My adult leopard gecko is not eating! I saw changes in appetite around two months ago! I don’t think so! Kahlua. I don’t

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Customer: My adult leopard gecko is not eating!
JA: I'll do all I can to help. When did you first notice this decrease in the leopard gecko's appetite? Any changes in energy?
Customer: I saw changes in appetite around two months ago!
JA: Does the leopard gecko seem to be in any pain?
Customer: I don’t think so!
JA: What's the leopard gecko's name?
Customer: Kahlua
JA: Is there anything else the Vet should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: I don’t think so!
Answered by Dr. Caryn – Vet in 17 hours 11 months ago
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Dr. Caryn – Vet
Pet Specialist
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2,228 satisfied customers

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

Hello and thanks for posting your question on JustAnswer.com. My name is***** and I have been a veterinarian in the US 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 Kahlua may be under the weather and is not eating. If this has been going on for 2 months, then that certainly is a concern. Are there any other signs you are seeing - lower energy level, weight loss, etc.? When did he completely stop eating?

With any sick gecko, it is always a good idea to start by checking that their environment and husbandry are proper for their species. Taking a physical measurement of the temperature gradient within the enclosure and measuring humidity with a hygrometer are a good idea. Making sure the UVB bulb is appropriate for the size of the space and has been changed regularly. Even if they are still producing visible light, UVB bulbs have a limited lifespan and need to be changed every 6-12 months, depending upon bulb type. Making sure diet is varied and the insects have been gut loaded with a nutritious gut-loading diet as well as dusted regularly with calcium and multivitamin powder. Therefore, I am attaching a leopard gecko care (husbandry) reference sheet that I put together. Please review it at your convenience and let me know if you have any questions.

There are a number of reasons why your leopard gecko may not be eating a normal amount of food. Some of them are transient and may be normal while others are more concerning and warrant a veterinary evaluation. Leopard geckos may not eat normally due to emotional or physiological stress. Changes in environment such a new tank or changes in décor, or changes in lighting, temperature or diet might trigger temporary disinterest in food. Brumation, a normal, seasonal depression of appetite and energy that leopard geckos can (but may never) experience especially if not exposed to lower temperatures or shorted light cycles. Geckos kept with other geckos may be bullied by a more dominant individual. The stress or physical intimidation may prevent a more submissive gecko from eating. Close observation of interaction between geckos is important and this may require separate feeding bowls, tank partitions or even separate housing.

Improper lighting (too little visible light or UVB light) or temperature can negatively impact appetite. As cold-blooded animals, leopard geckos require sufficient temperatures for proper digestion. Before and after shedding, appetite may be down. Shedding is energy intensive and potentially itchy and uncomfortable so while they will commonly not eat during the shedding process, their appetites may be depressed just before and after shedding as well. Appetite may also slow down in leopard geckos as their growth rate slows down, such as a transition from baby to juvenile or juvenile to adult though you did mention Kahlua is an adult. (How old is he?)

Some abnormal causes for appetite depression include mouth rot (infectious stomatitis), trauma, sickness (bacterial, parasitic, nutritional (metabolic bone disease, hypovitaminosis A)), indigestion or maldigestion, and gastrointestinal impaction. The bot***** *****ne is that if your adult leopard gecko is otherwise acting and looking normally and the appetite depression is temporary then it may be normal. However, if the leopard gecko is displaying any other signs of illness such as weakness, lethargy, sunken eyes, skin discoloration, abnormal defecation or urination or the depressed appetite persists more than a few days (which sounds like the case with Kahlua), then a visit to a local veterinarian with experience in reptile medicine is warranted.

To find a local veterinarian with reptile experience, here is a useful website you can use to search for a local reptile veterinarian:

https://arav.site-ym.com/search/

(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.

It’s especially important if your leopard gecko is sick or injured to make sure that their tank is clean, food is fresh and prepared hygienically and that the temperature is appropriate and that your UV-B bulb is in proper working condition. Here are some additional recommendations of how you can support your ill leopard gecko while they are under the weather or awaiting a veterinary evaluation:

-Keep them warm. If they’re not moving around much on their own, place them in an area of the tank that is around 85F (30C), but not on top of a hot rock or under the hottest basking area as they can overheat or get burned.

-To prevent or treat dehydration, you can give your leopard gecko a soak in a shallow dish of warm water (85-90F, 30-32C) for 15-30 minutes once or twice a day. Dry them off after the bath so they don't cool off too much.

-Make sure you wash your hands with warm water and soap after handling your gecko or her cage furniture.

-If your gecko has diarrhea, increasing the frequency of cleaning inside the cage with a reptile safe disinfectant will help avoid cross contamination and repeat infection (if it is infectious). You can consider lining the tank with disposable unbleached paper towels or newspaper while they have diarrhea to make clean up easier.

-Offer food, even if not eating. If your leopard gecko is having difficulty reaching or getting to their food, put the food dish next to them or you can also hand or tong feed them. Place an insect gently against their lips and if they are hungry, they will bite at it. If not, don’t force it.

If needed (if inappetence is prolonged), you can assist feed whole, calcium or multivitamin dusted insects (I recommend removing their heads first) or you can syringe feed them a replacement formula like ReptaBoost by Fluker's but go slowly and don't feed too quickly to prevent choking. If you’ve never done this before there are some good online videos that you can watch first such as these:

Assist feeding an insect by hobbyist Garrett Rose (I do recommend pinching the insects head off first so it is dead before assist feeding if your gecko is sick or lethargic so they are not injured by the insect):

https://youtu.be/cN5Uaoqmrg4

Syringe feeding by exotic pet veterinarian Dr. Kristin Britton:

https://youtu.be/Fq0fGmLNP-4

-Limit and be gentle with handling. If they have MBD they are more susceptible to injury as their bones are likely weakened so limit handling and limit time out of her enclosure to avoid injury. If you must lift or remove them from their tank, go slowly and support their weight from underneath with your palm.

-Calcium supplementation. It is important to still offer calcium and vitamin supplements if they are eating.

If they are weak because they are experiencing a severe calcium deficiency related to Metabolic Bone Disease or dietary insufficiency, you can buy a liquid calcium supplement at the pet store and give them a drop into their mouth once a day and this should help, but isn't a replacement for a veterinary evaluation and treatment.

Fluker's Liquid Calcium Reptile Supplement

Zilla Calcium Supplement Reptile Food Spray

It is also a good idea to re-evaluate your current husbandry practices as some common disorders, such as metabolic bone disease, are caused by deficiencies or imbalances in diet, UVB lighting and calcium/vitamin supplementation. Therefore, I have already attached a general leopard gecko care sheet for you to review. Thanks.

I should be notified if/when you respond with additional information so we can connect about your leopard gecko Kahlua 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, ***** *****

Customer
Thank you for all the information! There is no sign of low energy! He drinks water regularly and lays in the water regularly! There was a period of time of a swollen mouth but it decreased! He doesn’t want to eat worms or even the liquid substitute substance! There is no weight loss! He won’t eat his skin when he shades! He is still pretty active! There has been a little dark line between his lips!

Since they get most of their water from their food, he is probably drinking more to make up for not eating, so that is good, but may also indicate there is an underlying health problem. They will often drink more if they are ill (gout, kidney or liver disease, etc.)

I'm wondering if he has mouth rot? If you are seeing darkness between his lips and his mouth was swollen. Top causes would be mouth rot (or metabolic bone disease can cause jaw swelling but it usually doesn't resolve on its own).

Customer
How do I treat a mouth rot? Is it fatal?

“Mouth Rot” or infectious stomatitis is a bacterial infection inside the mouth which can affect the jawbone, teeth and gums. If the infection spreads or prevents eating, then yes it can be fatal. However if caught early enough and treated appropriately most geckos can recover well.

It can present as redness in the mouth, swelling of the gums or jaw, increased oral mucus or discharge from the mouth or nares (nostrils), and pocket of infection or abscesses in the mouth that may be filled with off-white caseous material (the drier, reptile equivalent of pus). Geckos with mouth rot may show signs other signs such as poor appetite or weight loss because it is painful or difficult for them to eat. Mouth rot can be related to poor diet or periodontal disease that leads to build up of calculus, gingivitis (gum inflammation), gum loss and infection of soft tissue and bone.

If you suspect your leopard gecko has mouth rot, you should make an appointment for an evaluation by a veterinarian experienced with reptile medicine. They will perform an examination and may recommend imaging, such as x-rays. If an oral lesion is found it will be cleaned of debris and samples collected for testing. Treatment depends upon cause but may involve flushing and topical care of the mouth wound, systemic antibiotics (oral or injectable) and oral care, which might include a dental cleaning and oral antiseptic for you to use at home to keep the mouth clean.

Proper husbandry such as appropriate diet, housing, temperature, cage cleaning/cleanliness and lighting are all important to prevent underlying conditions that can lead to mouth rot. Therefore, I have earlier attached a leopard gecko care sheet that I put together. Please review it at your convenience and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks.

So a trip to a local reptile-experienced veterinarian for a check-up is recommended.

To find a local veterinarian with reptile experience, here is a useful website you can use to search for a local reptile veterinarian:

https://arav.site-ym.com/search/

(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.

-Mouth rot typically involves the teeth and jaw bone, so it is not easily treated at home without first having veterinary evaluation and treatment to clean out the infection. Once treated by the veterinarian, your animal may be placed on antibiotics and the vet may ask you to flush the infected area with a disinfectant solution, such as diluted povidone iodine (Betadine solution) or chlorhexidine. Flushing without first cleaning out the diseased tissue will likely not be effective at clearing the infection. However if there is a delay in your ability to take your lizard to the vet, you can try gently cleaning or irrigating the affected area 1-2 times per day with a dilute solution of povidone iodine. You can purchase this over the counter as Betadine Solution (make sure it is the solution and not the scrub, which contains detergent). Dilute with tap water until it is a light tea color. Gently flush the area or wipe the are with a soaked cotton tipped applicator. Try to avoid getting much of the solution inside the mouth and you might tip the lizard gently to its side to encourage the solution to run off rather than in the mouth.

Customer
Thank you very much for all this information! I will make an appointment with the veterinarian! Would that be an in-person meeting? Would I have to bring my gecko?

Yes, they need an in-person examination with a reptile experienced veterinarian. If they have mouth rot, the vet would need to examine them, may need to clean out areas of disease in the mouth and will need to start them on treatment, which is prescription only (antibiotics) and perhaps pain meds as well.

Customer
Alright, thank you very much for your information and help! I really appreciate it!

You are most welcome. My sincere best to you and Kahlua.

And I hope you have a very Happy New Year!

Thanks again for using JustAnswer.com

Sincerely, ***** *****

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