You’re caring for your leopard gecko and suddenly notice your beloved pet dragging its back legs!
A male gecko may sometimes drag its legs to scent-mark its territory, which is normal behavior, but if it continues after, this is a cause for concern. It could also be suffering from Metabolic Bone Disease, an impaction, or another severe injury.
Due to the severity of the situation, attention must be given to your leopard gecko immediately should it ever be dragging its legs.
Even if your gecko seems fine otherwise, there could potentially be other hidden factors that are hurting your beloved pet. Noticing your gecko is dragging its legs? Read on!
Why is your leopard gecko dragging its back legs? (4 reasons)
Reason 1: Scent-marking
Male leopard geckos are territorial animals by nature, so your pet could simply be marking its territory. Male geckos have what is called femoral pores, glands that secrete chemicals to scent-mark on objects.
It may also be used to attract females since leopard geckos are very scent-oriented animals.
However, your gecko would probably rub its belly on a surface rather than drag its back legs, so it should still be concerning, especially if it’s not a one-time behavior.
Reason 2: Metabolic bone disease (MBD)
Your leopard gecko could also have metabolic bone disease (MBD). This is most likely caused by an improper diet, usually from a lack of calcium or vitamin D.
MBD is often very painful for your pet, which hinders its ability to move. Thus, its legs will be almost fully unable to function. Your gecko’s limbs may look bent and misshapen, giving them a deformed appearance.
Your pet may also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as a droopy jaw and hard, lumpy growths throughout its body (typically around the joints, spine, and jaw areas).
Reason 3: Impaction
Your gecko could also be impacted inside. Impaction occurs when an object, whether food or something else, becomes dislodged in your pet’s digestive tract.
In this case, it could be impacted around the intestinal area.
Impaction is often painful for your gecko, and the pain itself could hinder its ability to properly use its back legs.
Your gecko may also lose its appetite and have difficulty pooping due to constipation, though take note that even a constipated gecko shouldn’t be dragging its back legs.
Reason 4: Injury
Your pet may have also sustained an injury around the back area or the legs themselves.
Geckos, like us, can sometimes injure themselves. They may be a little bit too explorative in their enclosures.
It may have fallen from a distance, or probably accidentally collapsed on itself while trying to crawl under a crevice.
If a spinal injury somehow occurred near the back legs, it would most likely be the root cause of their loss of function.
Due to the number of nerves networked around the vertebrae, a spinal injury can cause its legs to become paralyzed, hindering your gecko’s ability to move around.
What to do if my gecko drags its legs?
Keep a close eye on your leopard gecko and be sure that it isn’t simply scent-marking its territory. This is extremely unlikely if your pet is female.
And even in male leopard geckos, scent-marking usually doesn’t involve dragging their back legs. If your gecko doesn’t stop, the situation is serious and can be life-threatening.
Check for signs of illness, mainly MBD. Lumpy growths, crooked legs, and rapid weight loss are all notable symptoms.
Look for bruises or other wounds on your gecko’s body. These can indicate a recent event that could also be connected to the leg dragging.
If your gecko shows any of these signs, seek veterinary attention immediately.
Bathe your gecko
Give your pet a warm bath if your gecko is impacted. This isn’t an automatic cure but rather a method to relieve your pet from some pain.
Be sure the water is warm enough that it won’t cool off immediately; however, be sure that it isn’t hot to the touch either (85-87 degrees F is the safe range for your gecko).
If it is too cold, your gecko could risk becoming sick; too hot, and you could end up burning your pet severely.
Fill a container just to about where the water contacts your pet’s belly. It is important to keep the water shallow since leopard geckos are prone to drowning.
After placing your gecko inside carefully, gently massage the stomach area to stimulate bowel movements and let it soak for around 10-15 minutes.
After the bath, dry your gecko with a towel and place it back into its enclosure.
Seek veterinary attention
Most importantly, you should consult your trusted veterinarian immediately if you ever see your gecko drag its back legs before it’s too late, as waiting too long could be fatal for your pet.
Unless it is scent-marking like earlier, there isn’t much else you can do. If caught early on, your veterinarian can properly diagnose your pet’s ailment and set up a proper treatment plan.
Treatments for your pet may vary depending on the cause, ranging from medical prescriptions to surgery.
Feeding your leopard gecko a proper diet can play a large role in your pet’s health and well-being. Even though it won’t necessarily prevent injuries from occurring, it can lower the risks of common health issues such as MBD and impaction.
The most common cause of MBD is a lack of calcium and vitamin D3. However, it can also happen from an imbalanced calcium/phosphorus ratio or even overdosing on supplements (though this is less common).
Ensure your gecko is receiving a variety of insects in its diet. Crickets, dubia roaches, and mealworms make a good staple diet for your pet, but supplementing with superworms and hornworms also adds diversity.
Waxworms can be given as treats weekly (it is, however, important to note that waxworms are high in fat, low in nutrition, and can become addicting for some individuals).
Insects should be dusted weekly with a calcium/vitamin d3 supplement, commonly sold in the reptile aisles at pet stores.
To dust, simply place the feeder insects into a container and sprinkle a small amount of supplement inside. Close tightly and shake up the container until the bugs are decently coated.
A proper enclosure is also vital in lowering the risks of injuries and other health risks.
Furniture such as caves, rocks, and wood are all necessary components of a proper leopard gecko habitat for their well-being.
Your pet needs to be provided with climbing and hiding opportunities since it enriches them physically and psychologically. Still, ensuring that your pet won’t be hurt is also vital.
Be sure to position heavier objects so your pet cannot attempt to hide under (usually driftwood) since an explorative gecko could be crushed from its weight. Chunks of cork are a lighter alternative and won’t cause as much damage.
Furniture should also be positioned in a fashion that your gecko cannot all from a great height. Leopard geckos love to climb but aren’t the best at it, so be mindful of how logs, rocks, etc., are arranged.
Proper temperatures are also crucial for the well-being of your gecko since it allows your pet to properly digest its food and otherwise perform other vital functions.
A heat lamp or heat pad attached to a thermostat can suffice (around 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for a leopard gecko).
Proper handling lowers the risks of your gecko injuring itself. Improper handling can stress out your gecko, causing it to react negatively to whoever happens to be interacting with it.
The best way to pick up your gecko is to allow it to voluntarily climb on your hand. Make sure your pet is accustomed to handling; it may take days or even weeks for your leopard gecko to tolerate you.
Be sure to support its body; use both hands if necessary. Your gecko may want to wander while being held; if it starts moving, you can place your other hand up front and repeat as necessary, creating a “hand treadmill” in the process.
If you must, either sit at a table or on the floor and keep your hands only a few inches away from the surface; if your gecko falls, its risk of suffering from serious injuries will be reduced.
NEVER grab or hold your gecko by its tail. Leopard geckos will detach their tails as a defense mechanism if grabbed.
Even though leopard geckos can grow their tails back, the result won’t appear the same, and the tail-dropping process itself is relatively painful for your pet.
If your leopard gecko is dragging its hind legs, it is a serious issue that must be taken care of as soon as possible.
Prevention is key to ensuring your gecko doesn’t suffer this fate, which can easily be achieved by proper husbandry measures (diet, habitat, temperature, and handling).
Though one can observe and bathe their pets in hot water to provide temporary relief, taking your gecko to the vet should be your highest priority since only they can provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.