The majority of the diseases that suffer geckos are due to improper care. To be healthy a gecko requires a clean enclosure, clean and fresh water, adequate supplements, healthy food, and a stress-free environment. Your gecko will go sick if you miss any of these requirements.
Vitamin deficiencies can lead to problems like shedding, illness, and disease, such as metabolic bone disease. Adding supplements to your gecko’s diet is necessary, as feeder insects do not provide enough nutrition for a gecko to thrive. The most important supplements for geckos are calcium and vitamin D3.
Vitamin D3, a hormone, is often added to calcium powders because D3 is needed for the gecko to absorb calcium properly. A calcium deficiency will lead to metabolic bone disease as the gecko drains calcium from its bones.
Symptoms of metabolic bone disease in geckos include:
- Deformities and softening of the bones
- Bowed legs
- Loss of appetite
- The inability of the gecko to stand or hold its body up off the ground.
Once these symptoms are present, it is usually too late to provide any treatment to improve the gecko’s life. There is no cure for metabolic bone disease, resulting in a painful death of the gecko. Even if you offer your gecko a variety of feeder insects, they still do not contain all of the nutrients your gecko needs to stay healthy.
Calcium is an essential mineral for many metabolic processes, and for ensuring good bone density. In their natural surroundings, geckos can lick mineral deposits and salts if they need extra calcium. In an enclosure setting, you can put a dish with powdered calcium to make up for the lack of a natural source.
Calcium Deficiency Symptoms
It is important to catch calcium deficiency early. The first signs are:
- Low energy
- Lack of appetite
- Twitched toes
Uncurable conditions associated with calcium are:
- Bowed legs
- Swollen jaws that can’t close properly
- Spine malformations
- Lumps along the spine, limbs, and jaws
Too much phosphorus can prevent certain nutrients from being appropriately metabolized by the gecko. The proper calcium to the phosphorous ratio for geckos is 2:1, so be sure to use a supplement with this ratio. Multivitamin supplements are also available, both with and without calcium and D3.
These supplements provide additional vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Vitamin supplements containing multivitamins and minerals in addition to calcium and D3 make it easy, especially for amateur gecko owners, to provide their gecko with the essential nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
Adding supplements to gecko’s diet
Calcium and multivitamin supplements come in a powder to dust insect feeders before feeding them to your gecko. Simply place some live insect feeders in a plastic bag, add the supplement powder, and gently shake to coat the insects.
You can spray a light mist of water onto the insects before dusting them to make the supplement powder stick to them better. You should also gut load the live insect feeders 12-24 hours before feeding them to your gecko, as a gut-loaded insect is more nutritious than an empty insect.
Provide the insect feeders with a varied diet of greens and other vegetables to ensure they receive a healthy range of nutrients. Gut-loaded insects will pass these nutrients to the gecko when they are eaten. Foods excellent for gut loading include dark leafy greens, apples, squash, carrots, oats, and potatoes.
There are also commercial insect foods that work well, and they include several vitamins and minerals as well as moisture.
Avoid gut-loading insect feeders with iceberg lettuce and cabbage, as these are mostly made of fiber and water and offer little nutrition. You should avoid acidic fruits and vegetables as well. You should dust the insect feeders every time you feed them to your gecko.
Insects for gut loading:
- You can gut load all staple insects: mealworms, super worms, roaches, crickets, and locusts.
- Insects you shouldn’t gut load are waxworms, hornworms, silkworms, and black soldier fly larvae.
How often to supplement
Supplement hatchling and baby gecko’s food with pure calcium 3 times a week. Dust with calcium and vitamin D3 thrice a week. And, dust with multivitamins once a week.
For juvenile geckos, supplement with pure calcium once a week. Dust with calcium and vitamin D3 twice a week. And then, dust with multivitamins once a week. Once a week, don’t dust, only gut-load. This is provided you will feed your gecko 5 times a week.
For adult geckos, feed your gecko 2-3 times a week. Once a week, gut-load and dust with pure calcium, another day with calcium and vitamin D3. Once a month, supplement with multivitamins.
Overdosing on supplements
Overdosing is extremely rare, it is possible for a gecko to overdose on D3. This happens because D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it is not flushed from the body through waste.
Vitamin D3 overdose is usually only a concern if you are using a UVB light above your gecko’s enclosure in addition to D3 supplementation. Too much vitamin D3 can lead to kidney damage and even death from kidney failure.
Symptoms of vitamin D3 overdose include:
- Loss of appetite
- Fluid retention
- Dehydration and excessive thirst
Another supplement that may lead to overdose is vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is more common than overdose in geckos because they can not process vitamin A from beta carotene.
Insects are not naturally a good source of vitamin A, unless they are properly gut-loaded, and most vitamin supplements contain beta carotene as the source of vitamin A.
Most supplements use beta carotene instead of vitamin A because there is concern among reptile owners around vitamin A being toxic to reptiles when too much is given at once. It is just as easy for a gecko to overdose on vitamin A as it is to receive too little of it.
If you notice vitamin A deficiency symptoms such as swollen eyes, improper shedding, or lethargy, seek a veterinarian for the proper diagnosis and treatment.
Whether UVB lighting is necessary while supplementing
While UVB light can provide a source of vitamin D3, geckos are not enjoying reptiles, and they typically avoid the sun in the wild. With a proper D3 supplement, your gecko will receive the proper amount of nutrients without the need for UVB light.
UV lights can also be harmful to geckos, as they have sensitive skin and eyes. The natural light in your home should be sufficient enough to give your gecko a sense of day and night.
Other common things
- Calcium powder without D3 may be placed in a small dish in your gecko’s enclosure to provide your gecko with calcium whenever they need it.
- You may add a separate vitamin supplement to your gecko’s diet if you are nursing a sick gecko back to health.
- Besides a varied diet of live insect feeders and vitamin supplements, always provide clean, fresh water for your gecko every day and properly maintain its habitat.
- Don’t add supplement powder in the water. Most pet geckos don’t drink much water in a day and it will be wasted and your gecko won’t consume it. Also, adding vitamins to the water will make it taste strange.
Common Diseases of geckos
Malnutrition is common in geckos. Simply put, unsupplemented crickets and mealworms are inadequate. geckos need a wide variety of insects that are well fed a calcium-rich diet and should be dusted with calcium just prior to feeding.
A common consequence of poor diet is hepatic lipidosis. Long-term stomach tubing or feeding tube support is indicated until the gecko is eating well on its own, usually in 6 to 8 weeks.
This is a common problem in geckos due to an inappropriate diet and poor supplementation. It results in retained Hemi penal casts, impaired shedding, and eye problems.
Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism
Unfortunately, still, a common presentation for geckos fed crickets and mealworms. Clinical signs include stuck sheds, anorexia, lethargy, reluctance to move, misshapen limbs, soft mandible and maxillae, kyphoscoliosis, and inability to raise their body off the ground. Treatment generally takes several months so make sure the owner is committed.
Phalangeal Dysecdysis (remained shed on toes and tail)
This is abnormal in geckos and secondary to multiple retained sheds on the digits from low humidity. As retained sheds build up they progressively restrict blood circulation and avascular necrosis develops. This condition is easily avoided by providing a moist hide/nest box.
Retained sheds can be carefully removed after soaking on damp paper towels or the toes may need to be amputated under local or general anesthesia. Systemic and topical antibiotics are indicated.
Common in geckos housed on sand, fine sharp gravel, or crushed walnut shells. Smooth gravel is an appropriate substrate as long as it’s large enough that they can’t eat it. Calcium enriched sands are not recommended as a substrate.
Clinical signs can include lethargy, straining to defecate, and anorexia. Cloacal or colonic prolapse is sometimes a consequence of intestinal obstruction.
geckos are prone to massive subcutaneous abscesses caudal to and sometimes involving the periocular tissue. Treatment consists of lancing and debridement under anesthesia, aerobic and anaerobic culture with sensitivities, antibiotics, pain medications, and nutritional support.
Watery or smeared stools are abnormal, especially with undigested insects. geckos often present for a good appetite with weight loss, left untreated they stop eating.
Solid cellular debris under the eyelids can cause ulcers and bacterial infection, this is possibly related to hypovitaminosis A. Treatment involves removing the solid debris, flushing out the eyes, broad-spectrum systemic and ocular antibiotics.
Rare in geckos and often involves an underlying hypovitaminosis A.
geckos are typically good layers and lay two eggs at a time. A single egg is a cause for radiographs, and a celiotomy is indicated for egg retention.
When dysecdysis occurs, shed skin tends to be retained on the toes, with skin drying, shrinking, and constricting, leading to avascular necrosis and loss of toes if untreated. Treatment is the removal of retained skin by soaking the affected area in warm water and gently teasing loose fragments away with damp cotton buds and atraumatic forceps.
Poor hygiene, trauma from non-receptive females, and vitamin A deficiency can lead to hemipenis infections. These can develop into abscesses with a swollen erythematous tail base, lethargy, anorexia, and straining commonly noted.
Pre-ovulatory stasis is unusual in the geckos. Reservation of eggs due to failure of an appropriate nesting site, or inability of the oviduct to contract due to calcium deficiency is more common. Geckos will often present with a distended coelom, indiscriminate digging, straining, or lethargy.
The large eggs are often clearly visible through the ventral coelomic wall. However, if the gecko is collapsed and weak then this is unlikely to be effective. In these critical cases fluid therapy, analgesia, and calcium administration is necessary,
Helminths, Cryptosporidia, pinworms, and coccidia are some of the common parasitical infections. They don’t cause a problem. But stress can weaken your pet’s immune system to the point where parasites become a problem. Symptoms of parasite infections are severe weight loss especially in brumation, smelly poo, and diarrhea.
Some common bacterial diseases that infect geckos are Pneumonia, Mycoplasmosis, Otitis, Cloacitis, and Mycobacteriosis.