Leopard gecko mouth rot

By Snaketracks / January 5, 2021

Leopard gecko mouth rot

Leopard gecko mouth rot occurs when small cuts along the reptile’s mouth or gums get infected or when tiny bits of food stuck in their teeth leads to infection.

Leopard geckos make great first reptiles because they only grow to around 10 inches and don’t need a large tank.

A 10-gallon tank equipped with UV lighting, heating, food, water, and a hide box is more than adequate for the reptile.

Another plus is that they are available in a number of different morphs and caring for a leopard gecko is pretty easy too.

Not only are these reptiles hardy, but they are also easy to tame. Regardless of the leopard gecko’s hardy nature, they can still suffer from a few health issues. One of these is mouth rot.

What Is Leopard Gecko Mouth Rot?

One of the more common diseases/disorders (health issues) faced by leopard gecko is infectious stomatitis also known as mouth rot. Leopard geckos aren’t the only reptile afflicted by stomatitis.

Other reptiles such as snakes, turtles, and other lizards can also suffer from it. When caught early, mouth rot isn’t a serious affliction.

However, when left to fester, it’s very detrimental to the health & wellbeing of the lizard and can lead to death.

Mouth rot can be traced down to bacterial infection. This happens when a cut in the reptile’s mouth gets infected or when food stuck in the reptile’s mouth leads to an infection.

To reduce the presence of bacteria in the lizard’s habitat, it is important to routinely clean the enclosure.

Elements such as heating and lighting must be within the correct ranges. This helps reduce the likelihood of mouth rot.

Prevention

The root cause of mouth rot is usually a dirty enclosure. Dirty enclosures encourage the breeding of bacteria. Other root causes include low temperatures and an unsuitable diet or feeding regime.

Preventing mouth rot isn’t as hard as you may think. Do the following, and your gecko will most likely never suffer from mouth rot.

Follow a suitable feeding regime

Improper feeding is one of the main root causes of mouth rot.  In the wild, leos eat a wide range of insects.

In captivity, there are several insects they accept such as butterworms, waxworms, mealworms, crickets, dubia roaches, and even superworms. (sidenote: all these links are breeding guides in case you want to raise your own food)

It is necessary to gut load the insects before feeding them to the gecko. Gut Loading involves feeding the insects a nutritious diet before offering them to the gecko.

Keep the gecko’s terrarium/vivarium clean

A leo doesn’t need a large enclosure. An enclosure with a capacity of 10 gallons is usually big enough for the leo.

I recommend an enclosure that is 15 to 20 gallons in capacity. Spot clean as often as you can. This includes removing fecal matter, uneaten food, and any other foreign material.

Change the substrate in the enclosure routinely (about once a month) and wipe down the enclosure using dilute antiseptic or bleach solution.

Remember to thoroughly rinse the enclosure with clean water and allow it to air dry before moving the lizard back in. Online care guides are a huge help when it comes to keeping your leo happy.

Maintain a temperature gradient and correct lighting. With the help of heat mats and ceramic lamps, you can keep the temperatures within the right ranges.

The heat mat should be taped to the underside of the gecko’ tank. This tape should cover about a third of the bottom area. The warm should record temperatures of about 90 °F (32 °C).

The cool end should have temperatures of 70 to 75 °F (21 to 24 °C). A good heat mat is the Fluker’s Heat Mat and a good ceramic heat lamp is the Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter.

Routine vet check-ups can be very helpful

Since vets can be costly, many keepers aren’t prepared to do the yearly check-ups. However, these can help prevent all sorts of diseases and disorders, not just mouth rot.

In addition to vet check-ups, you can also inspect your reptile regularly. Do so gently so as not to harm the pet.

Check around the mouth for swellings, reddening, and other irregularities. Also, check the abdomen for impaction (this happens when the gecko swallows substrate).

Symptoms

One thing that works in your favor is that mouth rot is very easy to spot. As long as you pay attention to your pet you won’t miss the symptoms.

  • One sign is swelling in and around the mouth. The gums of the gecko may also bleed.
  • Another symptom is the presence of yellow pus appearing between the teeth. This is a major symptom and a sure sign of mouth rot.
  • You may also notice blackened teeth.
  • Lastly, you’d notice a refusal to eat or drink. This is because the gecko is in a lot of pain, swelling and bleeding gums are the culprits here.

As with all other health issues, it’s best to contact your vet. The vet should be experienced in treating exotic pets and/or reptiles. If the vet knows your reptile very well and has had past encounters with it that’s even better.

Treatment

Unless you know what you are doing, it isn’t advisable to treat mouth rot on your own. You need to enlist the help of a professional.

You can end up making the problem worse. Also only attempt treatment at home if the disease is in the early stages.

When treating at home, start by thoroughly cleaning the enclosure. Clean and disinfect the entire enclosure and all other plastic components with bleach solution.

Thoroughly rinse the enclosure and all the plastic components with clean water after disinfecting them.

Change the substrate and other organic components in the enclosure.

Next, check the temperature and correctly regulate it. Low temperature helps the mouth rot to progress.

Treat the leo with an antiseptic solution such as 10% betadine. Apply the solution with the help of a cotton swab. You can also administer an antibiotic cream if only it is prescribed by the vet.

If the disease has progressed too far, you need to see a vet. If the gecko is refusing to eat, its gums and mouth have reddened and swollen, and there is a presence of yellow discharge then you must see a vet immediately.

If you wait for the infection to reach the bones and other deep tissues, then these affected parts will need to be removed surgically. A fluid diet would have to be administered until your leopard gecko can eat again.

How to apply iodine to the mouth of a leopard gecko (Video)

Below is a video of a vet applying iodine to a leopard geckos mouth as part of a treatment.

Conclusion

When discovered early, mouth rot is easily treatable. However, when left untreated, it can develop into a deadly disease.

Many vets recommend routinely inspecting your gecko’s mouth for cuts/abrasions or pieces of food.

Other symptoms include refusing food and water. The reptile may also drool. When left untreated, you’d notice pus around and within the mouth.

The infection will then spread to the digestive tract or even lungs and can cause pneumonia. It is absolutely important to treat mouth rot early if you don’t want your pet to die from it.

Keeping the enclosure clean, maintaining the right humidity levels & temperature gradients, and providing a healthy diet are all necessary if you wish to prevent mouth rot.

Kindly leave a comment if you have any questions or extra information.

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