Hello and thanks for posting your question on JustAnswer.com. My name is***** and I have been a veterinarian for over 21 years, specializing in aquatics, reptiles, amphibians, avian and other exotic species. You may already be aware, but on this platform veterinarians can provide insight and advice, but as this is not considered a legal client-patient relationship, we are unable to prescribe medications, provide medical records or sign documents for your specific pet. For that you would need to make an in person visit with a local veterinarian. I am happy to chat with you via text but if you are interested in a phone call instead that is an option you can choose for an additional charge. In the meantime, I am putting together some questions and/or suggestions to help with your pet’s concern.
I am sorry to hear that your leopard gecko Cindy has been losing weight.
She is still eating well?
What is she fed and does she get any supplements (calcium and multivitamins)?
Has she been pooping and has it appeared normal?
What temperature gradient (cool, warm and hottest basking) is her enclosure kept at?
Any other signs you are noticing other than weight loss?
Thanks very much for providing additional information, it is very helpful for me to try and figure out what is going on with your leopard gecko and the history information will help me to do that.
Causes of weight loss include parasite infections (sometimes causing "stick tail" in which their tail fat is lost from weight loss) or other disorders that might cause depressed appetite such as metabolic bone disease (nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism), mouth rot (infectious stomatitis), hypovitaminosis A (vitamin A deficiency), chronic malnutrition, or gastrointestinal impaction.
I think that if your husbandry conditions are good, but that he is not eating well or is eating well but still losing weight, then a visit to a local veterinarian with reptile experience is probably a good idea. They will examine Cindy and look for causes of the weight loss and will probably want to do a fecal examination to look for parasites.
To find a local veterinarian with reptile experience, here is a useful website you can use to search for a local reptile veterinarian:
(please note this site may not work on older browsers like Safari)
These veterinarians are active members of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians, which means they have interest and experience in treating reptile patients.
Many of the more common disorders I see in leopard geckos are directly or indirectly related to unintentionally improper husbandry. So for that reason I put together this care sheet as a quick reference. Please review it at your convenience and feel free to ask me any questions.
It's important that you provide leopard gecko with optimal environment:
Leopard geckos evolved in the arid, mountainous deserts of Asia and the Middle East. With good care leopard geckos can live 8-10 years or more and make excellent pets. It is typically recommended to house them singly, though sometimes it is possible to keep breeding pairs together but only if they are the same type of gecko.
-Temperature: Temperature is very important for keeping your gecko healthy with a gradient of temperature from cool to warm. Daytime temperature range with a cool side at 78-80F (25.6-26.7C), a warm side at 85-90 (29.4-32.2C) and a very warm, focal basking area of 90-94F (32.2-34.5C). A nighttime temperature range of 68-90F (21-32C) is recommended. Heat lamps or ceramic heat emitters are safe options for providing tank heating. Under tank heaters or hot rocks are not recommended as they can lead to thermal burns and do not heat the air as effectively. 30-40% humidity is recommended in the main enclosure, however the moist hide should have a higher humidity of 70-80%. Although they are from an arid region, having sufficient humidity is important to respiratory and skin issues and not too much humidity is important to prevent secondary infections from moisture loving microbes.
-Lighting: In addition to tank lighting that supplies UVA and visible light exposure, leopard geckos require UVB exposure to maintain proper health, even though they are crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk). UVB lighting of 2-5% UVB for 10-12 hours a day is recommended. The cage should not be lit at night. Just as with temperature, their enclosure should have a gradient of UVB exposure with no UVB at the coolest end and highest at the basking spot. To avoid over supplementing, at least ¼ of the tank should not be directly illuminated with UVB light. You can prevent oversupplementation of UVB by placing the UVB bulb at one end of the enclosure (typically the warm end) and fixed at the high end of the recommended distance to the surface for that type of bulb. Distance from the UVB bulb is vital as it dictates how much UVB exposure an animal will receive in the basking site. Distance depends upon the type and UVB output of the bulb. The most common types of UVB bulbs used with leopard geckos are the compact fluorescent (CFL), linear fluorescent or mercury vapor bulbs. For example, a CFL or linear fluorescent 10.0 bulb should be placed no more than 16-18" from the basking site while a 5.0 bulb should be placed 12” or less. A mercury vapor bulb can be used in a larger enclosure due to its greater depth of UVB penetration, up to 3 feet. The mercury vapor bulb’s wattage dictates the heat output of these dual use bulbs it does not change the UV penetration. There should be no glass or acrylic between the bulb and the surface as these will block UV light. Note that metal screening between the bulb and the enclosure will cut UVB output of the bulb significantly, sometimes as much as in half. Conversely, UVB light reflectors can improve UVB penetration by bouncing and focusing the UV light produced by the bulb. All UVB bulbs loose effectiveness over time, even if the light still appears to be working, it may no longer be producing UVB. It's recommended that you change the bulbs regularly, compact fluorescent bulbs at least every 6 months, linear fluorescent bulbs and mercury vapor bulbs every 12 months. Some bulbs may last longer but the only way to know for sure if they are still effective is to measure their UV output with a meter that measures UV Index or total UVB.
-Diet: Leopard geckos are insectivorous and should be fed a variety of prey insects, though can also be fed an occasional pinkie mouse. Insects should be gut loaded for at least 12 hours before being fed using a nutritious diet that contains calcium and vitamins A and D3 and should be dusted with calcium powder before feeding. Nutritional insects include black soldier fly larvae (soldier worm larvae), Dubia and cockroaches and the occasional wax worm, mealworm, superworm or silkworms (limit them due to their high fat content). They should also be provided a shallow dish of water for drinking and soaking. The water should be changed and the dish cleaned at least once daily or, more frequently, if soiled.
Crickets are so-so in terms of nutrition so it’s important to vary the type of insects you feed to your leopard gecko. To boost the nutritional value of the feeder insects it is recommend to "gut load" them for at least 24-48 hours prior to feeding them out. That means to feed the insects a nutritious food so that the leopard gecko gets the benefit of that nutrition. Some options for gut loading are:
Mazuri Better Bug Gut Loading Diet
Mazuri Hi Calcium Gut Loading Diet
Repashy SuperLoad Insect Gutload Formula
-Calcium and vitamin supplementation: Calcium and vitamin supplementation is best done in concert with appropriate UVB lighting, as reptiles needs UVB in order to make the active form of Vitamin D needed for proper calcium metabolism.
Insects should be dusted with calcium (only) powder just before feeding at every meal and should be both gut-loaded and calcium dusted always. But to ensure proper health, for about ¼ (25%) of the weekly feeds, substitute a reptile multivitamin powder that contains calcium, vitamin D3 and vitamin A instead of the calcium only powder. (So, if you feed 5-7 days a week, use multivitamin 2x per week and calcium only at all other feeds. If you feed 2-4 times per week use multivitamins once weekly and calcium only at all other feeds). Do not use calcium with vitamin D3 for daily dusting as over supplementation of vitamin D3 can lead to toxicity. Use a calcium only powder. It is better if the reptiles make most of their own vitamin D3 from proper UVB exposure, so make sure to provide proper UVB lighting with bulbs that are in date and at appropriate distance from the basking site.
-Environment. It is recommended that the enclosure be at least 10-20 gallons in size. Care should be taken as to the enclosure substrate as they may potentially ingest loose substrates like sand or crushed walnut shells. Paper towels, newspaper, slate, tile or reptile carpeting are safe alternatives. Make sure to clean the substrate at least every other day or more frequently as it becomes soiled. You should include cage furniture in the enclosure, such as rocks for them to climb, but especially a moist hide box (lined with moistened vermiculite, peat moss or paper towels) since leopard geckos are a shy, crepuscular species, most active at dawn and dusk.
If you have any specific questions about housing or nutrition, please let me know I would be happy to advise.
I should be notified if/when you respond with additional information so we can connect about your leopard gecko Cindy but, in the meantime, I hope this information is helpful and I wish you both the best. Thanks again for posting your question to JustAnswer.com. Sincerely, ***** *****
53F for her tank temperature? That's low, even if you are brumating her. Are you?
If she's brumating, temp should be 60-72, but she shouldn't lose weight during brumation, only a max of 10% body weight or so.
if you are not brumating her, then your tank temperature is way too low. Temperature is very important for keeping your leopard gecko healthy with a gradient of temperature from cool to warm. Daytime temperature range with a cool side at 78-80F (25.6-26.7C), a warm side at 85-90 (29.4-32.2C) and a very warm, focal basking area of 90-94F (32.2-34.5C). A nighttime temperature range of 68-90F (21-32C) is recommended.
If she is in brumation, then 60-72F is a good range, but if you are not, then your tank temperature is way too low for a leopard gecko.
Temperature is very important for keeping your gecko healthy with a gradient of temperature from cool to warm. Daytime temperature range with a cool side at 78-80F (25.6-26.7C), a warm side at 85-90 (29.4-32.2C) and a very warm, focal basking area of 90-94F (32.2-34.5C). A nighttime temperature range of 68-90F (21-32C) is recommended.
So the best type of heat is radient, such as a basking light. You choose which one based on wattage. These also produce visible light as well. If the enclosure at night is too cool, then you can use a under substrate heating pad, though with caution as these can unintentionally cause burns and they don't adequately warm the air, but a ceramic heat emitter is a better option as it produces heat without light. I would avoid using hot rocks as these are likely to cause thermal burns.
The goal is a gradient of heat from cool to warm to warmest basking spot. Since they are ectothermic, cold-blooded, leopard geckos depend upon the heat from their environment for their own body heat and this directly affects their metabolism, digestion and immune function. So she may be losing weight because she cannot properly digest food at such a low ambient temperature.
In addition to basking lights that produce warmth, leopard geckos also require UVB lighting to provide UVB rays which they need for proper calcium metabolism. These are kept on for 12 hours during the day. Does Cindy's tank have UVB lighting?
There should not be any UVB light on at night. There should only be UVB light on during the day. It is not the same bulb as the basking bulb, it is separate. Most common are compact or linear fluorescent UVB bulbs. You should double check (if you are not sure you can take the bulb to your local pet store and they can help you). If it's a basking bulb it will have a wattage, if it's a UVB bulb it will say something like 5.0, 10.0, 15.0 which indicates the UVB strength and dictates how far the bulb should be placed from the bulb to the basking surface. Please see the leopard gecko care sheet above for more information on lighting.
A black spot on her belly could mean she has a bruise or she has a gastric impaction. I do think her issues are secondary to low temperatures. I would strongly recommend taking her to a local reptile experienced veterinarian for an evaluation.
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