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Dr Gwen
Dr Gwen, Reptile Veterinarian
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 494
Experience:  Over ten years experience with variety of reptiles, including pets and large collections
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My daughter has an African fat tailed gecko. He has stopped

Resolved Question:

My daughter has an African fat tailed gecko. He has stopped eating and is becoming very thin. You can see his backbone and his tail is shrinking in size. We don't know what to do with him. We don't have any local vets that will work with lizards. Any thots?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Reptile
Expert:  Dr Gwen replied 1 year ago.

Dr Gwen :

Hello, welcome to Just Answer. I will do my best to help you and Rex today - how long has it been since his last meal? Also, can you describe the cage and temperature that you have him in?

Customer:

he's in a 10 gal aquarium with a UV bulb and an under cage heater. It's been about a week that he hasn't eaten.

Customer:

but he didn't eat well before that. Maybe 1 cricket

Customer:

I am unsure of the time frame since my daughter is his primary caretaker

Dr Gwen :

Okay, thanks for the information. It can be challenging to keep some reptiles in captivity - they have some demanding husbandry requirements, and often when they stop eating or become ill, it can be traced back to a basic husbandry need. Proper substrate, heat, humidity, and diet should be evaluated. Has your daughter owned the gecko for a long time?

Customer:

She's had a leopard gecko for several years and had Rex since
Sept

Dr Gwen :

It sounds like she does have some good gecko experience if she has had the leopard gecko for awhile. I know you mentioned that there are not any local vets that work with lizards, but would any of them be willing to help you with giving medications or tube feeding the fat tailed gecko?

Customer:

I'm sure I could find one

Dr Gwen :

As far as what you can do at home, I would start with evaluating the husbandry basics. The aquarium and under tank heater are good housing options. Because reptiles are cold-blooded and rely on their environment to control body temperature it is important that the heat source remains at approximately 90F and is situated at one end. This will give the gecko the ability to thermo regulate by moving from the heat source to a cooler area of the enclosure ranging in the high 70’s to low 80’s. In other words do not heat the entire enclosure. African fat-tailed geckos should be exposed to light for 10-12 hours per day but because they are nocturnal they do not require a UVB light.

Dr Gwen :

African fat-tailed geckos are nocturnal so shelters within their enclosure will provide them with a peaceful retreat to sleep or hide in. These can be as elaborate as you like or can be as simple as a plastic container turned upside down with a door cut into it to allow the geckos passage. At least one of these hide areas should be kept moist, to assist the shedding process, using damp paper towel or moss. I recommend putting the dry shelter close to the heat source while the moist hide is placed at the cool end. African fat-tailed geckos require a slightly more humid enclosure then leopard geckos, so mist the enclosure a few times a week.

Customer:

ok

Dr Gwen :

African fat-tailed gecko’s diet typically consists of crickets and/or mealworms. They may also readily accept silkworms, waxworms or pinkie mice, but these food items should only be given as a supplement as they are high in fat content. Geckos that are under 4 months should be fed about 5 crickets every day and juveniles and adults should be fed about 9 crickets or mealworms three times a week. Crickets should be appropriately sized for the gecko. Insects should be gutloaded with a commercial gutload product as well as leafy greens such as endive, dandelions or romaine lettuce. Gutloading ultimately means that the prey insect is acting as a vehicle to pass on beneficial nutrients to your gecko. Food items should be dusted with calcium powder at every feeding and a supplementary vitamin should be dusted with around once a week.

Dr Gwen :

What is the substrate that you have Rex on?

Customer:

it's like a red woody substance that stays moist

Customer:

you buy it in a brick and soak it in water and it expands

Dr Gwen :

Is there a chance he could have swallowed some of it while eating?

Customer:

It's kind of big for that but I guess it's possible

Dr Gwen :

Okay, if it seems big then that would be less likely. I have seen many geckos with sand impactions from swallowing their substrate while eating.

Customer:

Nope, no sand

Dr Gwen :

since it has been awhile from his last meal, it is possible that Rex is a bit dehydrated. You can start by giving him a soak in warm water in a shallow container

Customer:

he could be. his water dish is always empty so I don't know how much is evaporation and how much he's using

Dr Gwen :

After about 20 min in the bath, put him back in his cage and offer him some live food - crickets or mealworms

Customer:

ok

Dr Gwen :

If he is unwilling to eat at that point, I think you will need to have some veterinary assistance with starting force feeding/tube feeding. I generally use a special diet formulated for sick reptiles called Critical Care. If your vets do not see reptiles they likely do not have this diet, in which case you can use some meat-based baby food and dilute it with some warm pedialyte

Customer:

What does the warm soaking do for him?

Dr Gwen :

The warm soak will help rehydrate him if he is dehydrated, and if he is constipated it will help him defecate.

Customer:

ok we will do that then

Dr Gwen :

Ideally, your vet can supply you with a syringe and small tube to gently give the food/liquid into the gecko, and show you how this is done safely. It will also be important to continue to offer his regular food items so that once he is feeling better he has an opportunity to eat.

Customer:

ok

Dr Gwen :

Good luck with Rex, I hope he starts eating for you soon!

Customer:

Thank you

Dr Gwen, Reptile Veterinarian
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 494
Experience: Over ten years experience with variety of reptiles, including pets and large collections
Dr Gwen and 2 other Reptile Specialists are ready to help you

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Dr Gwen
Dr Gwen
Veterinarian
9 Satisfied Customers
Over ten years experience with variety of reptiles, including pets and large collections