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CarynP625
CarynP625,
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I had a gecko that escaped last year and he’s found his way

Customer Question

I had a gecko that escaped last year and he’s found his way back, he’s malnourished and looks like he hasn’t shed in a while
JA: I'll do all I can to help. Has the gecko been drinking more or less water than usual?
Customer: less but I’ve put lots of bowls in the tank for him to drink from
JA: Any changes in the gecko's appetite?
Customer: he’s not paying as much attention to food, I left some in a bowl and he didn’t touch it until o started hand feeding
JA: And what's the gecko's name and age?
Customer: ajax, around 2
JA: Is there anything else the Vet should know about Ajax?
Customer: he has lost a lot of weight, and colour
Submitted: 9 days ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 8 days ago.

I am sincerely ***** ***** there was a delay in someone responding to your question. (Experts are independent contractors and as such are online based on their own schedules.) However, I am available and can assist you if you still need veterinary advice.

Hello and thanks for posting your question on JustAnswer.com. My name is***** and I have been a licensed and accredited veterinarian in the US for over 22 years, specializing in aquatics, reptiles, amphibians, avian and other exotic species. JustAnswer is a question and answer service, not a veterinary telemedicine or emergency service. On this platform veterinarians can provide insight and advice based on the information you provide, but as this is not considered a legal client-patient relationship and we cannot examine your pet, we are unable to provide definitive diagnoses, prescribe medications, provide medical records or sign documents for your specific pet. For any of those you would need to make an in person visit with a local veterinarian. If your pet has a serious illness or life-threatening emergency, I strongly recommend you obtain hands-on veterinary care with a local veterinarian or veterinary emergency service as soon as possible. I am happy to chat with you via the JustAnswer app via text. For US based clients, if you are interested in a phone call instead that is an option you can choose for an additional charge. In the meantime, I am putting together some questions and/or suggestions to help with your pet’s concern.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 8 days ago.

I am happy to hear that you were able to find your long los leopard gecko Ajax. Not surprising he is thin. Since he has not been getting regular calcium or vitamins and no UVB light, there is the chance that he is suffering from other things than just malnourishment, such as metabolic bone disease.

Hopefully with proper care, lighting and supplemental feeding of fluids, food, calcium and vitamins he may make a recovery but if the loss of appetite persists despite home care or he is weak or lethargic, then I do recommend seeking a hands on evaluation from a local, reptile experienced veterinarian to find out if there are any underlying health issues that need to be addressed.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 8 days ago.

With any sick gecko, it is always a good idea to start by checking that their environment and husbandry are proper for their species. Taking a physical measurement of the temperature gradient within the enclosure and measuring humidity with a hygrometer are a good idea. Making sure the UVB bulb is appropriate for the size of the space and has been changed regularly. Even if they are still producing visible light, UVB bulbs have a limited lifespan and need to be changed every 6-12 months, depending upon bulb type. Making sure diet is varied and the insects have been gut loaded with a nutritious gut-loading diet as well as dusted regularly with calcium and multivitamin powder. Therefore, I am attaching a leopard gecko care (husbandry) reference sheet that I put together. Please review it at your convenience and let me know if you have any questions.

For example, if the environmental temperatures are too low, since geckos are cold-blooded, this will negatively affect their metabolism, appetite, digestion and immune function. So start by checking the temperature gradient in the enclosure and, if it's too low, adjust your basking light or get a stronger watt bulb so you are achieving the proper environmental temperatures. Temperature is very important for keeping your gecko healthy with a gradient of temperature from cool to warm. Daytime temperature range with a cool side at 78-80F (25.6-26.7C), a warm side at 85-90F (29.4-32.2C) and a very warm, focal basking area of 90-94F (32.2-34.5C). A nighttime temperature above 68F (21C) is recommended. Also proper humidity is very important for overall and skin health, with 30-40% humidity in the main enclosure and 70-80% in the moist hide.

In the meantime, I will give you some information about what may be causing these signs, a care sheet with recommendations about environment and diet as some common medical conditions are unintentionally caused by improper husbandry (such as too low temperatures, humidity, UVB lighting or calcium and vitamin supplementation) and some suggestions for home care and support of your ill gecko.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 8 days ago.

If he is pale in color, this may be retained shed.

Dysecdysis is the term for abnormal shedding in a reptile. There can be a number of causes such as husbandry issue (too high but more often too low humidity, cool temperatures, insufficient cage furniture to help initiate or rub off shedding skin), dietary insufficiency (hypovitaminosis A), infection (bacteria, fungus, parasites), or skin damage (akin to sunburn) from too much UVB exposure or thermal damage from heat rocks or heating pads.

Shedding is a very energy intensive process that will often be accompanied by depressed appetite and energy. It's important to make sure the environment is the proper temperature with a gradient from cool to warm. Daytime temperature range with a cool side at 78-80F (25.6-26.7C), a warm side at 85-90 (29.4-32.2C) and a very warm, focal basking area of 90-94F (32.2-34.5C). A nighttime temperature range of at least 68F (21C) is recommended.

Humidity is also very important for proper skin health and shedding. The main enclosure should have a relative humidity of 30-40% while the moist hide should be quite humid, 70-80%. The moist hide can be kept moist by periodically wetting the substrate within the moist hide until the substrate is damp, but not soaking wet. Also the moist hide should be in the warm zone of the enclosure where the temperature is in the mid 80's (29-30C), not on the cool side, as cool temperatures plus high humidity can promote skin or respiratory infections.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 8 days ago.

Here are some recommendations:

1) Make sure environment is clean to prevent secondary infections. Spot cleaning the tank bottom every day or more frequently as needed helps remove fecal material which can be a source of secondary infection for digit wounds. While they have a skin lesion or discoloration, you might also consider lining the tank with clean paper towels or newspaper that can be replaced daily or more frequently as they become soiled.

2) You can help your leopard gecko shed by misting more frequently (a few times per day), give him a warm water bath (85F (29-30C) water in a shallow container up to shoulder depth for 15-30 minutes once to twice per day), avoid the temptation to pull the skin pieces off yourself, and consider if these things don't help to purchase a shedding-aid product such as one that's added to the bath (Zilla Shed-Ease Reptile Bath) or that's a spray (Zoo Med Repti Shedding Aid).

3) If there are entrapped digits, you can attempt to gently release the constricting bands of skin with a fine tipped nail scissor or pointed tweezers after a 30 minute soak in warm water as described above. Just be careful to only grab the surface skin, you don’t want to cut the healthy skin underneath. If in doubt, make a veterinary appointment to have the affected digits treated by a veterinarian. You can gently cleanse any affected area with dilute chlorhexidine or povidone-iodine (trade name Tamodine) solution. Disinfectant solutions should be diluted with water until pale (pale sky blue for chlorhexidine or the color of weak tea for povidone-iodine). The area can be cleaned with gauze moistened with the diluted disinfectant, if your animal will allow it.

If your animal gets too stressed from handling or if you fear he may drop the tail from the handling, an alternative is to soak them in a very shallow dish containing the dilute disinfectant. Place the gecko into a warm (85-90F, 29-32C) water bath and allow them to soak for 5 minutes, this allows them to drink plain water first if they are thirsty. The water depth should be only enough to submerge the affected parts, at most shoulder depth. After 5 minutes add enough povidone-iodine (Tamodine solution) to the bath water so it becomes the color of weak tea. Then let them soak 15-20 more minutes once or twice a day. The bath should only be deep enough to submerge the affected part but it is fine if other areas of the body are in the bath, you just don't want the head to be submerged. (If you don't have access to either of these disinfectants, then a warm soak in a shallow dish of dissolved, unscented Epsom salts (1 level teaspoon for every 2 cups (500 ml) of water) may also be helpful but rinse with warm water after the soak.) I recommend monitoring your animal while in the soak to ensure their head does not become submerged. And there is no need to rinse after a bath in povidone iodine or chlorhexidine but you should do a warm, fresh water rinse after an Epsom salt bath.

4) Ensuring proper husbandry: proper diet, environmental temperature, UVB light exposure, calcium and multivitamin (especially vitamin A) supplementation, etc. are important to ensure normal skin health, metabolism and healing. Therefore, I have already attached a leopard gecko care sheet that I put together as a reference. Please review this at your convenience and let me know if you have any questions.

Vitamin A is particularly important for proper skin health and shedding. You can provide sufficient vitamin A by dusting insects with a multivitamin powder (once weekly for juveniles or adult geckos having shedding issues and once every other week for healthy adults) such as Zoo Med's ReptiVite with D3 and by gut loading the live feeder insects. If they are not eating, you can provide a liquid multivitamin such as Fluker’s Liquid Vitamin (Reptile Supplement) and give them 2 drops for every 50 grams of body weight, twice a week, directly into their mouth. This can be discontinued when they start eating and can receive vitamins dusted on their insects.

To boost the nutritional value of the feeder insects it is recommend to "gut load" them for at least 24-48 hours prior to feeding them out. That means to feed the insects a nutritious food so that the gecko gets the benefit of that nutrition. Some excellent options for gut loading are:

-Mazuri Better Bug Gut Loading Diet

-Repashy SuperLoad Insect Gutload Formula

5) And if the shedding issues don't resolve with in home treatment or correction of underlying husbandry issues (temp, humidity, vitamin supplementation), then is recommended to have your leopard gecko evaluated in person by a local reptile experienced veterinarian. They can perform an examination and diagnostics to look for signs of underlying disease that may be leading to dysecdysis.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 8 days ago.

There are a number of reasons why your leopard gecko may not be eating a normal amount of food. It is more likely they are not eating because of an underlying cause (stressor, environment, health condition) rather than the type of food you are offering to them. Some of the causes for lack of appetite are transient/temporary and may be normal while others are more concerning and warrant a veterinary evaluation.

Some abnormal causes for appetite depression and weight loss include inappropriate environmental temperatures (usually too cool), mouth rot (infectious stomatitis), trauma, sickness or infection (bacterial, parasitic, nutritional (metabolic bone disease, hypovitaminosis A)), indigestion or maldigestion, reproductive disease (egg binding in a female) and gastrointestinal impaction.

With a thin leopard gecko that is not eating and which might be displaying any other signs of illness such as weakness, lethargy, sunken eyes, skin discoloration, abnormal defecation or urination or the depressed appetite persists more than a few days, a visit to a local veterinarian with experience in reptile medicine is recommended.

To help find a local veterinarian with reptile experience, here is a useful website you can use to search for a local reptile veterinarian. These veterinarians are active members of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians, which means they have interest and experience in treating reptile patients:

https://arav.site-ym.com/search/

Please note that since you are outside the US, you will need to choose Advanced Search.

Advanced Search: Step 1 of 2, Member status

Select/toggle honorary member, life member, new grad, active veterinarian, and associate.

Press Continue.

Advanced Search: Step 2 of 2

Use the drop down menu in Country to select your country. Press Search.

(please note this site may not work on older browsers like Safari)

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 8 days ago.

It’s especially important if your leopard gecko is sick or injured to make sure that their tank is clean, food is fresh and prepared hygienically and that the temperature is appropriate and that your UV-B bulb is in proper working condition. Here are some additional recommendations of how you can support your ill leopard gecko while they are under the weather or awaiting a veterinary evaluation:

-Keep them warm. Temperature is very important for keeping your gecko healthy with a gradient of temperature from cool to warm. Daytime temperature range with a cool side at 78-80F (25.6-26.7C), a warm side at 85-90F (29.4-32.2C) and a very warm, focal basking area of 90-94F (32.2-34.5C).

But if they’re not moving around much on their own, place them in an area of the tank that is around 85F (30C), but not on top of a hot rock or under the hottest basking area as they can overheat or get burned.

-To prevent or treat dehydration, you can give your gecko a soak in a shallow dish of warm water (85-90F, 30-32C) for 15-30 minutes twice a day. Or if they are too weak to be in water, you can help with hydration by placing them in a small, plastic or glass container lined with moistened paper towels for 15 minutes two to four times per day. Cover the container with the snap on lid or with clean cling film and poke holes in the lid or cling film to allow for air flow. Place the container into the enclosure where the temperature is around 85-90F for the 15 minutes so they stays warm. Then remove them from the container and put them back into the enclosure where the air temp near the surface is 85-90F (29-32C)

-Make sure you wash your hands with warm water and soap after handling your gecko or their cage furniture.

-Make sure the enclosure is clean as built up waste, dust and other irritants can predispose your animal to infection. Spot cleaning daily but cleaning the enclosure more thoroughly at least once monthly with a reptile safe disinfectant is recommended. F10 Veterinary Disinfectant is a good option, safe with reptiles and comes pre-diluted and ready for use in a spray bottle. You can also consider lining the tank with disposable unbleached paper towels or newspaper while they are ill to make cleaning easier. The papers should be changed out daily or more frequently if they become soiled. Also, since they defecate into their water bowls often, cleaning the water bowl daily with soap and warm water before refilling it and weekly disinfection of the bowl is a good idea while they are ill (normally, it's okay just to do a daily rinse and refill of the water dish with 1-2x per week washing/disinfection).

-Limit and be gentle with handling. If they are ill, limit handling and limit time out of the enclosure to only what is absolutely necessary. If you must lift or remove them from their tank, go slowly and support their weight from underneath with your palm.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 8 days ago.

-If alert, and not vomiting, offer food, even if not eating. If your leopard gecko is having difficulty reaching, seeing or getting to their food, put the food dish next to them or you can also hand or tong feed them. Place an insect gently against their lips and if they are hungry, they will bite at it. If not, don’t force it.

If weight loss is related to not eating, then, if needed for prolonged loss of appetite, you can assist feed whole, calcium or multivitamin dusted insects (I recommend removing their heads first) or you can syringe feed them a replacement formula like Fluker’s ReptaBoost, EmerAid Intensive Care Carnivore, Oxbow Animal Health Critical Care Carnivore.

Another option is to assist or syringe feed Repashy Grub Pie for reptiles. It's a diet that is normally mixed with boiling water and then allowed to set up into a solid to make a gel food to feed to insectivorous reptiles. But if you mix it with room temperature (not boiling) water, more water than the package recommends, to make a slurry that is thin enough to go through a syringe, it can be used for syringe feeding. Or you can make it according to the package directions, using boiling water to make a gel that sets up, then cut the gel into pieces that you can then assist feed (like you would assist feed an insect). This formula is nice because it's based on insect and fish based protein and has a good variety of vitamins. Treat any gel you make like you would fresh fish, store leftovers in the refrigerator and discard after a day or two.

Outside the US if any of these options are not available you can try Vetark Critical Care Formula (though it is not ideal as a long term replacer as it is grain based).

With any assist or syringe feeding, go slowly and don't feed too quickly to prevent choking. If you’ve never done this before there are some good online videos that you can watch first such as these:

Assist feeding an insect by hobbyist Garrett Rose (I do recommend pinching the insects head off first so it is dead before assist feeding if your gecko is sick or lethargic so they are not injured by the insect):

https://youtu.be/cN5Uaoqmrg4

Syringe feeding by exotic pet veterinarian Dr. Kristin Britton:

https://youtu.be/Fq0fGmLNP-4

-I recommend weighing your leopard gecko regularly, especially if they are not eating normally or losing weight, to not only know how much they weigh and track weight gain or loss, but also to determine how much food to start feeding him and to monitor if you are feeding them enough. I would recommend weighing twice weekly while they are ill. If weight continues to drop then you should increase the amount of food you are feeding by adding another feed during the day.

Starting volume for assist feeding should be about 1% body weight three times a day. For a typical 50 gram leopard gecko that would be 0.5ml three times a day. To calculate a more accurate starting amount, multiply your geckos weigh in grams by 0.01 to give you the amount in milliliters. For example: a 50 gram gecko would be 50 x 0.01 = 0.5ml. A 60 gram gecko would be 60 x 0.01 = 0.6ml

-Calcium and vitamin supplementation. It is important to still offer calcium and vitamin supplements if they are eating. More information about supplements is in the care sheet I shared with you. An excellent brand of multivitamins I highly recommend is ZooMed Reptivite with D3. There are a number of good reptile calcium brands on the market, if you need a recommendation on those, please let me know.

If they are weak because they are experiencing a severe calcium deficiency related to Metabolic Bone Disease or dietary insufficiency or if they are not eating for another reason, you can buy a liquid calcium supplement at the pet store and give them a drop or two directly into their mouth once a day and this should help, but isn't a replacement for proper nutrition and a veterinary evaluation and treatment.

-Fluker's Liquid Calcium Reptile Supplement

If they are experiencing signs of hypovitaminosis (A or D), like eye or skin problems, or if they are not eating for another reason, then you can buy a liquid multivitamin supplement at the pet store and give them 2 drops for every 50 grams of body weight, twice a week. If they are not eating, then you can give this supplement every other day for a week before decreasing to twice weekly, while they are not eating. The supplement can be placed onto a food item before feeding or dropped directly into their mouth if they are not eating. Once they are back to eating or no longer have signs of a vitamin deficiency, this liquid supplement should be stopped in favor of multivitamin powder dusting of food and gut loading of insects, as described in the care sheet I shared with you.

-Fluker’s Liquid Vitamin (Reptile Supplement)

It is also a good idea to re-evaluate your current husbandry practices as some common disorders are unintentionally caused or predisposed by deficiencies or imbalances in diet, UVB lighting, calcium/vitamin supplementation or improper environmental temperature or humidity. Therefore, I have already attached a general leopard gecko care sheet for you to review. Thanks.

Again, I am glad you were able to find Ajax but sorry he is not feeling well. I do hope he starts to perk up with supportive care and good husbandry. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance. My sincere best to you both.

Thanks for using JustAnswer.com.

Sincerely, ***** *****