Reptiles/Is My Son's Leopard Gecko Dying?
QUESTION: My 9yr old son has has a leopard gecko for about 3 years now. Unfortunately, we did not do our homework and the pet store did not inform us correctly concerning it's dietary needs. We feed him crickets and meal worms alternately, only coated the crickets with calcium powder a few times but discontinued soon after we purchased him as we did not know how crucial of a supplement it is. My son has not regularly cleaned out the terrarium and at times the substrate has become moldy beneath his water bowl. The gecko seemed happy and healthy until a few months ago. The heat lamp burned out and I forgot to buy a new one for a few weeks, we keep the house between 65-72 during the winter and I am afraid he got too cold and I noticed he did not seem to eat regularly. Unfortunately, My son has gone days without feeding the gecko as well. Also, shedding seems to have become more frequent as well as increasingly difficult for the gecko. Now his eyes are crusted over - I think it is unshed skin build-up but it could possibly be an infection or both.(??) We did learn recently that we can give him a bath and help rub the stubborn spots off his feet and head. It seems that it is too late for his eyes though- I have tried to moisten them and wipe them but I am afraid to really pull on the crust much for fear of damaging what remains of his eyes. At this point I believe he is blind and has not eaten crickets or meal worms for a while (weeks?) - I really don't know how long it's been because the last time I added crickets it seemed they were in there forever until they all eventually dies off and the meal-worms seem to remain in his dish untouched until they die and dry out, or they crawl out and become beetles...I assume he's eating something because he is still alive. In that last few weeks his body and tail have become extremely thin and his breathing seems labored. I just found a gel-like food supplement for annorexic lizards and my son and I have been hand-feeding him as much as he will take 2-3 times per day for the last 4 days. He seems to be a little more perky and has a little energy to walk around now. Another thing, we keep a heat lamp over his hide side 24/7. I don't know if that is okay? We've never had an undertank heater and we just purchased a heat rock 4 days ago which he seems to like. We also changed his substrate to a carpet as I am hoping it will make cleaning the terrarium manageable for my son so that he will start cleaning it weekly. Lastly, his toes - he has all of them but they just seem like soft, limp appendages. Do you think his anorexic stated, shedding problems, blindness and limp toes could all be from 3-yr poor diet with little-no calcium? Is it possible to hand-feed him back to health? (He will lick the food supplement but will not eat crickets or worms from the tongs...so it seems the supplement is his only food source for now. Lastly, is it possible to remove all the hard skin from his eyes without damaging them? And do you think he will be able to see again? My husband has discouraged us from taking him to a vet due to pricing but I hate to see him wasting away and walking around with limp toes...Do you think he is dying or does he have a chance at recovering?
ANSWER: Hello Lydia,
I am sorry to hear about your gecko.
It is possible for him to recover but I can't guarantee it.
Do you have any pictures of him?
I highly recommend getting an undertank heater though to be left on 24/7 as heating from below helps with digestion. The heat rock is not safe really as he can burn himself. You can just keep it but unplug it for safety.
I would also consider getting a low output UVB such as the Reptisun 5 tube bulb to help with D3 synthesis & calcium absorption.
The retained eye shed can be very serious as bacterial infections set in when this happens. Can you bathe him daily to see if that helps. Also, you can get some chamomile tea bags & moisten them/heat them to place over his eyes for a short bit to help with loosening the skin.
He also could have metabolic bone disease, from calcium deficiency. You can get some liquid calcium or powdered calcium. If you get powdered calcium, you can leave a dish of it in his tank so he can lick it when he needs it.
I would continue feeding him the food supplement. Try also getting some chicken or turkey baby food as well, to feed him with a plastic dropper or syringe.
Do you have a moist humid hide/cave also on the warmer end of the tank?
You could also get some antibiotic eye ointment also to help just in case his eyes are infected. Try to find some sterile saline solution also to help with his eyes.
You can try the local feed store to see if they have the eye ointment. If you can't find it, I sell it on my site.
Let me know how he is doing.
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QUESTION: I will try to send some pictures soon. I got a small heat rock instead because I thought it might be a little safer than the under-tank heater since I don't have a special frame to set the tank on...his tank is setting on top of a wooden turtle box. I didn't realize the rock would be unsafe.
I have some calcium powder -
Will this work to put in a dish or do I need a different type?
I will look into purchasing the UVB light you recommended.
How long should I leave the tea bags on his eyes? As for the baby food - is that just human baby food I can purchase at the grocery store?
I don't have a moist humid hide...nor have I ever seem one - is it something we can make or must we purchase a special contraption?
I will get some saline and look for eye ointment - will neosporine work it do I have to find something lizard-specific? Is it okay to gently wipe his eyes with a wet Q-tip?
ANSWER: Hello Lydia,
Sorry about that. The heat rocks are deemed unsafe due to a lot of them not having a mechanism to shut off when reaching a certain temperature. They have been known to cause very bad thermal burns.
You can use a heating pad on low & since you have carpet he will be fine with that amount of undertank heating.
Yes, the regular calcium powder is great! You can powder his insects & also keep a small dish of calcium in the tank with him as they do have a tendency to lick it when they need it. I suggested the UVB light to help him out with calcium absorption right now. It is a known debate as to whether or not they actually need it, but when he is having some calcium issues I would recommend it for awhile. He would benefit from it.
Yes, you can just get the baby food in the jars such as chicken or turkey to feed to him. Hopefully he will like it. It can be purchased at the grocery store or health food store.
You can leave the tea bags on his eyes 10 or so minutes. It has some healing properties in the tea & can also moisturize his eye area a little bit.
You can make a humid hide. Just get a ceramic cave decor from the petstore & use a damp sponge to put inside. The hide needs to go on the warm end to help release humidity for shedding.
You could make one out of a plastic container also & tape newspaper to the outside so it will be a little darker in case he wants to sleep in there.
The neosporin isn't specifically for eyes so that probably wouldn't work. Look for terramycin at the feed store. Sometimes they will carry it as it is not species specific & will work for any animal/reptile. If you can't find it let me know. I have a small website & sell it on there. The saline solution should help a lot so use that daily for him.
Let me know how he is doing.
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QUESTION: I can't get the Terramycin around here without a prescription it seems. How much does it cost to purchase from your website? Also I may have jumped the gun about the eye ointment...I applied some antibiotic ointment from our 1st aid kit in his eyes before waiting for your response anout the neosporine. What I used was "neomycin sulfate (equivalent to 3.5 mg Neomycin base)" that's the pkg description. Do you think this hurt him? His eyes just look yellow now.
Lastly, can you give us specific instructions on bathing him. I want my son to be ale to have it in writing so he can make sure he's doing it right (warm or cool water? Soak him or spray him? Rub him and/or his eyes or simply rinse with the water? Is it just water or a specific concoction? ). Thank you!
See attached pictures. Both eyes look the same. You can see how thin his body & tail are. I put a heat pad on low under his tank. Do we need to have the red heat lamp on 24/7? Thank you!!
Sorry I couldn't get back with you yesterday!
He can bathe him in shallow water, but always keeping his hands in the water with him so he doesn't drown. The water needs to be warm, but not hot. Test it on the back of the wrists to make sure it is not too hot.
Soak him to try & get all loose skin off, or whatever he has retained. His eyes, you can mist him around his eye area, along with using the sterile saline solution a couple of times per day. Have you tried the herbal tea bags at night yet for him?
GREAT! Leave the heating pad on 24/7 but you can turn the heat lamp off overnight just leaving the heating pad on.
The neosporin is usually not for use in the eyes unless it specifically says an opthalmic formula. Here is my site if you would like to order terramycin:
Also, are you able to get any baby food into him yet for nutrition?
Let me know how he is doing!