Water is the single most important medium for sustaining life. Studies have shown that the percentage of total body water (TBW) is higher in reptiles (up to 75%) than in mammalian species (60-70%). Total body water is distributed between intracellular fluid (ICF) and extracellular fluid (ECF) compartments.
The ICF makes up 66% of total body water, while the ECF compartment makes up 33%. Water moves freely throughout most parts of the body. Fluid treatment, also known as fluid therapy, fluid replacement, or fluid resuscitation, is the medical practice of replacing body fluids that have been lost.
When do geckos lose body fluids?
Geckos can lose body fluids in cases such as trauma or bleeding (blood is also a fluid) or during dehydration. In most cases, dehydration is caused by chronic (long-term) inability to sustain or replace fluids. Blood loss is more often severe (over a short period of time).
Fluid treatment protocols will be different for acute and chronic fluid loss. Chronic blood loss can also be a result of decreased red blood cell production.
How Often Do Geckos Drink Water?
Although geckos need water, they do not drink water too often. They can easily live without water for one or two days. Geckos do not drink water as often as mammal pets. This is because they receive lots of their daily moisture requirement from the bodies of the insects that they eat.
However, it is best to keep a dish of fresh water inside their enclosure or mist their enclosure a few times a week to fulfill their water requirements.
How To Offer Water to Geckos?
There are usually two ways that you can give your geckos water to drink. The first way is by placing a dish or small bowl with clean water in their enclosure. Your gecko can then drink water from the dish whenever they want.
The second way is by misting their enclosure. Misting of your gecko enclosure means spraying water in your Leo’s enclosure to maintain the ideal humidity suitable for your gecko. The ideal humidity for your gecko should be between 30-40%.
During the misting process, your geckos will drink the sprayed water drops needed for their daily water needs. Furthermore, if you do not place a water bowl in their tank, you will need to mist their tank once a day for the wellbeing of your geckos.
Dehydration is the common term to describe when the body is depleted of fluids. In other words, when the total fluid loss exceeds the fluid intake, a fluid shortage occurs. In most cases, dehydration is caused by chronic (long-term) inability to sustain or replace fluids.
Each day our bodies, including those of geckos, lose a small percentage of fluids. Fluids are naturally lost through normal processes such as breathing, evaporation from the skin, urination, defecation, etc. These losses are replaced by eating food and drinking water (food also contains water).
Common reasons for dehydration in geckos include:
- Diseases (through, for example, refusal to eat/drink, diarrhea or regurgitation/bringing up food),
- physical conditions (making it difficult or impossible to eat and/or drink), and
- incorrect husbandry (e.g., where the temperature, humidity, and/or the supply of food and water is incorrect)
- During the skin shedding process, Leopard geckos become very susceptible to dehydration.
Exact hydration levels in geckos can be tricky to estimate (especially before it is quite advanced), but clinicians often classify dehydration as normal to mild (<5%), moderate (5-<10%), or severe (≥10-15%). This percentage is relative to the body weight (BW) of 50 grams, a moderately (e.g., 5%) dehydrated Leopard gecko has lost about 2.5ml of fluids.
Signs of dehydration in gecko include:
- flexible (nonrigid) eyelids
- sunken eyes
- dry/sticky/tacky mucous membranes (lining of the mouth)
- the tenaciousness/dry ropiness of saliva
- loss of skin turgor (elasticity) especially seen on the sides of the body
- Moderate to severe dehydration can be assumed in cases where weight loss occurred over a prolonged period of time. Additionally, blood tests such as packed cell volume (PCV), total proteins (TP), urinary blood nitrogen (BUN), and plasma sodium and chloride are also evaluated
Tests for dehydration
If you are unsure whether your gecko is dehydrated or not, there is a quick method to assess this yourself. Take your thumb and your forefinger and very gently pinch a small amount of your gecko’s skin between them if skin settles easily – no or mild dehydration.
Suppose skin bunches up and does not settle – moderate to severe dehydration. Make sure you are very gentle doing this as you do not want to injure the animal, especially if it is already in a weakened state.
Acidosis occurs when either the acidity of the gecko’s blood increases or the alkaline levels decrease. When the acidity of the body is out of balance, organ failure soon follows.
Uremia: When the body no longer functions well enough to remove toxins and waste products from its system, blood, nitrate, and amino acids are found in the animal’s urine. If this goes on long enough, the animal suffers kidney failure.
Rehydrating Your Gecko
There are several ways to get fluid back into your pet reptile. In mild cases of dehydration, these steps may be more than adequate to help your pet recover. However, it is important to go slow to be sure you do not shock your pet or severely unbalance its fluid levels before its body chemistry can adjust.
Offer water or diluted electrolyte solutions such as sports drinks, Pedialyte, or Ricelyte near the reptile’s head for easy, convenient drinking. Use an eyedropper or needle-less syringe to drip water onto the geckos’ snout. As the reptile licks the moisture off, continue offering drinks in this way.
If neither of these methods is effective at getting your pet to drink, it may be necessary for a veterinarian to offer fluids through feeding tubes or subcutaneous injections. Your vet can also better assess the reptile’s overall hydration levels and check for any additional health problems caused by prolonged dehydration.
One of the best ways to avoid subjecting your reptile to dehydration is to be sure they stay adequately hydrated at all times. Tips to keep your pet drinking well include. Wash water dishes daily and keep the water fresh and clean. Avoid using strong soaps or other cleansers that can cause an unwanted smell or contaminate the water.
Offer wet food to your reptile, so they ingest more moisture. Soaking prey in water before giving it to your reptile can be helpful to increase their water intake. Adjust the heat and humidity levels in your reptile’s enclosure, so it has the proper moisture in its environment to avoid drying out excessively.
Offer your pet daily misting or lukewarm water for occasional soaking. Many reptiles will enjoy this type of interaction and bathing, and it will help with their moisture intake.
Geckos can be fascinating pets, and ensuring they have proper water and do not become dehydrated is part of the best care you can provide for the gecko in your care.
Can your gecko drink tap water?
The answer is yes, but tap water contains many contaminants, and therefore purification is a must before they drink it. Many gecko owners give their gecko pets only tap water, as it is good water after all, but they purify it first, as they don’t want to harm their pets with the contaminants in the tap water.
Since your water is not filtered, be sure that there will be many contaminants in it. Maybe you have heard about some of them, but others will surprise you. Some of the contaminants are BPA, chlorine, mercury, lead, giardia lamblia, and so on.
Things To Keep in Mind When Offering Water To Geckos
- geckos are small reptiles who need less water for their survival. Some of the safety measures that you can follow when offering your leopard geckos water are stated below.
- You need to ensure that you give your leopard gecko water that is chlorine-free. Another thing is to provide your gecko’s water in a bowl that is not too deep. This is because leopard geckos can get stuck in the water or drown in the bowl. It is best to use a water dish that is not deep but wide to reduce water-related harm to your geckos.
- You can also place a rock in the water bowl so that the insects that you feed your gecko do not drown in the bowl.
- Another thing to keep in mind is to ensure you give your gecko fresh and clean water without insects.
Some of the other things to keep in mind when offering water to your geckos are:
Ensure you refill your gecko’s water dish with cold water every day or on consecutive days to avoid contamination.
If your gecko water dish or bowl looks dirty, wash it before filling it with fresh water. Ensure you place the water dish in a cool area in your gecko’s enclosure to avoid evaporation by the warmth in their enclosure.
Why Is My Gecko Not Drinking?
You should not be surprised if you do not see your geckos drinking from the water bowl. This is because they get most of their needed moisture content from the insects they eat. Furthermore, they are most active at night, and you may not be there when they drink.
If you mist their tank to provide some extra moisture, they may not drink directly from the water bowl. You may see your gecko licking water off rocks, hides, or branches in their enclosure. However, you can trust that they drink from the water bowl you provided for them.
Another benefit of placing a water dish in your gecko’s tank is that it aids shedding. This is because your gecko will trample on the water in the dish, which helps keep their toe skin moisturized, which helps to shed and maintain nice skin.
How Long Can a Gecko Go Without Drinking?
Leopard geckos need daily water for their health and survival. However, there are times when you may not be able to replace their water at all. The best thing is that leopard geckos can go for a day or two without water.
But going for more than 2-3 days can be harmful to your pet and can even lead to dehydration and death. You can keep your gecko’s health at an optimal level by placing a shallow water dish with chlorine-free water every day.
Can I Force Drink My Gecko?
Just like feeding your gecko, you should avoid forcing a drink on your gecko. This can lead to asphyxiation in their lungs and can even cause their death. The alternative methods that you can use to give your gecko drinks are stated below.
Offer A Drink
- Mix a pediatric electrolyte beverage with an equal amount of lukewarm sterile water.
- Fill the diluted electrolytes in an eyedropper.
- Use the eyedropper to place a drop of diluted electrolyte on your gecko’s snout.
- Wait for your gecko to lick it up before you drop a few drops on its tongue as it is licking it. However, if your gecko does not lick the drop on its snout, then you may need to give it a soak or force it to take the liquid.
- Hold your gecko’s head steady, and level then open its mouth gently by pulling down the loose flap of skin under his chin.
- Place a few drops of electrolyte solution on its tongue.
- Gently rub its throat and the head to help the gecko swallow the liquid.
- Repeat the steps until it has ingested the proper amount of fluid.
- Note: it is best to take your gecko to a vet to help with forcing your gecko to take the liquid.