My leopard gecko has a front foot that appears to be swollen. When looking closer, it seems that he may not be bending

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Customer: My leopard gecko has a front foot that appears to be swollen. When looking closer, it seems that he may not be bending his "knee" on his back leg, either (same side). What could be wrong? What should I do?
Answered by Jav917 in 4 hours 12 years ago
Pet Specialist

27,324 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary


Soory you had to wait for an answer, but the Experts come on at different times and I just signed on and had see you have been waiting. I have a few questions for you.

Can you tell me about your set up?


Hides? Moist?




Do you have a Herp Vet?


The gecko is in an aquarium. The substrate is sand. I recently replenished it and the only sand the store had was calcium sand (which had a picture of a leopard gecko on it...) - after reading around last night, it sounds like I need to get rid of the sand due to danger of impaction. But that is a separate problem.

The gecko sheds every two or three weeks and doesn't seem to have had any problems. His skin is dry. according to the gages on the side of the tank, the temperature in the aquarium is about 78F. The humidity is about 68. There is an under tank heater on one side of the aquarium. His "cave" is on the other side of the aquarium. My son bought a new "cave" a couple weeks ago that has a place for water on the top. It has a lower profile than the old "cave" and it is harder to see the gecko inside when he is hiding.

We feed the gecko crickets and dust them with calcium powder. Somedays he will eat two crickets, other days he will go a couple days without eating any.

I noticed a while ago (month or two?) that when he walked one or two of his legs would move very slowly and shake (tremble?) while he was placing it forward. I couldn't tell you whether it was the same leg(s) or not.

No vet.


I suspect what you are seeing has several possibilities. The first being retained shed that is constricting the blood flow and causing swelling, the next issue could be an infection in the leg, and lastly this could be MBD Metabolic Bone disease. In any case this will need to be seen by a Herp Vet to properly diagnose the problem so it can be treated. A hands on exam will help yo find what has caused this and the proper care. Right now I am going to suggest a fisrt aid measure. Please give you Leo a soak in 1/2 warm water and 1/2 plain Pedialyte up under the legs for about 20 mins. This will help the Leo to use the legs as well as preven dehydraion. It will also help loosen any retained shed. I will be happy to locate a Herp For you with state and zipcode. I am also going to give you my care sheet to help with husbandry. Joan Sand Impaction


Leopard Gecko Care Sheet

The Leopard Gecko is originally from Pakistan, India, and a few other countries in Asia. They actually live on hard rocky outcrops and they are nocturnal (active at night). They prefer temperatures between 82 and 88 degrees all day and night. They grow to between 8 to 11 inches. Leopard Geckos are available in a wide range of colors and patterns which are the result of selective captive breeding. These include albino, ghost, striped, jungle, Leucistic and high yellow. These colors have been made possible through selective captive breeding. Leopard Geckos make wonderful pets for almost any age person. Leopard Geckos also make good long term pets. They can live over twenty years. Never grab by tail it will break off. Leopard Gecko Housing: A male Leopard Gecko should never be housed in the same cage as another male leopard gecko because they will fight and possibly kill one another. A male can be housed with several females without any problems. I do not advise housing leopard geckos in the same cage with any other reptiles. A single Leopard Gecko can be kept in a ten gallon tank. For a male and a few females a twenty gallon tank or larger should be used. The cage should have a screen lid on top of it to prevent any escapes. Leopard geckos need places to hide and sleep during the day so you must provide a couple of hiding spots. They need a warm hiding spot and a cold humid hiding spot. Just put one hide box on the side with the heat light and put the humid hide box on the side that does not have the heat light. I actually prefer an under the tank heater for heat source rather than a light since the geckos are Nocturnal. For the humid hide box, Paper Towels work well and easily replaced inside a hide box. You can make your own humid hide box from a small plastic shoe box or from a margarine conatiner. Cut a hole in one end of the container and place moist paper towel inside it. The humid box should be cleaned out every week and re moistened. A humid hide box is needed so that the gecko can go in it when it needs to shed. The humidity helps the old skin come off.
Substrate: There is an abundance of products on the market that claim to be safe substrates. All Loose Substrates (Please note the link above) however are not safe to use. A substrate is what you put on the bottom of the cage for the lizard to walk around on. If a Leopard Gecko ingests any of the substrate accidentally, the substrate must pass through the digestive system. Trust me they will ingest substrate, sometimes on purpose. If it does not easily pass through the digestive system compaction will occur. Compaction is an extreme blockage of the digestive tract and is often fatal. Some substrates that I consider unsafe because they can cause compaction are: sand, bark, Calci sand, crushed walnut shells, lizard litter, gravel, aquarium gravel, and coconut fiber. The safest substrate is using paper towels or plain newspaper, non-stick shelf liner , cage carpet or ceramic tile. For any leopard geckos that are younger than six months I advise using paper towels or plain newspaper until they are at least six months old. Calcium sand is not fully digested no matter what it claims. The stuff just does not break down completely. . Leopard Gecko Heating and Temperature: The cage should be between 82 to 88 degrees all day and night. There is two basic ways to heat the cage. One is to use a under tank heater like heat tape. The other is to use a black, or blue night incandescent heat light. I prefer to use a heat light. For a 10 gallon tank a 60 watt bulb should work depending on room temperature. Place the heat light on one end of the cage. By putting the heat light on one end of the cage it keeps that side warmest and allows the gecko to move to the warmer side with the light or to the colder side without the light as needed to regulate body temperature.
NEVER EVER USE A HOT ROCK, HEAT ROCK, OR ANY SIMILAR PRODUCT. Hot rocks heat unevenly and are notorious for causing terrible thermal burns. Do not buy a hot rock and if you know anyone who uses one, tell them to throw it away. Leopard Gecko Feeding: Leopard Geckos will do very well on a diet of mealworms and crickets. I like to provide some variety in feeder insects to create a more balanced diet. Feeder insects I use are silkworms, mealworms, roaches and crickets with the legs on one side of the body pulled off. Crickets will bite your geckos while they sleep, these bites are prone to infection, so if you pull off one side of their legs then they cannot move around the cage and get to the gecko and also this prevents the crickets from climbing out of the cage. Gut load feeder insects for at least a day before putting them in with the gecko. Feed geckos insects that are not larger than the width of the head of the gecko.
Adults can be fed superworms, though I advise only feeding a couple superworms at a time. Leopard Gecko Vitamin/Mineral Supplement: For young geckos dust the feeder insects every other feeding or place a small feeder dish with supplement in it and some mealworms in the cage. For adults and babies place a shallow dish or a plastic lid in the cage with a teaspoon of calcium powder on it. The gecko will lick the calcium powder as needed. You still need to dust feeder insects every other feeding though with a vitamin supplement for young geckos. Adults use vitamin supplement once a week. Leopard Gecko Water: Use a shallow water bowl, fill with water as needed. Remove bowl from cage and clean out weekly.

Do Not Feed Pinkies

I have soaked the gecko - it may have helped mobility a little for awhile.
I'm still thinking about all the other things you put in your reply and wondering whether my crickets aren't nutritious enough. What do you gut load your crickets with? I have mostly fed ours carrots and apples. What is the vitamin supplement you refer to in your care sheet? Do I need to give that in addition to the calcium powder?

I have moved the gecko to a room that is a few degrees warmer to see if that helps, too.

I am in TX. Zip code 77401.


I acually will use dry pet food as well as fish food to gut load my crickets. As for vitamins, I use Reptomin 2 times a week. The calcium should be in the tank at all times in a small dish. This link will take you to the Herp Vets in your area:

Please let me know if you need further help. Joan

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