Figuring out why your leopard gecko is not eating can be stressful. Not only is there a sense of urgency to figure out the cause of the problem, but there are many potential reasons why they might not have much of an appetite.
This guide will teach you all of the likely reasons why a leopard gecko won’t eat, and help you determine if it’s serious or not.
Table of Contents
- Why Is My Leopard Gecko Not Eating?
- 1. Something’s Wrong With The Temperature
- 2. It Could Be A Fecal Impaction
- 3. Your Leopard Gecko Could Be Feeling Under The Weather
- 4. Does Your Leopard Gecko Have An Injury?
- 5. Maybe Your Gecko Is Having Trouble Seeing Its Food
- 6. It’s Shedding Time Again
- 7. Could Brumation Be The Issue?
- 8. Love Is In The Air
- 9. Something Is Stressing Out Your Gecko
- 10. Odds And Ends
- How To Get Them To Eat
- How Long Leopard Geckos Can Safely Go Without Eating
- When Should You See A Vet?
Why Is My Leopard Gecko Not Eating?
If you notice that your leopard gecko has not been eating, it’s usually nothing to worry about. There are lots of reasons why your pet lizard may have gone off its food, and most of these reasons are not life threatening.
However, it’s good to know as much as you can about your pet and its care, so let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons why your leopard gecko won’t eat.
1. Something’s Wrong With The Temperature
One of the most common reasons why your leopard gecko is not eating is that there is something off in its environment. If the temperature in your gecko’s enclosure drops to below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, then your gecko’s metabolism is going to slow down, and it will stop eating. It’s super important to maintain a consistent and correct temperature inside the enclosure, so you’ll need to monitor it every day.
2. It Could Be A Fecal Impaction
In the same way that people can become a little constipated from an improper diet, your leopard gecko can suffer from a fecal impaction. If you notice that your gecko has not moved its bowels in a few days, it could have an impaction. This impaction can cause your leopard gecko to stop eating because it feels uncomfortable and can’t move its bowels.
What kind of things can cause a fecal impaction? Sometimes your gecko will accidentally swallow pieces of substrate, and these pieces can get stuck in the digestive system. In most cases, however, an impaction happens when a gecko eats some kind of food that’s hard to digest.
Have you been feeding your gecko a lot of superworms lately? If so, this could be causing an impaction. Superworms, while they’re a gecko favorite, are notoriously hard to digest. Fecal impactions can also be caused by urate plugs that block the flow of fecal matter.
Fecal impactions can be very serious and should not be ignored. Signs of a serious impaction include severe lethargy, weight loss, a tail that’s getting thinner and extreme appetite loss. Gently probing your gecko’s belly will let you feel for an impaction. Severe impactions need to be treated by a veterinarian as they can cause death in a few weeks.
If you do feel an impaction, then you can bathe your gecko in warm water as you gently massage its tummy. This may help the impaction to break up and move out.
3. Your Leopard Gecko Could Be Feeling Under The Weather
Another common cause for a leopard gecko not eating is some kind of illness. There are any number of conditions that can cause a gecko to stop eating, and some of them may require a vet’s attention. Knowing what to look for is important as an owner, so let’s take a brief look at some of the more common leopard gecko illnesses.
Metabolic Bone Disease
Metabolic bone disease, also known as MBD, is a common affliction among reptiles. It happens when a reptile doesn’t receive enough calcium or Vitamin D, and it can cause symptoms such as lethargy, brittle bones, pain and even paralysis. If your leopard gecko is suffering from even a mild form of metabolic bone disease, then it may be too weak or in too much pain to eat. Providing your gecko with the correct nutritional supplements will help prevent this disease.
Illness in a leopard gecko is often caused by some form of parasitic infection. Parasites that commonly plague leopard geckos include pinworms and Cryptosporidium saurophilum. These, and other parasites, can wreak havoc to your gecko’s digestive system. Not eating, diarrhea, weight loss, and lethargy are common symptoms. If you think that your leopard gecko may have parasites, then you’ll want to schedule an appointment with your vet right away.
A respiratory infection may be causing your leopard gecko to stop eating. In the same way that you may not really feel like eating when you have a bad cold, leopard geckos will often go off their food if they have a respiratory infection. If you notice that your reptile is breathing through its mouth, not eating, or acting very lethargic, then there is a good chance that it has some kind of respiratory infection. This can be serious, so call your veterinarian right away if you suspect this type of infection.
While shedding is a very natural process for a leopard gecko, there are times when things can go wrong. Dysecdysis, a problem with shedding, happens when old skin is not shed properly and becomes dried up and hard. This dried and unshed skin can cause severe restriction around the eyes, toes, and limbs of the lizard. This condition can become quite painful, and it is often accompanied by an infection. The stress and pain of this incomplete shedding can be enough to result in your leopard gecko not eating.
Shedding issues are usually preventable, so it’s important to maintain the correct amount of humidity in the enclosure. An environment that is too dry is a common cause of dysecdysis.
If your female leopard gecko has a hard time laying her eggs, she may become egg bound. This happens when she either can’t find an appropriate nesting spot, or if she is suffering from a calcium deficiency. Egg binding can cause lethargy, lack of appetite, straining or repeated digging around the substrate. This condition may require surgical removal of the eggs.
Issues On The Lower Half
Other possible reasons for your leopard gecko’s lack of appetite may include the stress of re-growing a lost tail and an infection in a male’s hemipene.
4. Does Your Leopard Gecko Have An Injury?
An injury (even a small one) can cause your leopard gecko to lose its appetite. It could be that your gecko was injured in a fight with another gecko, or it could have become scratched by the enclosure’s substrate or by items that you have placed within the enclosure.
If you notice that your leopard gecko won’t eat, if it is hiding more than normal, or if it seems lethargic, then it may have an injury. Many injuries will heal on their own, but you should call your vet if you have concerns.
5. Maybe Your Gecko Is Having Trouble Seeing Its Food
It stands to reason that if your leopard gecko is having trouble seeing its food, then it may stop eating. Sometimes an incomplete shedding process can cause skin to cover the eyes, or your gecko may be suffering from corneal ulcers or some kind of abscess.
Without being able to see properly, your leopard gecko won’t be able to catch its prey and may stop trying to eat out of frustration or discomfort.
6. It’s Shedding Time Again
On average, an adult leopard gecko will shed its skin about every four to eight weeks. However, younger leopard geckos will shed every couple of weeks. In the days before a gecko begins to shed, you may notice that your pet stops eating and may spend more of its time hiding in a damp, cozy spot. A lack of appetite during the shedding process is perfectly normal behavior for these animals, so you needn’t worry if it doesn’t eat for a day or two. Not only does shedding sap their energy, but geckos often fill up by eating the dead skin that’s being shed.
However, if your leopard gecko won’t eat even after it’s done shedding, then there could be something more serious going on.
7. Could Brumation Be The Issue?
Brumation, a kind of reptilian hibernation, can be caused by natural or artificial influences. During the colder months of December through February, leopard geckos will naturally go through a period of brumation. What can you expect during this period of metabolic slowdown? These lizards will eat less, decrease their activity, hang out on the cooler side of the enclosure, and you’ll probably notice that it hides for weeks at a time.
If you let the enclosure become too cool, your gecko may think that it’s time for brumation, and it will begin to exhibit some of the symptoms that we mentioned above.
8. Love Is In The Air
Both female and male leopard geckos may lose their appetites once breeding season rolls around. An ovulating female or a female carrying eggs will tend to have less of an appetite as it prepares a nesting area and gets ready to mate. Male leopard geckos, in preparation for the big event, will often stop eating altogether. This is normal behavior that should not cause concern unless it becomes excessive.
9. Something Is Stressing Out Your Gecko
Leopard geckos don’t do well with stressful situations, and they will often stop eating because of something that’s going on in their environment. Maybe you’ve changed your gecko’s enclosure, or maybe you’ve moved the enclosure to a new area of your home. If you house multiple leopard geckos in the same enclosure, it’s quite possible that one of them is being bullied.
These reptiles don’t always do well in group situations, and this can cause them to stop eating out of the pure stress of the situation. Females will often do fairly well when housed together, but males should be kept in separate enclosures. Even with enough hides to go around, there is usually one gecko that gets pushed around by a more aggressive one.
Leopard geckos may even stress over a substrate that they don’t like, and they will often stop eating if they are being overhandled.
10. Odds And Ends
There are lots of other situations that may result in your leopard gecko not eating, but we will just mention a few. They may stop eating because you’ve already given them too much food. Make sure that you keep your gecko on a good feeding schedule because it can become very sick if it tries to eat more than it should!
Remember puberty and how confusing it could be? Believe it or not, leopard geckos go through a similar period of sexual development. As the lizard begins to turn into a sexually mature adult, it can experience periods of lethargy and appetite loss.
How To Get Them To Eat
With so many situations that can cause a leopard gecko to stop eating, what’s a pet owner to do? As we mentioned earlier, most of the things that can cause a loss of appetite are normal, minor problems that will clear up on their own. Once in a while, a trip to the vet will be necessary, but there are usually common sense things that you can do on your own to help the situation.
Proper Heating & Lighting
One easy thing that you can do is to make sure that the temperatures inside the enclosure are at the right levels. The temperature on the warmer side should be around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the cooler side should not drop below 75 degrees.
Make sure that your heat mats or heat bulbs are working properly, and you should check all thermometers at least once a day.
Even though a leopard gecko doesn’t really need supplemental UVB lighting, we think that it’s a good idea to have the option available. Using UVB lighting can’t do any harm, and many people have seen good results from exposing leopard geckos for a few hours a day.
Pay Attention To Their Diet
These lizards don’t want to eat the same thing all the time. If you notice that your leopard gecko won’t eat, then maybe it’s time to give it something different. Offering a variety of gut-loaded insects will really help to keep your gecko interested in its prey.
Also, make sure that the prey you give them is alive because these creatures are more attracted to moving prey.
Pay Attention To Their Feelings
Caring for your leopard gecko’s emotional health is just as important as maintaining its physical health. These animals are very sensitive to changes in their environment, and this is often a major cause of appetite loss.
What can you do to keep your gecko in an emotional happy place? You can try to keep the environment as free of changes as possible. Moving the enclosure, changing the enclosure or constantly switching out the substrate and enhancements can really stress out your leopard gecko.
If you can, it’s best to house your leopard geckos in separate enclosures. They really do prefer their own space, and this will prevent any instances of bullying.
Lastly, avoid handling them too much. As cute as they are, they don’t really love being picked up and handled constantly.
Provide A Safe And Healthy Enclosure
An enclosure that’s safe and comfortable will inspire good physical and emotional health for your gecko. Providing a variety of hides, things to climb on and a source of clean, fresh water will help to keep your leopard gecko relaxed and full of energy and health.
Make sure that the enclosure is cleaned often, has a clean and safe substrate, and you’ll want to ensure that the humidity level and temperature is always within safe limits.
How Long Leopard Geckos Can Safely Go Without Eating
Reptiles don’t need to eat every day. Mammals need food in order to create body heat, but reptiles don’t generate their own body heat, so there is not the same urgency to eat on a daily basis. That’s why you have a little bit of time to diagnose the problem if you have a leopard gecko that isn’t eating.
Ideally, adult leopard geckos should be fed two to three times per week, but they can safely go without eating for 10 to 14 days. This is not to say that your gecko should be going this long without eating on a regular basis, but a healthy gecko can easily survive this amount of time without eating. A juvenile, however, can only go a maximum of ten days without food. Adult leopard geckos have a nice fat reserve in their tails that young geckos don’t have.
Leopard geckos will often go quite long without eating during shedding or brumation. However, if you notice that your gecko is losing a lot of weight in a short period of time, then this is often a sign of a more serious underlying issue.
When Should You See A Vet?
It’s easy to become worried if you sense that your leopard gecko is feeling under the weather, and your first instinct may be to rush your pet to the vet. While there may be times that a trip to the veterinarian’s office is necessary, it’s best to think carefully before you put your lizard through the stress of an office visit.
As we discussed above, there are lots of reasons why a leopard gecko won’t eat, and not all of them are serious enough to warrant an immediate trip to the veterinarian. That being said, if you feel that there is something going on in addition to a loss of appetite, then you should call your veterinarian right away. Better safe than sorry!
Some things to look out for include lethargy, signs of an infection, noticeable weight loss and prolonged hiding. If you notice these symptoms, or if your leopard gecko has simply stopped eating no matter what you try, then it’s a good idea to take your pet in to get checked out.
As you can see, there are a number of reasons why a leopard gecko won’t eat (and not all of them are dangerous). Do your best to pay attention to your pet and look out concerning signs or symptoms.
And remember, if you’re uncertain you can always call your vet! They can help you determine the cause and see if an office visit is necessary.