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Reptiles/My leopard gecko is having... serious shedding problems.


QUESTION: Species: leopard gecko.
Habitat size: Glass tank, with a footprint of about 30"x12".
Substrate: Viva paper towels, with sphagnum moss for her humid hide.
Humidity: unknown, but I live in Arizona, so probably relatively low except in her humid hide
Temps: 85.7 on the warm side, 80.6 on the cool side (as of right now)
Lighting: standard household CFL bulb, no UV
Vet history: none (I...can't really afford a vet, unless she *absolutely* needs one.  I could when I got her, but I can't now)
Food and supplements: dubia roaches, around 1/2-3/4" long, home-bred, and fed a reasonable assortment of foods (veggie scraps, fish food, bread, cereal, banana peels, et cetera), and dusted with Sticky Tongue Farms Miner-All Indoors calcium supplement every time (though the container is fairly old, I don't know if that stuff goes bad); occasionally I put some plain calcium powder in her cage, too
Feeding schedule: at will, the dubias stay in a dish in her cage, and I get more whenever I see she's out
Last ate: I don't keep close track, but she seems to be eating fairly regularly, I've been having to add at least 5 or so appropriate-sized roaches a week
Water: in a dish in her cage, we refill whenever it appears empty
Last defecated: not sure, but she seems to be fairly regular
Source: captive bred, as far as I'm aware
Shed recently: that's part of the problem
Other animals: other than the roaches (which... occasionally but fairly infrequently escape the dish), none.

In case it's relevant, she's a sexually mature adult (she's been laying unfertilized eggs recently, though her tail is still reasonably plump), and I believe she's about 3 years old.

She's always had a little trouble with her toes when she sheds, and I'm not quite as good as I should be about keeping her humid hide moist, but normally it's just a few toes, and a little attention with a wet q-tip and/or misting her when I notice she's about to shed fixes (or avoids) the problem.  But, a little over 2 months ago, while I was out of town, she had a bad shed.  There was unshed skin left on all 4 feet (and a lot of it, not just a little on one or 2 toes or something), as well as a little on her nose and the tip of her tail.  I've been bathing her daily (or sometimes more often), as well as *gently* going at the unshed skin with an old toothbrush.  It hasn't been going very quickly.

Since then, in addition to losing part of a toe <feels very guilty>, she's had 2 sheds, that were even worse than the one while I was gone.  She basically has barely even *started* her sheds without assistance--on the last one, about all she managed entirely on her own was to shed most of the skin from the top of her head.  We managed to help her get at least most of the rest off (hopefully without doing any damage), but her feet are still in kind of iffy shape.

I have no idea 1. why she's having so much trouble shedding, and/or 2. why she's shedding so often.  Or, of course, what to *do* about it.

ANSWER: Thank you for the background.
I will need photos.
How often have her sheds been coming?
How many roaches per week is she eating?
What is appropriate sized roaches? I will need a measure in relation to her size.

Miner-All indoor formula contains D3, which I do not advocate. I advise low intensity linear UVB tubes.

Yes, over time calcium and especially with added D3 can draw moisture and loose effectiveness. I recommend straight calcium carbonate powder in conjunction with the low intensity uvb tubes (NOT compact tubes, LONG tubes).

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Back right foot
Back right foot  

Back left foot
Back left foot  
QUESTION: She's been shedding about once a month (or, at least, she's had 3 sheds with about a month between each one).  

I don't keep a close count on her roach consumption, but as I said, she's eating at least 5 or so ~1/2"-3/4" roaches (length, not width) per week.  Her eating is fine (unless there's a nutrition issue).

I don't have UV light for her, and since she's nocturnal, I'm not sure how much good it would do her in any case.  The calcium powder I have seems to be sticking adequately, if that's the only concern about calcium powder "losing effectiveness" (I live in Arizona, that... helps, with moisture issues).  I was mostly concerned about whether the vitamins or other minerals in it would... react somehow, oxidize or whatever.  In addition to calcium, it has D3, manganese, zinc, iron, copper, iodine, cobalt, magnesium, and selenium (the largest of the minerals is zinc, at 544 mg/kg).  It also has "trace elements from naturally grown aquatic vegetation" (a long list).

I could only send 2 pictures, so I sent the back feet, they're a lot worse than the front feet.

I'm not sure I'm going to be able to help you. You seem to think you know better.

1. You didn't state how many roaches she was eating. You said how many you have been needing to put in the bowl. That's not the same as giving a statement of how many she is eating, and that's why I asked it to be clarified.

2. I'll be the judge of whether her eating is fine, if you're asking me. And I assumed that's why you were here. If you think you know better, then by all means, you don't need a reptile rehabber who has going on 30 years experience.

3. I AM sure how much good a UVB lamp would do. There's a reason I am here answering questions worldwide. She is not "nocturnal". She is crepuscular. In the wild Leopard Geckos are known to be active outside of full darkness and they are exposed to UVB daytime scatter. Additionally, research proves that Leopard Geckos have the biological processes in their skin and organs to manufacture active cholecalciferol from UVB exposure, and, that they benefit from low intensity UVB exposure. No above ground dwelling animal in this world lives without UVB exposure, even if they are completely nocturnal, unless they are kept in captivity and purposefully without it. The moon is also a source of low intensity UVB.

"Leopard geckos are small lizards originating from central Asia where they live a crepuscular (active primarily during twilight) lifestyle....Although not naturally a basking species, a low level of UVB light is recommended as they have the capability to use this to produce endogenous vitamin D3 (Wangen et al, 2013)."

Source: Veterinary Times

Source: Measuring 25 Hydroxy Vitamin D Levels in Leopard Geckos Exposed to Commercial Ultraviolet B Lights

4. I am well aware that the supplement you are using contains D3. I said that. And I gave my reasons why it shouldn't be used vs calcium carbonate and a low intensity UVB light source. D3 is a fat soluble signalling hormone that is easily overdosed and it bypasses normal endocrine processes and forces the hormone of the body, whether it was needed or not and this can cause regulatory dysfunction and/or dystrophic calcification if not used in accordance with allometric dosing calculations.

5. effectiveness I mean oxidize as well as other degradations. I didn't ask if it was sticking adequately.

Now, I just need to know if you'd like to continue with the consult with me asking the questions and then telling you what is relevant and what you should do, or would you rather attempt to tell the expert what information is relevant and useful as if I am a newbie to reptile medicine or Leopard Geckos? If I ask it, there is a reason. If I tell you, there is a reason.

Lastly, the photos are not of decent quality. The lighting and focus/resolution is inadequate to discern details.  


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YOU WILL GET A REJECTION OF YOUR QUESTION IF YOU FAIL TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS TO QUESTIONER IN FULL!. I am primarily here to assist with health concerns. I am here for the more difficult questions. Not for questions that you could research & easily find the answer yourself. My standards are that you provide DETAILED and RELEVANT background history on your pet before you ask me any question about it other than GENDER or ID. The requested information is in the instructions to questioner. Failure to answer each of those questions to provide that background, will result in your question being rejected. I can answer questions related reptile husbandry, identification (esp. in Texas and the SW), legal aspects, and advanced level medical care. I am the director of Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue (TX), a wildlife rehabilitator specializing in reptiles, a founding member of The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation, a subscriber to the International Veterinary Information Service,, educational content contributor to, and a Dept of State Health Services accredited animal control instructor (CE) for reptile handling. I do most of my own veterinary care in-house, including minor surgery and necropsy. I am most experienced in Chelonia with box turtles and common smaller tortoises; and in Squamata with everything from Anoles, Geckos, Beardies, and Monitors, to venomous snakes. I am most known for my expertise with horned lizards (Phrynosoma). With snakes, my primary expertise is in Crotalids (rattlesnakes), but I can answer a broad range of questions about various species. I am not aware of any reptile related question that I would not be able to provide some reasonable answer for. I have a direct style and may tell you something you did not want to hear; but the welfare of the animal comes FIRST with me, and I will always reflect that position in my answer, despite how it might make you feel.


I am a non-academic herpetologist with 25+ years reptile experience, and I am an accredited Texas Dept of State Health Services Animal Control Instructor for Reptiles (CE). I am a reptile rescuer, reptile wildlife rehabilitator, and subscriber to the International Veterinary Information Service, wikivet, and article/journal content contributor to Lafebervet. I have medical and scientific resources available, and I perform in house reptile veterinary care for my rescues. I am not a vet, but I read from the same materials and have had to correct quite a few in the past. The average vet is not well versed with reptile physiology and medical treatments.

Animals that I am currently caring for, or have significant rehabilitation and husbandry experience with: Horned Lizards (5 species); Eastern and Western Box Turtles; Painted, RES, YBS, Soft-Shell, and Cooter aquatic turtles; Russian Tortoises; Fire Bellied Toads; Fire Bellied Newts; Ornate Horned Frogs; Green Iguanas; Desert Iguanas; Spiny Lizards; Long Nosed Leopard Lizards; Anoles; Racerunners; Collared Lizards; Bullsnakes; Eastern Ratsnakes; Great Plains Ratsnakes; Kingsnakes; Gartersnakes; Cornsnakes; Boas; Pythons; Bearded Dragons; Water Dragons; Massasauga Rattlesnakes; Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes; Leopard, Mediterranean, Golden, Indo-Pacific, African White-Spotted Geckos; Savannah Monitors; Jeweled Curly-Tailed Lizards; Long-Tailed Grass Lizards; Fox Squirrels; Deer Mice; Hispid Cotton Rats; Merriam's Pocket Mice; Eastern Cotton-Tails; Blue Bar racing pigeon; Budgies; Asian Forest Scorpions.


Co-Founder & Director: Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue

Founder: The Society for Horned Lizard Preservation

Publications contributor. The Horned Lizard Husbandry Manual - self published 75 pages of care information on genus Phrynosoma.

Wikipedia entry "Horned Lizards" - contributed to a majority of the content., and various reptile related forums and email lists under the handles "fireside3" and PhrynosomaTexas".

My hands-on field, rehabilitation, and captive husbandry experience beats a PhD any day of the week. I am also a state accredited animal control instructor for reptile handling.

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I was requested to provide my care manual on the Desert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos), for the Montreal zoo. My manual is also used by several other zoological institutions in N. America. I also teach reptile education to summer camps, and instruct wildlife rehabilitators on live saving and rehab techniques with reptiles.

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