Leopard geckos can live to be over 20 years old if they are well taken care of. Receiving proper healthcare (and medical attention, if necessary) is one of the best ways to ensure a long life for your pet. You should learn about the ailments that are mostly likely to affect your pet so you will know how to best care for him in emergency situations.
While many health issues can be taken care of at home, it is a good idea to find a veterinarian that specialized in reptiles, in case of emergency. In fact, it is best to find a vet as soon as possible (preferably before you even bring your gecko home for the first time) so you won’t have to waste any precious time when an emergency arises. Locating a vet that specializes in reptiles can be challenging. If you’re having trouble, check with local pet stores, animal shelters, or herpetological societies, and they may be able to help. You can also visit www.arav.org, the site for the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians.
Leopard geckos can be affected by parasites, both internal and external. Symptoms of internal parasites include loss of appetite, bloating, vomiting, sudden weight loss, sluggish movements, and constipation. Internal parasites should be treated by a veterinarian, who will generally prescribe a regimen of oral or injected medication.
Mites are external parasites that often afflict leopard geckos. They are tiny (a few millimeters in diameter) and difficult to spot. Mites will attach themselves to your pet, bore through his skin, and suck his blood. If many mites are present, they can work together and quickly drain a significant amount of blood, causing a lack of appetite in your gecko and a weakening of his immune system. Because of the severity of the consequences of mites, if you think your pet is infected you will need to act quickly.
There are three ways to rid your leopard gecko of mites. First, try thoroughly bathing him, paying particular attention to the eyes, nostrils, vents, and skin folds, and housing him in a separate terrarium while you clean his home. When cleaning the terrarium, dispose of the substrate, any live plants, and other furnishings that are able to be thrown away. Any items that are kept should be wrapped in aluminum foil and placed in the oven at 275°F for two to three hours. Next, soak the terrarium in a bleach solution, letting it soak for 18 to 24 hours. Then, thoroughly rinse it and air it out.
Another method gecko owners use to rid their pet of mites is to dip him in cooking oil (vegetable, olive, etc.). Dip him quickly, making sure his whole body is covered. Soak up any oil that remain on him, using a towel. Then, place him in a separate terrarium and clean the tank as detailed above.
One final option is to take your pet to the veterinarian. She will prescribe a mite killer that will usually need to be sprayed on both the leopard gecko and his terrarium. This treatment should soon eradicate all mites from your dragon and his home.
Metabolic Bone Disease
In leopard geckos, metabolic bone disease is caused by a lack of dietary supplementation. Geckos that don’t receive the appropriate amounts of various nutrients will be unable to properly utilize calcium. The result will be soft bones, weakness, impaired mobility, and possible disfigurement. A gecko that suffers from metabolic bone disease can recover when the use of proper supplements is implemented. If the disease is very advanced, veterinary care may be useful.
Mouth rot is a bacterial infection that can affect both the mouth and guns of a leopard gecko. Symptoms include bleeding gums, loss of appetite, blackening of the teeth, swollen mouth, and a cheesy, yellowish buildup between the teeth. This disease almost never occurs in healthy geckos, as it is generally brought on by dirty living conditions and low temperatures. It is extremely painful for the reptile and can prove fatal if not treated by a veterinarian as quickly as possible. To prevent mouth rot, maintain a clean terrarium and be sure your pet is getting an appropriate level of heat.