Crested Gecko Calcium Deficiency – Early Signs & Treatment
Calcium deficiency is probably the most widespread problem among geckos for a variety of reasons, both environmental and genetic. Some geckos have a naturally low bone density which can aggravate calcium deficiency, leading to Metabolic Bone Disease. This is a deadly condition, so, hopefully, your gecko never reaches to that point.
When it comes to this condition, early diagnosis and treatment can make the difference between life-and-death situations. So, your job is to detect the problem in its early phases and determine the best treatment approach based on the available resources and your gecko’s needs. But let’s start with the beginning.
Signs of Calcium Deficiency in Crested Geckos
First, we should begin by saying that there’s a difference between calcium deficiency and hypocalcemia. The latter is also called Metabolic Bone Disease, which, in other words, translates to severe calcium deficiency. This means that calcium deficiency has degrees to it, some stages being more dangerous than others.
Your gecko has high chances of recovering from standard calcium deficiency but slim to none when it comes to MBD. With that in mind, here are some precursor signs of low calcium in geckos:
The reptile’s legs and tail may appear curved, causing your gecko trouble moving and climbing. The gecko may also experience pain and discomfort, which the reptile will express via its behavior. The curved limbs are generally a sign of prolonged and more severe calcium deficiency that’s already affecting the animal’s skeleton.
Fortunately, the condition has not reached the point of no return yet. Full recovery is still possible if the gecko receives proper treatment. You should be more concerned if the gecko’s limbs begin to swell since that’s usually a sign of MBD.
Geckos can exhibit several tail-related issues when experiencing calcium deficiency. The wavy tail is one where the reptile keeps its tail up, usually bent in a circle. Floppy tail syndrome is another common issue you can recognize easily. This condition is visible when the gecko hangs upside down or climbs, and the tail either hangs over its head or sideways.
This is due to the gecko losing control over its caudal appendix, causing it to fall at unnatural angles. The gecko may even experience pain because of it.
This may be trickier to detect because geckos aren’t exactly the most energic creatures in the world. They rank as ambush predators, so it’s normal for them to stay still for long periods, including resting. But you can generally tell that the gecko is not at its normal functioning rates.
The gecko no longer seems as alert; it moves slow, has slow reactions and difficulties catching live prey, and appears to lose its balance when traversing tight branches. This is a worrying symptom, suggesting that the gecko is unwell and is experiencing muscle problems, generally uncontrolled twitching due to calcium deficiency.
Loss of Appetite
The gecko won’t eat as much or as often as before. Some geckos stop eating altogether, which can cause severe nutritional deficiency. However, don’t rush to draw conclusions regarding your gecko’s lack of appetite. This behavior is normal under certain circumstances, including when shedding.
Grab your reptile and press against its jaw gently. If the jaw bends easily, that’s a sign of calcium deficiency.
Not many people realize that this is an issue relating to calcium deficiency, especially since crested geckos keep their toes curved up naturally when walking. That’s to prevent their toe pads from sticking onto the surface they’re walking on, which would make walking more difficult.
Geckos only use the entire surface of their toes when climbing, allowing the setae to take over and latch onto the vertical surface. So, it’s not natural for geckos to keep their toes curved when climbing or hanging upside down. If that’s the case, calcium deficiency is the most likely culprit.
Immediate treatment is necessary to prevent accidents because the curved toes increase the risk of falling due to the weaker grip.
How to Treat Calcium Deficiency in Crested Geckos?
Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent and even treat calcium deficiency, so long as it hasn’t reached severe phases. These include:
- Improving the gecko’s diet – In short, include more calcium-rich foods into your gecko’s diet. These include live insects like soldier fly larvae (the richest in calcium), house crickets, mealworms, cockroaches, etc. If you were already feeding these to your gecko, add more of them to its diet.
- Calcium and D3 supplementation – You can gut load and dust the live insects with calcium and D3 as well. Vitamin D3 is excellent to ensure proper calcium synthesis, without which the gecko’s body cannot process the calcium, no matter how much is available.
- Calcium-to-phosphorus ratio – Keep in mind that the more phosphorus one food item contains, the less calcium the gecko will be able to synthesize from it. The ideal calcium-to-phosphorus ratio should be 2:1 or as close to it as possible.
- UV lighting – Natural or artificial UV lighting is key to proper calcium levels. The UV light allows for proper D3 intake, which improves calcium absorption. In other words, the UV light allows geckos to extract and use more calcium from their food. Place a UV bulb in your gecko’s habitat at a safe distance to check this off this list as well.
- Contact the vet – If nothing appears to work or your gecko showcases signs of severe calcium deficiency, contact your vet. The reptile may have a more dangerous underlying disorder that eats away at its nutrients or struggles with low bone density, requiring specialized treatment.
Does UVB Light Help Crested Geckos?
UVB light provides essential Vitamin D3 for the gecko and helps with calcium absorption, which is crucial for a healthy gecko. UVB lighting has long been used in many reptile enclosures as an effective way to help promote health and well-being.
In the case of crested geckos, this type of lighting can help prevent metabolic bone disease, a condition caused by insufficient calcium levels in the body. It also helps reduce stress and increase activity levels, which can be beneficial to their overall health and wellbeing.
Additionally, studies have found that cresteds exposed to UVB lighting have better coloration compared to those kept without it.
How to Give Your Crested Gecko Enough Calcium?
The most used and effective method is the gut-loading technique. This refers to feeding your feeder insects nutritionally-rich grains before throwing them in your gecko’s pen. You can also douse them in a calcium powder, but this isn’t as effective, as most of the powder will wear off by the time the gecko eats the insect. Still, it costs next to nothing to do it anyway.
You should also minimize the phosphorus intake and ensure optimal vitamin D3 supplementation along the way. If you’re unsure of how to do that, speak to a reptile vet.
Also, make sure your gecko consumes commercial gecko food regularly. This type of food is created specifically for geckos, so it’s optimized for the reptile’s nutritional needs.
Captive geckos tend to experience calcium deficiency in captivity more than they do in the wild. That’s because their diet in captivity depends on the humans preparing it. Be mindful of your gecko’s nutritional needs and provide it with optimized meals to prevent calcium deficiency and other related problems.