Leopard Geckos are one of the most popular reptilian pets due to their handleable nature and generally friendly demeanor. Compared with their cute appearances, these are a definite favorite with children and adults, alike.
As a fast moving sale, most pet stores regularly stock leopard geckos continually, creating a steady chain of supply and demand.
While these are rather easy to find and fun to keep, you should do proper research before picking up your new little spotted friend and work to ensure you are following proper husbandry practices to keep them safe, happy, and healthy. If you are doing your best and notice your leopard gecko looking a little on the thin side, there is an obvious cause for concern.
Let’s discuss what could be causing your gecko to look skinny and see if we can help you fatten it up to its usual adorable and plump size.
Summary of today’s article:
- Signs that your leopard gecko is too skinny
- The causes of leopard gecko weight loss
- How to fatten up a leopard gecko
- A word of caution about supplementing
- A slow process
As a whole, leopard geckos have very high metabolisms and, due to this, need to eat very often. They cannot go long without meals and need a relatively continual source of food to ensure they are getting enough nutrients in order to sustain them.
Due to this need for constant food, they store fat on their bodies and, when the fat is depleted, it can be seen as an indicator of either not enough food being supplied to the gecko or another, potentially more serious issue.
Leopard geckos, like most lizards, store their fat in their tails. This is why their tails often look plump and sometimes even outright fat; that stored fat is vital to their health, as in times where they are ill or cannot access food, it will sustain them.
Due to this, the tail being thin, known as sick tail or stick tail, is an indicator that something is wrong. All leopard geckos should have large, fatty tails.
If they seem lethargic while being on the thin side, the situation has gotten serious and you need to take action. Either feeding them or if they are too weak to eat seek out a veterinarian who is trained in handling small reptiles to assist you in nursing your little friend back to health.
That being said, if you cannot access a vet, there are some conditions that can be treated at home. Let’s take a closer look at the causes of skinny geckos.
There are a few different things that can cause weight loss in geckos, including some that are certainly easier to treat than others. Exploring and understanding these potential causes can help ensure that you can identify them within your gecko and treat them promptly before they potentially get worse and cause larger health problems for your lizard.
Geckos need a lot of food in order to have enough energy to properly function and thrive. They have very high metabolisms and can burn through stored fat, even if there is a lot of it, very quickly.
Due to this, you need to have readily available food on hand to feed them as they need more.
Not only do you need to have a supply of food nearby, but you should also make an effort to ensure the food that you are feeding your geckos is nutritionally rich. Leopard geckos are native to dry, desert areas in places like Pakistan, India, Iran, and Afghanistan and typically munch on insects and other smaller creatures they can easily catch.
Due to this, you should be feeding your leopard gecko bugs when possible.
Things like crickets, mealworms, and other small insects are perfect, as they offer a good nutritional boost, especially if you gut load them with supplements. Waxworms, which are high in fat, are good for bulking up your gecko, too.
Just be sure the insects are small enough for your leopard gecko and will not pose a choking or injury hazard. 5-7 mealworms or small crickets per day are good for geckos under four inches in size and adults should be fed 10-12 larger mealworms and crickets 3-5 times per week. Hornworms, superworms, and the aforementioned wax worms are good for treats, too, during regular mealtimes.
Providing a balanced diet with plenty of nutrients is key in keeping your geckos healthy and preventing them from becoming ill or losing weight. It is also one of the most common reasons geckos drop weight, as they become stressed when not fed often enough, which tanks their immune system and can cause them to refuse food even when actually hungry.
Sickness And Parasites
When your gecko is not feeling well, they may refuse to eat. Stress and sickness are common culprits, so if you notice your gecko is lethargic and not eating while also losing weight, chances are something may be wrong.
It could be as simple as your gecko being too cold or not having enough hides or it could be something deeper like an infection, bowel impaction, or other disorder. If all of the care parameters for geckos are met, you may want to seek out a reptile-friendly veterinarian for assistance.
A common cause of rapid weight loss is actually a parasite. This is not as well known as other potential causes but many geckos experience the impact of cryptosporidium parasites.
These parasites create a condition known as cryptosporidiosis, which is characterized by a wasting disease that quickly depletes the fat stored within your gecko’s tail. If their tail looks very thin, like a stick, it is very likely that they have come in contact with this parasite at some point in their life.
A veterinarian can help to prescribe medications that will work to treat the parasite or any other underlying condition causing the rapid weight loss and help you to prevent a re-infection from occurring after your pet is back to normal once again. Even if the cause is bacterial and not parasitic, a vet’s opinion is recommended in these cases.
Once you have identified the cause of your leopard gecko’s loss of body mass or generally skinny nature, you can begin to create a routine that allows your gecko to put on some weight and get back to its usual, healthy state.
The biggest thing you should do is ensure the enclosure parameters are appropriate. The temperature, humidity, and items within the enclosure should be checked to ensure they are at the correct levels and are safe for your leopard gecko.
You should also remove anything that could be stressing out your pet and offer plenty of hides and climbing spaces for your little friend.
Once the enclosure is fully safe and gecko-ready and you have administered any veterinarian recommended treatments that you need to, you should balance your pet’s nutrition. Varying your gecko’s diet with lots of different waxworms, mealworms, crickets, and other pet-safe insects is a great way to ensure they are getting enough food at each feeding and putting on enough body mass.
Gut loading or dusting the insects with supplemental calcium powders and other supplements can assist in boosting the nutritional benefits of your gecko’s food, as well.
Some gecko owners also use alternative products like Leopa Gel to offer more variation to their pet’s diet. While not suitable for use as a complete dietary product, this is a great supplement that could easily be made perfect for bulking up your gecko with the addition of some insect pieces.
Other gel products or pastes can be used supplementally but the tried and true method for feeding your geckos is to offer a lot of varied insects that are dietarily safe at regular intervals to encourage normal feedings.
It is recommended that you use caution when administering supplements. It can be tempting to really load up your pet’s food with supplemental powders and gut loading for the insects but unfortunately this can prove to be dangerous.
In small, carefully administered dosages a supplement can be very beneficial, but if given too heavily and at too high of a volume, it can be toxic.
Supplements are needed in micro doses, so going overboard, while meant with good intentions, could lead to over exposure. Be careful and always follow the packaging directions on any product you decide to use for your pet geckos.
While your gecko will not gain weight overnight, they will perk back up rather quickly. Be patient, get help from medical professionals as needed, and trust the process.
Soon, your pet will hopefully be back no normal and thriving once again! It is just a matter of keeping up with treatments and creating a space that is safe and comfortable for your pet while providing them with a nutritionally balanced meal plan.
Research well and stick with it and soon you will be back on the right track! Good luck!