Reptiles are naturally good at concealing illness and injury, and often, by the time the symptoms show, the problem is already quite advanced.
Frequent individual attention to all animals is the best way to spot changes in appearance or behaviour, which is another of the reasons we maintain a small collection as it enables us to provide our animals with much more individual attention than a large breeder would be able to.
Vigilance and attention is the best way to combat illness and disease in reptiles, and so in this page, we have tried to provide a guide to indicators of gecko health, and point out some of the common symptoms of illness.
However much research you conduct into a problem you suspect your pet to have, nothing can replace a competent herpetological vet, and so it is always good to investigate the vets available in your area before a problem arises. The information given on this website is not intended as a replacement for vetenary care, if in doubt of you animals health, the best thing you can do is seek professional advice.
This section will be divided into 3 main areas.
More Coming Soon....
Until more information and photographs are added, here are a few indicators of good and poor health;
Signs of Good health:
The following information has been compiled from personal experience, consultation with herpetological veterinarians and fellow gecko keepers. It is not intended as an alternative to professional veterinary attention.
General wormers such as Panacur (containing fenbendazole) can be used successfully to treat geckos infected with Pinworms. I have found that the 2.5% solution intended for Puppies and Kittens is the easiest to measure and administer. Any Vet should be able to supply you with Wormer without the need for an appointment, although if you are worried about dosage, a vet visit is always the best action. The dosage of the 2.5% solution is 0.04ml per 10gm of Geckos weight. Fenbendazole is allegedly a quite safe chemical and so rounding up the dosage should cause little harm. The dose will need to be repeated 14days after the initial treatment to ensure it has been successful. In addition to the wormer, the cage must be stripped regularly and kept as sterile as possible until the infection is clear to avoid re-infection.
(Photo courtesy of Julie )
Prolapse is a condition that most often occurs in male geckos, although it can occur in females also. The prolapse occurs when the hemipenis (in males) does not return to its position inside the hemipenal bulge and remains outside the body, protruding from the cloaca. Prolapse most often occurs after mating, but can happen at any time. After mating, it is normal for the hemipenis to remain outside of the cloaca for a short time whilst the male cleans the area, but if the hemipenis is still visible over an hour after mating, then it is likely that a prolapse has occurred. As you may imagine, this may cause great distress to the gecko and action needs to be taken as soon as the problem is noticed to prevent desiccation and further damage of the hemipenis. Speed is the greatest tool in treating this condition.
The first course of action for any prolapse is to keep the area moist, by bathing the area in a water/sugar solution. Make up a solution of warm water and sugar, line a small ventilated container (such as a cricket tub) with paper towel, and fill the container with a few centimeters of the solution. Place the gecko into the tub and allow it to soak.
Do not attempt to push the hemipenis back into the cloaca yourself. This will more likely cause more damage and swelling, exacerbating the problem.
If you catch the prolapse very quickly, the hemipenis may return into the cloaca by itself with the help of the sugar bath, however if no progress has been made after an hour in the solution, an appointment to see an exotics vet is required. Whilst waiting for the appointment, the area must still be kept moist using paper towels and the solution. The vet may be able to coax the hemipenis back into the cloaca himself, however, in some cases surgery to remove one, or both of the hemipenis may be required.
Below is a link to a slideshow detailing the process of hemipenal surgery on a young male Gargoyle gecko (R.auriculatus) after suffering a prolapse. Thank you very much to Julie (and Arty the gecko) for allowing the use of this slideshow to help others who experience this problem.
Click for Prolapse surgery slideshow
Entamoeba invadens is an issue which appears to affect Rhacodactylus geckos more seriously than most other species. Entamoeba invadens may be difficult to identify as its symptoms are easily overlooked as something less serious, however with swift diagnosis and treatment the disease is easily treatable. Many less susceptible species of reptile and amphibian can be carriers of Entamoeba invadens, which increases the importance of adequate quarantine periods, good hygiene when moving between vivaria and not housing mixed species together. The usual course of action with Entamoeba invadens is a prescription of Metronidazole (often known as Flagyl), 150 mg/kg(that the gecko weighs) every other day for 5 treatments. Any vet should be able to provide you with this. Entamoeba invadens could pose a great risk to captive Crested Gecko populations if information about the disease is not spread, as many owners may easily mistake it as 'natures way' or 'old age', but as the disease is so easily treated it does not need to be this way.
The links below provide some very informative information on this disease. Entamoeba invadens and something I believe it is important to spread awareness of. If you know other Crested gecko keepers, please pass this information onto them so that they may also be aware of the disease.
Click here for Entamoeba invadens information
Click here for an article on Entamoeba invadens
Although no strict definition of the above condition has been found, I have witnessed more than one Rhacodactylus with these symptoms. The gecko develops a crusty, somewhat swollen mouth. When cleaned gently with a moist cotton bud, the crusting will return. Apart from the obvious discomfort this causes, it can deter the individual from eating, which can result in more serious problems if left.
Vets were consulted in both cases, both of which attributed the condition to an irritation (almost like a very severe case of chapped lips) which develops into an infection. The crusting appears to be linked to the mucus membranes in the mouth and if left to progress further can cause serious problems with the mouth, possibly resulting in mouth rot.
The treatment in both cases was a prescription of antibiotics, such as Baytril, administered orally or applied to the area. The condition should recede. If the problem recurs, more antibiotics should be applied.
Calcium deficiency is an issue that is prevalent in all reptiles, especially breeding females. One of the reasons it is so common is that the link between calcium and vitamin D is poorly understood. In the natural environment, the gecko is exposed to UV radiation from the sun, which stimulates the production of Vitamin D by the body. Vitamin D (in the form of D3) is used to facilitate the uptake of Calcium, and so without sufficient D3 the body cannot use the calcium that it consumes in its diet. In a captive environment, the gecko is not exposed to the suns rays and therefore the body does not produce its own D3. The Vitamin D3 must therefore be supplemented in the geckos diet.
There are many supplement products designed specifically for reptiles available today, and each one will contain different amounts of calcium and D3 so the labels should always be read. In excess, D3 is toxic and can cause over-calcification which can lead to problems as serious as those caused by a lack of it. Crested Gecko diet is formulated with the correct amounts of vitamin D3 and calcium and so is safe to be fed everyday. However, if feeding a diet based on fruit puree and livefoods, most D3 supplements should not be used everyday.
If left, Calcium deficiency can become life threatening. Secondary nutritional hyperparathoidism (otherwise known as Metabolic Bone disease) is an advanced stage of calcium deficiency where the body reabsorbs calcium from the bones in order to function, leading to a soft, easily breakable skeleton. The gecko may become so weak that it cannot stand or eat, and so will starve and die.
Symptoms of Metabolic Bone disease include;
Crested Gecko suffering from MBD. Note puffy, swollen limbs Click picture to enlarge. Photographs courtesy of Gina
Calcium deficiency and Metabolic Bone Disease are easily preventable with the right diet and husbandry. By feeding a diet of pure Crested Gecko Diet (nothing added) calcium deficiency should not be a problem as it is formulated to provide all of the nutritional requirements. One of the many problems people find is that they add things (such as babyfood, fruit, livefoods) to the Crested Gecko diet, and expect the diet to still provide all of the supplementation the gecko needs. What must be remembered when adding to the diet, is that the stomach capacity of a gecko is only finite. Every additional item fed will take up room in the stomach that cannot be filled with CGD. Therefore the gecko is not eating as much CGD as it otherwise would, and it is not receiving the same amounts of vitamins. Adding to the diet is not necessarily a bad thing, and variety is always good, however additional pure calcium may need to be added to livefood items and fruit purees to correct the balance. UVB lighting generally accepted to be unnecessary for nocturnal species (including Rhacodactylus) and so is not a specific requirement of their husbandry. However, (particularly with individuals recovering from Ca deficiency) it may be somewhat beneficial as it helps to stimulate natural D3 production.
The following X-Ray photos are kindly provided courtesy of Alan Slack DVM and highlight the differences between a healthy, and severely calcium deficient gecko.
Photograph 1. Healthy adult female Crested Gecko. Note the clear bright calcium sacs in the head, and crisp white skeleton. This individual was fed on a diet of purely Crested Gecko Diet with no supplementary UVB lighting.
Image courtesy of Alan Slack DVM
Photographs 2 and 3. Adult female Crested Gecko suffering from metabolic bone disease. Note the blurry, dull skeleton, and lack of distinct calcium sacs. This gecko was fed on a diet of peach babyfood supplemented with calcium, and livefoods. This gecko later died due to egg-binding of the very undercalcified eggs present in these images.
Images courtesy of Alan Slack DVM
Advanced Metabolic Bone Disease is often fatal, however if caught fast enough it is usually treatable. Sick animals should be separated from others to avoid competition for food and stress from cage-mates and taken to a Reptile competent vet as soon as possible. Pure Calcium supplements (such as Calypso) should be given and for animals large enough, Calcium injections can be administered by a licensed vet which will aid recovery. It is important not to over-supplement D3 at times like these, as it is easy to think that it would help speed up recovery. However this is very dangerous and should be avoided. Although climbing material should still be available in the recovery housing, the skeleton of a gecko with Metabolic bone disease becomes very soft and so climbing becomes difficult and broken bones very common. Therefore I would recommend that cage decoration is very carefully placed to avoid falls.
'Impaction' is the term commonly used to describe a blockage in the digestive system of an animal. In captivity, impaction is usually caused by the animal ingesting the vivarium substrate by mistake. Captive reptiles are particularly prone to impaction because of their 'dive bomb' hunting style! and this makes the choice of substrate in the gecko's vivarium a very important one.
Many keepers feel that the Crested gecko should be able to cope with a loose substrate (such as bark chippings, gravel or similar) because 'they would encounter it in the wild'. In fact this is incorrect, as in the lowland rainforest they inhabit in the wild, the floor would be covered with leaf-litter and plants, and compacted down by larger animals and tree roots.
The exact chance of a captive gecko suffering impaction is often disputed, and some keepers preach about how "they have successfully raised geckos on bark, or sand, or gravel etc for X amount of years without a problem". However the fact is that with any loose substrate there IS a risk, and the amount of risk you feel comfortable dealing with is down to you. That is not to say that keepers who choose to use loose substrates are irresponsible, just that every keeper will have different experiences and a lot of reptile keeping is about discovering which methods work best for you as an individual.
Please read the following link for a graphic, but interesting example of the risks of impaction...
Saying that, there are a few ways you can avoid or reduce the risk of impaction.
1. Use kitchen paper, tile (i.e. slate or kitchen tile), linoleum or reptile-carpet. With any of these substrates, there is nothing loose for the gecko to swallow by mistake. Therefore they are as 'impaction-free' as is possible.
2. If the above option doesn't appeal and you want a more naturalistic substrate, you can use the following substrates for a less risky set up...
a) Large smooth river rocks (so long as they are greater than can be eaten by the gecko, I generally aim for over 4" in diameter to be on the safe side.) or large pieces of slate.
b) An extension of option A would be to use full spectrum lighting to grow live moss on top of the river rocks (this can look really good but requires a good level of moisture around the rock also)
c) Additive-free (i.e no vermiculite, perlite or fertiliser) compost. Sift out any lumps and be sure to compact down with the palm of your hand before adding the geckos.
d) An extension of option C would be to place smooth large pebbles on top of the compost, to further reduce the gecko's contact with the soil. (Tip: Poundland do a brilliant mesh tile, which is plastic coated mesh with smooth pebbles stuck onto, this works brilliantly for a naturalistic but safer setup)
The following substrates are the most prone to causing impaction, and in my opinion should be avoided.
1. Sand (apart from when mixed in small quantities with soil in order to improve drainage)
3. Bark (even small bark chippings can damage and block the geckos delicate organs)
Picture courtesy of Gina
Occasionally problems with the pupil occur, as can be seen in the photograph above. It is believed that these abnormalities can either result from injury or be a genetic defect. In cases where there is also swelling or protrusion of the eyeball it may be advisable to seek veterinary attention incase there is either a tumour or swelling behind or in the eye itself.
Each case seems to cause different problems for the gecko, some may suffer no apparent disability, and others may be either partially or completely blinded in the affected eye. In severe cases where the pupil is greatly enlarged, it may be advisable to refrain from using strong UV lighting in case it causes more damage. As the problem may be genetic, adult breeding geckos with this problem should be watched carefully to see if the abnormality is passed onto the offspring, and if so, it may be sensible to remove them from breeding to avoid spreading the problem further.
Picture courtesy of Gina (click to enlarge)
When living in group situations, injuries caused by fighting and interaction between cage-mates are an inevitability. One of the most common injuries is on the tail, usually from a bite. As you can see from the image above, where bitten the tail seems to shrivel and dry, giving the appearance almost of fungus. This gave rise to a panic amongst the Crested community where rumours of a 'killer tail fungus' that was attacking Crested geckos spread rapidly and resulted in lots of unnecessary vets bills! In actual fact it was simply bites wounds that took on this appearance.
For more information on the mythical 'Tail fungus' read the following link... Please read to the end of the thread!
To treat tail injuries, a good soak in lukewarm water and an application of an iodine-perodine solution (i.e Tamodine) will help. In more advanced cases antibiotics may be prescribed by a vet. Retained shed on the tail may also give a similar appearance to a bite injury; in this case a moistened cotton bud (Q-tip) can be used to gently remove the excess skin.
Conjoined Twin Crested Geckos.
Sometimes geckos are born with abnormalities, either externally (e.g. Slug the Gargoyle Gecko born with incomplete back limbs; see below) or internally (which are generally a lot harder to identify and may lead to complications in growth and development). Abnormalities can occur for a range of reasons, from complications during foetal development purely by chance, to genetic faults and mutations which have been passed from the parents. If you get a higher than normal rate of abnormal hatchlings from a particular gecko or pair of geckos, it is wise to retire them from breeding incase the problems are genetic.
When geckos are born with abnormalities, it can be terribly heart-breaking; depending on the severity of the problems they may live only hours or weeks, or may go on to lead full lives. However these geckos will always require special attention, and so finding loving, responsible homes for them is a priority. Animals with birth defects should not generally be bred from, both because of the strain of the breeding process on their bodies, and incase the defect is due to a genetic fault.
Below is a selection of photographs of geckos with birth defects and abnormalities. Some of these geckos died whilst trying to hatch, some lasted a short while, and others have surprisingly lasted longer than expected.
Conjoined twin Crested Geckos. Click image for larger picture. Image courtesy of Gina.
Slug the Gargoyle Gecko, hatched without fully formed back limbs. Click image for larger picture. Image courtesy of Gina.
Tamodine is an Iodine-Perodine solution (as is Betadine and Vetadine) that can be used to treat cuts and sores, automized tail wounds or fungal issues. Tamodine is easy and safe to use provided it is not ingested.
I find that the most practical method of using Tamodine is as such;
1. Take a shallow dish and fill with an inch or so of luke warm water
2. Put the subject into the dish and wet it's skin
3. Take a moistened cotton bud, and carefully apply Tamodine to one end of the bud
4. Use the cotton bud to gently rub the Tamodine onto the affected areas on the animal
5. Leave for a 1-2 minutes
6. Wet the clean end of the cotton bud and use to remove the Tamodine from the animal. You may also use a spray bottle or water from the dish to help you do so with larger areas
7. Allow the animal to dry off and return to its enclosure
Electrolyte solution (Pedialyte or Dioralyte - unflavoured)
Electrolyte solutions such as Pedialyte and Dioralyte are perfect for helping dehydrated animals. In the same way that sports drinks contain electrolytes to aid water absorption in humans, these products do the same for your pet. It is not advised to use sports drinks (such as Gatorade or Lucozade) as they also contain flavourings and additives. Dioralyte is available from chemists in sachet form (choose unflavoured) which is then mixed with water when needed. Dioralyte is produced for humans but is safe for your gecko.
The following method is also effective for loosening old skin or dried on CGD.
To use, here is the method I suggest;
1. Line a secure, ventilated container (such as a cricket tub) with kitchen paper
2. Mix up the electrolyte solution and pour into the container. NOTE: Ensure that the water level is low enough that the animal can still breathe when relaxed
3. Place the animal in the container and wet its skin gently with the solution
4. Secure the lid and place in a warm spot (but not over the animals specific needs i.e for Rhacodactylus not above 85F)
5. Leave the animal in the container for 2-4 hours, checking on the animal reguarly to ensure no problems arise.
6. Once removed from the container, allow the animal to dry and return to its enclosure.
Hand-feeding and administering medicines
Although it's not normally necessary to hand-feed a healthy gecko, in some circumstances you may have to hand-feed a sickly gecko in order to give it medicine or to encourage it to eat again after it's been ill.
Below is the method I have found most successful;
Toffee the Crested Gecko being hand-fed medicine.
1. Get a small plastic syringe (without the needle!) from a vets surgery or pharmacy (these are normally very cheap or free)
2a. If hand-feeding the gecko to encourage it's appetite, mix the food into a runny consistency so that it enters the syringe easily. Pull a small amount of food into the syringe.
2b. If administering medicine, draw the prescribed dosage into the syringe
3. Place the gecko onto a secure surface which is not too high off the ground (e.g. a coffee table). Make sure it is not stressed and try not to man-handle the gecko too much. A stressed, frightened gecko will not eat.
4. Apply a small amount of pressure to the plunger end of the syringe so the mixture starts to bulge from the syringe tip but does not drip. Slowly offer the syringe tip to the gecko, but do not poke or smear the gecko with the food.
5. The gecko will (hopefully) begin to lick at the small bead at the tip of the syringe and as it does so you can continue to apply pressure slowly to maintain a constant flow of food as the gecko eats.
Tip: Some people recommend putting a blob of food on the end of the gecko's nose and waiting for it to lick it off. Whilst this may work at the very beginning of a hand-feeding session to introduce the gecko to the taste of the food, it is not generally a good method to encourage it eat on its own. When the gecko licks the food from it's nose, it is not eating because it wants to, it is simply removing the 'goop' from it's nose! so it won't encourage the gecko to eat unaided. In order to encourage the gecko's appetite, the method described above simply offers the gecko the food in a convenient and stress-free way.
More information coming soon...
If you have information, experience or photographs to do with reptile illness and disease and would like to share them with others, please email us at scTreasureCrest@aol.com to help us build on the information on this page. Credit for photographs will be given where due.