Crested Gecko Turning Black – Reasons & Solutions
Crested geckos come in various beautiful colors, including yellow, red, orange, green, and rich brown. But black? Not so much. If parts of your crestie are turning black, that’s a sign of an underlying issue. Several causes can lead to crested geckos turning black. Tissue necrosis is the most serious one of them and requires immediate attention.
A clear sign of necrosis is when the black color starts as a small portion but keeps spreading outward. Necrosis may start anywhere on the body but generally begins on the extremities, like the tail and toes. If this sounds familiar, keep reading to learn more about necrosis in geckos, its causes, and treatments!
Causes of Necrosis in Crested Geckos
Necrosis is defined as the death of cells in organs or tissues. In crested geckos, necrosis usually starts at the tail, and the first symptom is a change in color. As the tissue dies and rots away, the skin turns black, and the necrosis spreads further up the body. There are three main causes of necrosis in geckos:
Of the main causes, infection is the most common. A bacterial or fungal infection attacks skin tissue, leading to inflammation and subsequently rotting. Infection generally arises when geckos sustain an injury. Open lesions on the body are vulnerable to parasitic organisms like fungi or bacteria. The physical damage itself may occur due to various causes, such as:
- Burns from exposed heat sources
- Bites or scratches from other geckos in the enclosure
- Live insect bites
- Cuts or blisters from sharp objects in the enclosure
Besides open wounds, certain environmental factors further encourage infection in vulnerable cresties. These include:
- Excessive humidity levels
- A substrate that holds too much moisture
- Too cold enclosure temperatures
- Unsanitary conditions
These factors spell double trouble. They favor the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi while also lowering your geckos’ immunity to such threats.
– Lack of blood supply
Necrosis can also happen in the absence of open wounds. In such cases, the culprit is usually poor blood supply to extremities. No blood going out to the tail or limbs means the tissues don’t receive any oxygen, warmth, nutrients— all that good stuff that keeps a body alive. Thus, the extremities slowly die and rot away.
Poor blood supply can happen due to multiple causes, either internal or external:
- Blood clots
A blood clot is a gel-like clump that gets lodged into arteries. When an artery gets blocked by a clot, the blood and oxygen supply to that part of the body is cut off. This is called an arterial embolism, and it leads to rapid tissue death. You don’t want to google this one, trust me!
- Incomplete shedding
Incomplete shedding, especially while the gecko is still growing, can also cut the blood supply. It happens when the old skin gets stuck on the extremities. As the gecko grows, the skin tightens around its body and constricts circulation to the tail or limbs.
Reptiles are ectotherms. They need an external heat source to maintain optimal body temperature. When the environmental temperature drops, so do a gecko’s body temperature and metabolism.
Prolonged hypothermia leads to a narrowing of the arteries in the extremities, and a subsequently reduced blood supply. Just like in other animals, this results in cellular necrosis in a gecko’s limbs.
– Improper diet
A poor diet ties into other factors on this list, such as the risk of infection and incomplete shedding. A poor diet causes nutritional deficiencies, which impact your gecko’s immune system, skin health, and shedding.
Insufficient intake of vitamins like vitamin A, C, and D3, in particular, causes skin problems and lower resistance to infections. If your geckos are underweight, and the skin seems thin, dry, or prone to injury, it’s time to reconsider your pet’s diet and supplement regimen.
What to do If Crested Gecko Turns Black?
If your gecko’s limbs start turning black, consult a reptile vet immediately! Once necrosis kicks in, the problem can progress rapidly. You must treat your crestie asap to prevent any additional tissue damage.
Depending on the underlying cause and severity of the problem, the vet might prescribe different treatments. If your gecko’s dealing with an infection, an antibiotic is usually the main option. If your gecko has a stuck shed, the vet will also remove it. Extensive necrosis might require a more invasive treatment like surgery.
In the meantime, you can do a few things to keep your gecko comfortable:
- Check the enclosure parameters like temperature and humidity. If the temperature is on the lower end of normal, bump it up a little. Keep the coldest spot in the vivarium at a stable 75°F. Keep the humidity between 60-80%.
- Keep the enclosure hygienic. Change the substrate and clean the vivarium and feeding ledges.
- Remove potentially dangerous objects in the enclosure. If you’re using a heating rock, consider switching to a night lightbulb to keep your gecko warm.
- Give your gecko a warm bath. Let your crestie soak a bit in warm water. This helps with stuck sheds.
- Analyze and improve your gecko’s diet if necessary. Are you using a cheap MRP? Well, even if your gecko is at a healthy weight, it might not get all the nutrients it needs or not in sufficient quantities. Look for high-quality gecko powders that contain plenty of minerals and vitamins A and D3.
Is Necrosis Treatable in Crested Geckos?
Yes, necrosis isn’t a death sentence. If caught early, necrosis is treatable, and your crestie can still live a healthy life. However, once necrosis progresses to the internal organs, the survival rate drops drastically. That’s why prompt treatment is so important.
Unfortunately, necrosis treatment involves amputating the dead tissue. Your vet will surgically remove the necrotized areas, such as the tip of the tail, toes, or even entire limbs, if necessary. In that sense, necrosis is irreversible.
Once cells and tissues are completely dead and rotting, you can’t do anything to reverse that. We can’t bring dead cells back to life. The only solution is to cut off the affected area to prevent the infection from spreading.
Is Necrosis Deadly for Crested Geckos?
If left untreated, necrosis can lead to life-threatening symptoms and conditions. Remember, the most common cause of necrosis is infection. Even if the infection only seems to affect the tail, it could also spread internally and cause organ damage.
Necrotizing tissue might also lead to sudden septic shock if the infection enters the bloodstream. Signs of internal infection in geckos include:
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Cold and pale skin
- Rapid breathing
- Changes in stool consistency
If your crestie exhibits these symptoms, there are higher chances of a poor treatment prognosis. In any case, consulting a vet is always a good idea! Treatment options may still be available. Alternatively, the vet could help keep your gecko comfortable if the disease has progressed too far.
Is Necrosis Contagious to Humans or Other Pets?
Tissue necrosis is rarely contagious, especially between different species. Even human-specific conditions such as necrotizing fasciitis are rarely infectious from one person to another. The chances of you getting a flesh-eating disorder from your gecko are even smaller. However, it’s worth exercising caution.
If your crestie has bacterial or fungal necrosis, I recommend keeping it separate from other geckos. Also, practicing good hygiene habits when interacting with your reptile pets is a good idea.
Even if necrosis isn’t contagious, there are plenty of other harmful bacteria lurking in a gecko’s enclosure. Reptiles naturally carry salmonella in their intestines. Contact with a gecko’s fecal bacteria can cause infections in humans and other animals.
Necrosis is an easily-identifiable health problem thanks to its outward symptoms. A gecko with tissue necrosis will develop small black spots, typically on its extremities. As the necrosis progresses, the black spot spreads toward the rest of the body. If left untreated, necrosis can cause organ damage and septic shock.
Multiple factors can lead to necrosis in geckos, including injury, infections, blood clots, incomplete shedding, and improper diet and environmental factors. Once infected, the disease progresses rapidly. Necrosis is treatable if caught early, although treatment usually involves amputating the necrotized area.