Why does our 2yr old gecko keep rolling on its back? It had been lethargic for a few days prior. If it's dieing, is

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Customer: Why does our 2yr old gecko keep rolling on its back? It had been lethargic for a few days prior. If it's dieing, is there something we can do to ease its pain?
Answered by Anna in 2 hours 12 years ago
30+ years of experience

17,044 satisfied customers

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


I'm sorry to see that no one has responded to your question earlier. Different experts come online at various times; I just came online and saw your question.

Some additional information will be useful.

How long has it been like this? Has it eaten anything recently?

Has it been passing any droppings?

Is this a leopard gecko, or some other type?

What temperature do you maintain in the cage?

What substrate do you use on the floor?

Do you give a calcium supplement? If yes, does it also have vitamin D3 in it?

Thank you.


It's been acting like this (rolling on its back) 1-2 days. Lethargic for a few days prior to that. I don't think it has eaten anything in the last few days. It lays on its back for quite sometime and looks like its dead.


Last night it passed a little liquid (some clear and then a little brown) as it rolled.


This is a leopard gecko. The temp on the warm side is about 90 degrees. He's been staying exclusively on the warm side, but I don't know that he'd be able to walk even if he wanted to.


We use a sand substrate. I can't remember if it's a calci-sand or not and I'm not home to look at the bag right now.


We've been sporadic about giving him a calcium supplement. I think it has D3 in it, but would have to look at the packaging to be sure.


Our guess is that the gecko is impacted.


Thank you for getting back to me. I suspect that you're right about impaction. A first aid measure that may help is to give your gecko a special soak. Buy some Pedialyte (made for human infants and available in discount stores and pharmacies). Prepare a shallow bath consisting of 1/2 Pedialyte and 1/2 warm water. Soak the gecko for 20 to 30 minutes. After soaking him for the first 10 minutes, and with him still in the water, gently massage his underside from front to vent for an additional 10 minutes. That may help him pass droppings. The soak will also help with any dehydration that has occurred. Repeat this twice a day. Be sure to supervise closely.

The pet store sand (whether calci-sand or not) substrate is not good. Despite the fact that it is highly recommended by the stores, more often than not, it leads to impaction. A solid substrate, such as reptile carpet or ceramic tile, is best.Get rid of the sand right away, and use paper towels until you can buy something else. If you’d like to see the results of using sand with lizards, you can take a look at the following site. The photos are graphic, so if such things bother you, you may not want to look.


If the gecko doesn't pass droppings and perk up after a few soaks, it would be best to take it to a reptile vet. This link will take you to a directory of them:


I’m also sending along a care sheet, courtesy of Joan, another of our experts. You can use it as a checklist to make sure all the conditions are right. If you have more questions, just let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope your gecko will reach a full recovery.


(If you find my answer helpful, please click on the green ACCEPT button. Thank you.)

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 (28* to 31*C) 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 container. 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 know there's no absolutes, but in your experience what's the likelihood of a gecko recovering from this from just our treatment? And how long might it take? Also, I've read giving the gecko mineral oil or olive oil. Do you think that might help?


Thanks so much for your time and help. This has been quite tramatic for my son.

You're welcome. I've seen several geckos begin to pass large amounts of sand and waste using only the soaks. If the gecko does start doing that, it may take several days of repeated soaks/massages to get all of the sand out. An estimate would be that it works about 50% of the time, if the owner is consistent.

I didn't suggest oil because your gecko isn't eating. If he will eat something, you can dip the prey insect in olive oil, then feed it. If you force oil into the gecko, it's likely to end up in the lungs and cause pneumonia. You can put a little oil into his vent (where droppings pass), and if you can get your finger in his mouth, you could smear a few drops inside his mouth.

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