Anyone who has ever owned a leopard gecko will be well-aware of the trials and tribulations it can come with.
It’s easy to have a little heart attack when you notice that your precious gecko isn’t doing so well – and you usually have no idea why! Are they sick? Injured? Dying?
Trying to figure out the issue is a rollercoaster, and not a fun one. There are so many twists and turns to make sense of, and it can throw you for a loop – especially if you have not had to deal with it before.
If you are worried about your leopard gecko dying, know that you are not alone. This is a fear that all owners live with and deal with when something goes wrong.
You also shouldn’t forget that, like all things, your leopard gecko will eventually die of old age, too.
We will cover what you need to know about the five most important signs to look out for if you are worried about your gecko’s health.
This includes sunken eyes, weight loss, lethargy, lack or loss of droppings, and a loss of appetite. We’ll also go over the causes of these issues, and how you can prevent them.
5 Symptoms That Show That Your Leopard Gecko Is Dying
There are five primary things that you should always keep an eye on when you have a leopard gecko, or any kind of gecko: sunken eyes, extreme weight loss, lethargy, lack of droppings, and a loss of appetite.
These are all crucial to your gecko’s health, and can indicate any health issues they could be experiencing (or are about to experience).
Even if all seems to be going well, always keep your eyes peeled for these symptoms, because catching it early can save your pet’s life.
While you will not always be able to prevent leopard gecko from dying, you should always take the necessary steps to prevent poor health and death.
Hopefully this article will help you to identify the warning signs of death, so you can save your pet as soon as possible.
Your Gecko Has Sunken Eyes
Any gecko owner will be aware of how adorable their leopard gecko’s eyes are. The eyes of your leopard gecko will usually be full of life, sparkling, and bring joy to the most miserable person you know.
As such, it is usually very obvious when your gecko’s eyes are sunken and dull – and that is the first warning sign to be aware of.
There are a number of reasons for your leopard gecko to have sunken eyes, and this is not something to ignore.
For this reason, you should make a point to constantly check your gecko’s eyes, and make sure they are as bright and beautiful as they should be.
Sunken Eyes Can Indicate Many Things
You may have noticed that many leopard gecko forums discuss sunken eyes in their pets.
In the majority of these posts, there is one common thing that you should be aware of: sunken eyes are a telltale sign that your leopard gecko is about to become ill.
For some reason, this is the first manifestation of many illnesses, so keep an eye out!
With that being said, bear in mind that a leopard gecko’s usual glum stare will need to be taken into account, too.
Their eyes might be vacant a lot of the time, but that’s just who they are. When you notice something out of the ordinary, then you should be alarmed.
Geckos will also experience sunken eyes during the day when their lashes fall over them – this is normal!
This happens so that their eyes are protected. However, they should begin to look normal as the day goes on.
What To Do If You Notice Sunken Eyes
The best thing you can do if you notice that your leopard gecko has sunken eyes is to immediately organize a trip to the vet.
While sunken eyes could simply be due to a lack of hydration, it isn’t worth the risk.
If thousands of leopard gecko owners have reported sickness after noticing sunken eyes, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Get your gecko to the vet for a thorough checkup, because it could save their lives.
Always do your best to give your leopard gecko the best care it could possibly need (see also “Do Leopard Geckos Need A Heat Lamp?“), and have the initiative to act quickly.
They Are Experiencing Extreme Weight Loss
As you may know, leopard geckos have a speedy metabolism, which means that they need to eat often.
However they also have the ability to store water and food in their tails, which is why their tails can get plump and fat!
They can keep the nutrition there so use whenever food is limited, and they need the energy stores.
For this reason, it will be alarming to notice that your leopard gecko suddenly has a very thin tail when it definitely shouldn’t be.
This is often called “sick” or “stick” tail and is certainly a cause for concern.
When this happens, it means that they have used their fat and energy deposits.
Look Out For Sick Tail
Stick or sick tail refers to your leopard gecko’s usually fat tail being thin or skinny.
Because this is where these animals store energy and nutrients, it should only ever be used when there are no other food sources available for them to eat.
Extreme weight loss to this point may be due to a number of things, which we will go through below.
Reasons For The Weight Loss
Extreme weight loss could be caused by a number of different things, including the following:
- Bad nutrition
- Bad living conditions
What To Do If You Notice Extreme Weight Loss
Depending on the cause and how early you can catch it, there may still be options for you.
If you find out that parasites are causing the problem, you need to speak with your vet ASAP to resolve the issue. The vet will try to help you get rid of them and nurse your leopard gecko back to health.
For things like bad living conditions or dietary issues, you can resolve this issue by learning how to properly take care of your gecko (see also “Panther Gecko Care Sheet“).
Set up the tank properly, learn about dietary requirements, temperature, humidity, and more. If you cannot provide your gecko with the correct environment and food, then you should not have it.
Issues that take longer to catch can lead to the death of your gecko in a very short space of time.
Things like impaction or illness can be hard to catch early on, and can result in a seemingly sudden death.
The Gecko Is Lethargic
It isn’t normal for your leopard gecko to be slow, or sedentary. They have curious natures, and are usually on the go to experience everything in their space.
You may notice that they are the most active at night or dawn, but they are unlikely to be stationary during the day, too.
If you notice that your gecko is appearing sluggish, and isn’t moving around like they used to, this is definitely a cause for concern. These are the signs of lethargy:
- Gecko is walking very slowly
- Constantly in their hides
- Sitting still for hours on end
- Lying close to their water bowls
What To Do If You Notice Lethargy
Should you notice any of them, you should make an appointment with your registered vet as soon as possible.
While this might not always be a sign that your leopard gecko is actually dying, it is a strong indicator that something is wrong.
It is always better to be safe than sorry, so take action as early as you can. Get your pet the help it needs, and get answers.
Abnormal Or Complete Lack Of Droppings
Any pet owner will know the importance of keeping track of their droppings. It might be a little gross, but it’s a crucial thing to be aware of, because their droppings will reflect their health!
To make things easy for you, we have compiled a table of the different types, their appearance, and what they mean for your gecko’s health.
|Dropping Type||Appearance of the Dropping||Meaning of This Type of Dropping|
|Normal||Made up of three parts – dark waste, yellow/white uric acid, and yellow/transparent urine||All is well – your gecko is happy in their habitat and is getting the right nutrition and care|
|Undigested||Might look watery, there will be clear pieces of intact insect in the droppings||Might be a sign of parasites, the tank temperature is too low, or signs of early impaction|
|Substrate||Some kind of foreign object, usually very dry and hard||Your gecko has likely ingested a foreign object within the tank, such as sand. This is common with baby geckos because they lick everything.|
|White||Chalk-colored droppings, or may resemble a gray pebble||Shed skin was likely ingested, or the gecko ingested a bright substrate like sand|
|Wormy||Likely to be watery with tiny curved, red or pink streaks (worms). Difficult to see with the naked eye.||It may be a sign of aggravated bacterial infection or parasites. Worms do not immediately mean parasites.|
|Green||Hard or soft with a minty color. It may be a combination of green and brown, or only green||Gecko could be experiencing diarrhea when bile is not correctly broken down. It may also be a change in diet, or your gecko has ingested a substrate within the tank. It could also indicate internal parasites.|
|Soft||Soup-like or gloopy, typically a yellow or white color. May be liquid with bits of brown||Might be a sign of weak immunity or a sudden change in diet. Could be a sign of parasites such as Crypto, Pinworms, or Entamoeba|
What To Do If You Notice Unusual Droppings
Depending on what is causing your gecko’s droppings to be unusual, you may need to get in touch with the vet.
In some cases, the droppings are not an indication of anything harmful unless they persist for days.
If you are worried in any way, the best thing to do would be to make an appointment with your registered vet for a checkup.
If your leopard gecko hasn’t been pooping at all, then you may need to prepare for the worst. This is likely a sign that they are at the end of their lives, and are not eating at all.
This will always be a sad realization, but it will always happen eventually. The best thing you can do is make the tank as comfortable as possible for your beloved pet.
Loss Or Lack Of Appetite
Your leopard gecko isn’t eating as much as it used to, or isn’t eating at all? This is another important symptom that could suggest that your gecko is dying, or something else is happening.
A loss of appetite can be brought about by a variety of factors, which we will cover below.
A stressed gecko is not going to want to eat anything, just like some people don’t eat when they are stressed. You are going to need to find the source of the stress, and deal with it accordingly.
There are a few common stressors that you can look out for, but there is no guarantee that it will be any of these:
- Lights are too bright
- Too much competition in the tank
- Trouble shedding
- Too much noise in the environment/too loud
- Their environment or settings keep changing
- The tank is not big enough
- They are ill
- They aren’t used to you yet
- Temperatures in the tank are not optimal
- They are growing up
Sickness will go hand-in-hand with stress, and can lead to your gecko refusing to eat.
This could be any kind of disease or another health condition that you will need to work with your vet to figure out. Unfortunately, there are a variety of things this could be.
Some of the most common illnesses and health conditions to be aware of for leopard geckos include the following:
- Chronic Malnutrition
- Hypovitaminosis A
- Phalangeal Dysecdysis (Retained Shed On Toes And Tail)
- Ocular Problems
- Egg Retention
- Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism
Parasites will also have a severe impact on your leopard gecko’s appetite.
There are a number of parasites that these adorable reptiles can encounter and suffer from, with the most common being these:
Depending on the parasite, there may be a multitude of different signs, so be sure to do your due diligence!
Be on the lookout for anything that could suggest a parasitic infection, and take the appropriate steps by calling your vet.
Like every living thing, a leopard gecko requires the correct diet in order to live a healthy and fulfilling life. Their diets typically consist of foods like these:
Make sure you are giving your gecko everything they could possibly need. Adults will usually need to be fed 2–3 times a week, and juveniles every 1–2 days.
Bullied By Other Geckos
It’s possible for the presence of other geckos to stress your pet out, or even bully them. If your leopard gecko shares a tank with other leopard geckos, or any other gecko, things probably won’t end well.
The majority of these geckos will prefer to be on their own, and are better off being housed with a turtle or a frog.
Of course, your gecko could be fine with a fellow leo, but be wary of this. It might not work out how you hope.
Finally, fluctuations in the tank temperature will cause your leopard gecko to experience a lack or loss of appetite.
Try to keep temperatures the same, with little to no fluctuation, to ensure that your geckos are as happy and comfortable as possible.
When You Should Not Worry About Your Gecko Refusing To Eat
When they have a very fat tail, it is normal for them to refuse to eat for even a couple of weeks.
This is because their tails will store enough energy for them to use for a time, and they do not feel the need to eat.
As long as the gecko is otherwise healthy and behaving normally, then you don’t have to worry about this too much.
They may go several weeks refusing to eat in these instances, so just have some patience.
What To Do If You Notice A Lack Or Loss Of Appetite
You are going to have to go through the previously mentioned list and see if you can discern what is actually causing the issue.
There might be a problem that you are unaware of, like the brightness of lights or temperature, so be sure to test everything.
The best thing to do would be to organize a trip to the vet to get your gecko checked out – especially if they are exhibiting any of the other signs.
The Primary Causes Of These Issues
We have covered the signs and symptoms to look out for, but what can cause these issues?
If the word were to happen, it would be helpful for you to have closure on the topic, and learn from the experience.
While we have discussed some causes of potential death along with the symptoms, it’s worth pointing out a few more things to really hammer them home.
Here, we will go through some of the common causes for the above issues, and what you can do about them.
It can be difficult to watch your beloved pet go through this – we know. However, understanding why this happens and how, can save the life of the next gecko you get.
They Are Being Kept In The Wrong Temperature
Keeping your leopard gecko in the wrong temperatures can be a serious issue. Not only that, but the humidity levels need to be correct, too.
These things are not minor, and can actually lead to your gecko’s death if you don’t know what you are doing.
A leopard gecko’s tank should be between 77–90 °F (25–32 °C) at a maximum and minimum.
However, temperatures between 75–85 °F (24–29 °C) are optimal for these animals. Relative humidity for these geckos should be somewhere between 30–40%.
No matter the temperature and humidity, they need to have access to a hide, and their temperatures need to be maintained. There should be little to no fluctuation.
Bear in mind that the placement of the tank will also play a key role in this. If you place your tank near a sunny window, it will naturally get warmer.
If it is put in a cold corner, the temperatures will be lower. Basements, heat sources, and everything else you can imagine will play a role.
Make sure that you are using a high-quality thermostat to track the temperature, too. These are living animals, and they deserve the best.
Cheap equipment is unreliable, and can result in death. Using something like a temperature gun is the best option.
This will allow you to learn the temperature of your gecko itself, and every corner, as well as the temperature inside the hide.
The Gecko Is Impacted
Impaction will occur when your gecko has eaten something that it shouldn’t have – like sand, moss, or another substrate.
This is one of the worst things that can happen, and can cause serious issues and death. From digestion issues to various other internal problems, impaction can kill.
Common symptoms to look out for are as follows:
- Gecko is lethargic
- Loss or lack of appetite
- Loss or lack of droppings
In many cases, there are no symptoms, and you will simply find your pet dead in its tank. If you are lucky, you may catch the early signs, and give your pet a warm bath and gently massage its belly.
However, in the majority of cases when there are no signs of it even happening, there is nothing you can do.
To help prevent your leopard gecko from ingesting these substrates, you can do a number of things.
It usually happens due to a calcium deficiency, so make sure that you provide them with safe sources of calcium to eat! Things like shredded sepia bones are great for preventing this issue.
Avoid using shredded paper towels in your tanks. You could also dust the insects you feed your gecko with calcium to ensure they get all the calcium they need.
Your Gecko Is Suffering From Dehydration
Dehydration is one of the most common problems that leopard geckos experience, and can cause a sudden death.
You cannot underplay the importance of water for these geckos, so make sure there is enough around.
There needs to be clean water for the geckos to drink, and there needs to be somewhere for their bodies to be exposed to water.
This is one of the reasons why keeping the correct humidity in the tank is crucial. Humidity = water content in the air.
While the initial symptoms are not very evident, they will gradually get worse until you look at your gecko and know that something is wrong.
Severe dehydration can cause the following signs and symptoms in your gecko:
- Dry and flaky skin
- Skin loses elasticity
- Loss of muscle mass
- Appearance is wrinkly
- Loss of saliva, which causes a sticky mouth
There Is A Bacterial Or Parasitic Infection You Need To Treat
There are a number of parasitic and bacterial infections that you should be aware of.
Unfortunately, these infections do now always end well, and it can be difficult to catch if you don’t know what to look out for.
Even then, some geckos simply show little to nos signs that there is something wrong.
Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto) Is The Most Common
This is the most common infection, and it is a protozoal parasite – it attacks the gastrointestinal system. It can be very difficult to diagnose, as the parasites are too small to be seen in the stool.
However, gecko owners will agree that it is the rule of thumb that this is usually the cause if you notice extreme weight loss in your gecko.
Common symptoms of Cryptosporidiosis include the following:
- Sick tail (mentioned above)
- Loss of appetite
Treatment Is Arduous And Difficult
The terrible thing about Cryptosporidiosis is that it is incredibly difficult and arduous to treat, and there is no guarantee of success.
Because of this, many owners simply recommend that you leave your leopard gecko be, and make their tank as comfortable as possible.
It is not worth letting your gecko go through the pain and stress of treatment when there’s a good chance that it will not be successful.
Salmonella Is Also Common
Salmonella is another common issue that should be mentioned in addition to the others. This is a bacterial infection that seemingly crops up out of nowhere – even if the tank is spotless.
The biggest issue with this is that it can quickly be spread from one gecko to another.
Luckily, leopard geckos have a much better chance of recovering from salmonella. So, if you can catch this issue early on and get them the correct treatment, there is hope.
In many cases, you may not even be aware that your gecko has salmonella, because many of them carry it without it impacting them.
Truth is, you are going to be in for a worse time from salmonella than your gecko.
This is why you should always practice proper hygiene with these pets, and wash your hands after handling them or anything in their tanks. You can give yourself salmonella if you aren’t careful!
Leopard geckos deserve the best, as every animal does.
This means that we need to know how to take care of them before we get them, and we need to ensure that we can care for them properly.
There are numerous things that can go wrong when you have one of these lovely pets, and you need to know how to look out for the signs that your leopard gecko could be dying.
Some of the most important things to note is that symptoms such as sunken eyes, extreme weight loss, lethargy, lack of droppings, and loss of appetite can mean that their life is in danger.
While there is sometimes something you can do to remedy the issue, you should also be aware that there may be cases where you can only look on helplessly.
It’s important to know what to look out for, and how to spot the early signs of these issues to give your gecko the best chance of success.
It can be difficult, but you need to be vigilant, and always be aware of the risks.