How to Tell if Crested Gecko is Sick?
As a new gecko keeper, you have a lot of catching up to do concerning this species. Especially if you’ve never owned a reptile before. Geckos are generally hardy animals, but they require specific environmental conditions to stay healthy.
Plenty of things can go wrong with geckos depending on their genetic makeup, diet planning, and overall maintenance and care profile. Today, we will look into the gecko’s wellbeing and discuss the most common symptoms and behavioral changes that suggest your gecko isn’t doing well.
7 Symptoms of Sick Crested Gecko
The problem with diagnosing your gecko’s condition accurately is that it may be tricky to separate normal from abnormal behaviors. To achieve that, you need some experience in reptile behavior which only builds up over time. Fortunately, I’m here to provide a shortcut to your goals.
So, let’s assess the 7 most compelling signs of sickness in geckos:
Geckos are generally stationary, so they don’t display a lot of activity, to begin with. Especially during the day, since these are nocturnal animals that tend to begin their activity at dusk. But, even so, you should be able to tell when your gecko is lethargic and unwell.
A healthy gecko is alert and uses precise and confident movements when traversing its habitat. It will climb with ease, show stability, and change its body position quite often to look for water or migrate between different areas for temperature regulation. If your gecko appears imbalanced when moving, uses sluggish movement, and appears drained of energy, something’s not right.
You should assess your gecko’s movement, especially during dusk, at nighttime, and early dawn, when geckos are typically more active.
– Lack of Appetite
Adult geckos require one good meal every 2 days, give or take. They should have a healthy appetite, especially when feeding them live insects like crickets and roaches. These are their favorites, so they should eat them in bunches.
While geckos can exhibit low appetite during mating or when shedding, they should, otherwise, eat well the rest of the time. It’s important to note that geckos are all different individuals, so their eating habits and overall behaviors may differ from one specimen to another.
Learn your gecko’s eating behavior, so you can have a comparison basis to work with. If your gecko isn’t eating as it should, look for signs of health problems. It’s most likely constipation or compaction, but other health issues may be at play too. Geckos tend to eat less when stressed due to physical pain and discomfort.
– Lack of Movement
If your gecko simply refuses to move, this may be a sign of significant physical discomfort. It may be nothing serious, like an injury that hurts when walking, or maybe there’s something more serious, like parasites or bacteria.
Geckos will also refrain from moving or even hide around their enclosure when stressed or rattled, so make sure you eliminate those possibilities.
Also, eliminate the following potential explanations:
- The reptile is newly bought, so it still needs time to adapt to its new home
- The shedding is right around the corner
- The gecko is frightened by your presence as it sees you as a predator
Also, check for any signs of aggression when getting close to your gecko or attempting to pick it up. If your gecko is aggressive and attempts to flee your hand, your presence might stress it out. Give it time to accommodate to your presence, as all geckos bond to their owners at some point and to a degree.
If your gecko is immobile and looks lethargic, but there’s no sign of visible injuries, speak to your vet for a proper diagnosis.
You know your gecko is unwell if it begins to lose coloring and appears duller than usual. This being said, not all color changes are dangerous. Geckos also change their color and become paler when shedding.
This happens several days before the actual shedding occurs, and it’s a progressive phenomenon. The gecko will turn grey and then pale as the old skin separates from the new one underneath.
The gecko’s coloring will return, sometimes even brighter, as soon as the shedding is complete.
In other cases, geckos change their color slightly depending on their mood. Stressed geckos, for instance, become slightly duller. This can happen due to not being familiarized with their new home, frequent handling, improper living conditions, and even when breeding.
But, other times, color changes warn of something more ominous going on. Black shades on your gecko’s legs or tail may suggest bad circulation and dead tissue. This can happen due to impartial shedding or even bacterial infections due to injuries. Loss of color and skin spots also suggest bacterial or fungal infections.
You have no way of diagnosing your gecko based on color changes alone, unless you also consider other signs if visible. Again, speak to your vet if you’re concerned about your gecko’s color change and can’t figure out the cause.
– Weight Loss
This is an easy-to-observe one, but not that easy to figure out the cause. If your gecko isn’t eating, that’s a simple enough explanation for the weight loss: the gecko isn’t eating. So, now you need to figure out why the gecko isn’t eating. Maybe it’s stressed due to a new home, it doesn’t like the food, or its environmental parameters are inadequate.
But what if the gecko is eating properly but still losing weight? The situation becomes more delicate now because there is no obvious explanation. Here are some potential explanations:
- Sufficient food but insufficient nutrients – It’s not enough to provide your gecko with sufficient food if the food isn’t nutritionally optimized, to begin with. Geckos require meal diversity as well as vitamin and mineral supplementation. Most gecko keepers feed their geckos feeder insects gut-filled and dusted with vitamin complexes. This practice alone keeps Metabolic Bone Disease at bay and provides the reptiles with optimal nutrition.
- Flatworms – These parasites are the likeliest explanation for your gecko’s weight loss. Flatworms inhabit the gecko’s digestive tract and consume the food before the gecko can assimilate it. Eventually, the parasites will migrate to other areas as well, including the circulatory system, where they can cause clogging and necrosis. So, you should take them very seriously.
So, if your gecko is losing weight despite eating normally, contact your vet. The vet may have better insight to offer so that you can detect and treat your pet’s condition faster.
– Sunken Eyes
A healthy gecko’s eyes should be protruding out of the socket, similar to those of frogs. Sunken eyes appear flat and withdrawn below the eyelid. Most people don’t know that this is sometimes a normal behavior. Crested geckos suck their eyes inside the sockets in normal situations, such as eating, fighting, and sleeping. Some even do that during mating, which can get a bit rough.
This is a defensive mechanism aimed at protecting the gecko’s eyes from potential injury. Interestingly enough, it is a common behavior among reptiles. Alligators use a similar mechanism to protect their eyes when underwater. They have inner eyelids that glide over the eye, protecting it from debris while still allowing the animal to see in the murky waters.
This means it’s not normal for crested geckos to display sunken eyes all the time. If that’s the case with your gecko, consider the following 3 potential explanations:
- Dehydration – You should always consider this as the most likely answer. Not because it is the most likely, but because of the implications in case it is the answer. Dehydration is dangerous for geckos because it can aggravate quickly, often resulting in irreversible damage like organ failure and even death. Check environmental humidity, provide the gecko with sufficient water, and contact your vet if the reptile doesn’t get any better.
- Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) – MBD is linked to vitamin D3 and calcium deficiency, and it is an aggressive and often deadly condition. Fortunately, your gecko has a high recovery chance if you detect the condition early on.
- Retained eye cap – This is a shedding-related condition that occurs due to incomplete shedding. The most common culprit is improper environmental humidity, causing the gecko’s skin to get stuck near the eye sockets. The result is sunken eyes, but this can also degenerate into life-threatening infections.
If none of these appear to explain your gecko’s sunken eyes, contact your vet. As a matter of fact, contact the vet, either way, just to be sure.
– Fast Breathing
If your gecko is breathing fast, go straight for a respiratory or digestive infection. It’s safer to assume the worst and get to a vet immediately than assume a mild case that turns deadly due to not taking necessary actions. Fast-breathing, wheezing geckos usually deal with rhinitis, pneumonia, or other type of respiratory or digestive infections causing pain and difficulty breathing.
There may be a number of pathogens involved, so you need to have a vet see your reptile before anything else. That ensures optimal diagnosis and treatment, which could save your reptile’s life.
Just make sure you learn how geckos breathe normally so you can detect abnormal breathing behavior easier. That’s because time is your biggest enemy when dealing with respiratory infections.
Tips for Keeping Your Crested Gecko Healthy
The good news is that you can considerably improve your gecko’s quality of life and lifespan. That’s because geckos’ most common health problems relate to poor quality of care. Here’s what you can do to keep geckos healthy and live longer lives while in your care:
- Build the right layout – Geckos are arboreal creatures requiring vertical space and a lush ecosystem. Don’t go above 30 gallons of space because crested geckos feel unsafe and stressed in a large setup. The tank should be vertical, as geckos like to spend their lives above ground. The right layout is critical for the gecko’s state of mind and comfort.
- Ensure optimal parameters – Establish a good temperature gradient with a top-down temperature decrease. The upper terrarium regions should display temperatures around 80-85 °F, the middle zone should remain around 72-77 °F, and the substrate zone should stay around 60-71 °F. Humidity is best kept at 60-80%, depending on the time of day and your gecko’s needs.
- Ensure optimal feeding – For adult geckos, go for 3 meals per week and combine insects with fruits and commercial gecko food. Additional D3 and calcium supplementation may be necessary via gut-filled and dusted live insects.
- Create a stress-free setup – Don’t handle your geckos too frequently since they don’t like that. Also, place the terrarium in a safe area with stable temperatures, natural lighting, and, most importantly, well-aerated to prevent humidity buildup. Avoid flashing lights, loud noises, or too much activity around your gecko’s enclosure, not to rattle the reptile.
- Adequate medical care – Geckos can struggle with parasites, worms, or mild infections at some point due to reasons that are out of your control. You should always assess your reptile’s overall health and behavior to detect these problems early on. The earlier you discover them, the more effective the treatment and the faster the recovery process.
These strategies will keep you healthy and, most importantly, happy because stress and depression are the most common causes of disease in reptiles and pets in general.
Geckos require personalized care and attention to thrive, or they can fall sick and struggle with infections and lower immune systems. Don’t worry about social or emotional connections because geckos are not about that life. These reptiles don’t need your love to uplift their spirits since they’re very much antisocial and solitary animals.
But everything else matters greatly, including environmental conditions, setup, diet, available water, etc. Adjust these based on your gecko’s needs, and your cute and peaceful lizard won’t need anything else.