Leopard Geckos are one of the top most popular reptiles kept as pets in the United States. Traditionally, Leopard Geckos are thought of as relatively easy pets to care for. They require a small enclosure (15-20 gallon tank), a temperature gradient of about 70-80 degrees, and a diet of crickets or mealworms. However, perhaps the most important aspect of keeping your Leopard Gecko as happy and healthy as possible is providing proper humidity.
Naples, an adult Leopard Gecko, was brought in recently for inappetence. They had purchased her from a pet store a year ago, but recently over the past three weeks she had deteriorated quickly. Leopard Geckos have evolved to be able to store excess energy reserves within their tails; therefore, an important indicator of a healthy Leopard Gecko is a fat tail. Despite Naples’ owners best efforts, as Naples’ refused to eat, her tail reduced in size significantly, and she became very weak.
Upon physical examination, Dr. Plomin discovered that Naples was suffering from dysecdysis, a condition that occurs when a reptile has problems shedding its skin. This is a fairly common occurrence in Leopard Geckos and is caused by an environment that is too dry. Providing proper hiding areas filled with damp moss will help prevent the problem in the future by creating localized areas of higher humidity.
In the case of Naples, she had not been able to shed appropriately for a while, leading to retained skin over her face, mouth and digits. With layers of dead skin covering her eyes, nose and mouth; Naples became unable to see, smell or eat her food. This was likely the primary factor leading to her anorexia and weight loss. Retained skin over all digits was also present, causing entire toes and parts of toes to become constricted and devitalized. This is extremely painful and is often also associated with signs of lethargy and a decreased appetite.
Naples required the constricted bands of tissue to be carefully dissected off in the hospital after soaking for about 10 minutes in lukewarm water. Fluids and a vitamin injection were given under the skin to treat her dehydration and nutritional deficiencies, pain control was initiated, and recommendations to improve the general care were made. After a few days we are pleased to report that Naples began eating and is gaining her weight back in her route to a full recovery!