating poop.
Symptoms vary, but the most common ones are lethargy, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. Though very tiny, pinworms can still be easily seen in poop.
These parasitic worms can populate inside your gecko if left untreated and can be fatal.
How to stop geckos from eating poop? (4 Tips)
Remove poop from the enclosure immediately
This method is straightforward. After all, your gecko cannot eat poop if it isn’t there!
Leopard geckos prefer pooping around a certain spot in their enclosures, and keeping this area clean can be enough to stop coprophagia.
Cleaning out poop will also limit the spread of disease. Be sure to observe your pet just in case coprophagia continues.
Feed them a proper diet
Leopard geckos are insectivores; therefore, they should only be fed insects.
It is also crucial to give your gecko a wide range of insects to feast on; this ensures that your pet gets all the vitamins, minerals, and proteins they need that your pet would otherwise be missing.
Crickets, mealworms, and dubia roaches are all good staple foods for your leopard gecko since they contain the most nutrients your pet needs to thrive.
Superworms are a good source of protein but are also high in fat. They should only be given a few times a week.
Hornworms and waxworms are often relished by leopard geckos but are notably high in fat. Leopard geckos should only have them around once a week, as too much fat can cause health issues.
Some geckos have also developed a waxworm addiction, so be sure to consider this!
Before feeding your gecko, ensure that insects are gut-loaded. Feeding them vegetables such as carrots, apples, or potatoes a day before is an excellent way to ensure that feeder insects are more nutritious.
You can also feed them pre-made gut-load diets, which are widely available on the market.
Add vitamin D3 or calcium supplements
Supplementing your leopard gecko’s diet with vitamin D3 and a calcium supplement is a must. Calcium is a vital mineral for leopard geckos, especially for juveniles who need it for growth.
Your leopard gecko could be missing nutrients in its body and could be trying to get them back by eating its poop.
Many pet stores carry calcium powder in the reptile section, which is easy to find. Large pet store brands such as Zoo Med and Tetra have products that are affordable to purchase and easy to use.
You only need to dust insects once a week and don’t have to use a lot.
Giving your pet too much can also do more harm than good; though rare in leopard geckos, vitamin D3 overdose is known to cause organ failure in related species. A little goes a long way.
Seek veterinary help
If your leopard gecko continues to eat its poop after all other methods have failed, it’s time to consult a veterinarian.
Like most other animals, geckos are good at hiding illnesses and injuries. Since coprophagia is abnormal behavior, it can potentially be serious.
Be sure your veterinarian is experienced in treating reptiles, as not all vets are licensed to treat exotic pets.
This is especially important because some vets may be unable to help resolve your gecko’s coprophagia issue.
Your vet may perform a brief medical checkup on your leopard gecko and will try to set up a proper treatment plan. They may also prescribe your pet probiotics or other medications.
Be sure to follow your vet’s instructions carefully since your gecko’s life could be at stake. Never medicate your pet by yourself.
Some medications can easily kill your pet if misused, so always seek approval first from a trusted veterinarian.
All in all, coprophagia in leopard geckos is rare and should be taken seriously should it ever occur. Often, underlying nutrition or health problems are the root cause of this behavior.
If ignored, coprophagia can increase your gecko’s chances of catching infections and parasites, putting you and your pet at risk.
A proper environment and diet for your leopard gecko is the best way to prevent coprophagia.