Leopard Gecko Parasites
Leopard geckos can get parasites along with most other reptiles. They are prone to intestinal parasites. Unfortunately at some stage in your reptile journey you will most likely encounter this.
The signs and symptoms that might come with a parasite are usually pretty obvious and can be diagnosed through tests.
Rather than trying to diagnose your leopard gecko yourself, you might want to just take them to your reptile veterinarian. After all, it is best practice to take them for an annual check-up to make sure that they are healthy and parasite free.
Leopard geckos are susceptible to a variety of different species of intestinal parasites. Here are some of the few you should be aware of:
Quick Reference Section
Common Parasites in Leopard Geckos
Your leopard gecko’s gut flora will normally have pinworms, but the numbers they come in is what you want to look out for. Depending on the numbers, it may or may not be necessary to prescribe treatment.
This is why it is best to have a vet do a fecal examination to properly make sure they are correctly diagnosed. That way, they can also be treated accordingly.
Pinworms are common in leopard geckos and should not cause issues with yours if they are healthy.
If you suspect your leopard gecko might have pinworms, you might see signs of a loss of appetite, weight loss, regurgitation, abnormal stools, and diarrhea.
Coccidia refers to single-celled protozoa that can often be found in low numbers in otherwise healthy leopard geckos. However, they can also cause illness and can infect the intestines and tissues of your leopard gecko.
Again, you must take your leopard gecko for regular checkups to have a reptile vet do a full examination of their stool and overall health. This will be your best bet in keeping your gecko happy and healthy.
Leopard geckos that are infected with coccidia will show similar symptoms to pinworms such as abnormalities in appetite, weight, not being able to keep food down, and runny stools.
Also known as “stick tail”, this mutant of coccidia is a one-celled parasite called Cryptosporidium Varanii that causes leopard geckos to lose an extreme amount of weight.
Leopard geckos keep most of their fat in their tail, which keeps them healthy. With Cryptosporidiosis, you will see that the fat deposits in their tail will diminish very quickly, which can kill them if untreated.
Your leopard gecko will need to be taken for an examination for the Cryptosporidium DNA as soon as possible. If you suspect your lizard has a parasite at all, take them for a fecal test and vent swab immediately.
Some leopard geckos diagnosed with Cryptosporidium may already have underlying issues. Your vet will be able to help diagnose and give the appropriate treatment to your gecko for them to live a healthier, longer life.
Keep in mind that a crypto-positive gecko will have to go through a life-long recovery from this parasite. It cannot be reversed but through prescribed medication, such as paromomycin, you can keep the numbers low enough for recovery.
Your Cryptosporidium-positive gecko will still be contagious to other geckos though and you must keep it separate from other reptiles.
Cryptosporidium may come with other diseases that your leopard gecko could be suffering from as well, so you want to make sure to keep communicating with your vet in order to properly care for your pet.
Not everyone will have the means or awareness to care for a Cryptosporidium-positive leopard gecko. You should discuss with your reptile veterinarian how to give your leopard gecko a fulfilling life while going through treatment for Cryptosporidium, even after recovery.
Symptoms to Look For
The below video gives a pretty thorough overview about all the different types of parasites in reptiles, but also includes specific mentions of lepard geckos.
Like any other intestinal parasite, your leopard gecko may be able to contract it from other infected reptiles or through contaminated objects in their environment, including food infected with the parasite.
If your leopard gecko is acting differently or having abnormal eating habits and stools, you might want to check its symptoms to make sure it is not an intestinal parasite.
Here are some common symptoms that leopard geckos with an intestinal parasite might exhibit:
The first place to look for symptoms is in their stool. It may be very runny with a foul odor if there is a parasite using them as a host.
You should be checking and paying attention to their stools. It is possible you might even find small organisms in there as well. A suffering leopard gecko may even vomit when it is infected with a parasite.
In more extreme cases, you may even find a little bit of blood in their feces and their intestines might prolapse. Leopard geckos suffering from diarrhea will become very dehydrated, which can stunt their recovery even more.
These are just some signs of intestinal difficulties that you should be aware of to properly care for your leopard gecko and lessen their suffering.
Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss
In a lot of cases of intestinal parasites, your leopard gecko will refuse to eat or just stop eating altogether. This is a huge hint that they are not well and that they may be stressed out.
Parasites will impair your leopard gecko’s appetite. Over time they will also cause your leopard to lose weight, which will be most obvious in their tail because that is where they store the most fat.
Weight loss is a symptom that comes with a parasitic infestation. That is why leopard geckos suffering from Cryptosporidium can be seen with skinny tails, hence the disease’s nickname of the “stick tail” parasite.
Whatever is bothering them and causing them to not want to eat, you should take them for a health check-up to find out the root of the cause.
After dealing with a parasite for a while, your leopard gecko will start to become weaker and malnourished. This will cause them to wallow around and act sluggish even during their active hours.
A lethargic leopard gecko will not want to come out of its hide, even after its lights have been turned off. Leopard geckos will usually be more active at night, so keep an eye on their behavior when you’re about to go to bed to see if they are acting in their natural ways.
Try your best to pay attention to any changes in your leopard gecko. This includes any off or strange behavior in their day-to-day routines as well as how they act in general.
Diagnosis and Treatment
You will definitely need veterinary aid to properly treat your leopard gecko. Your reptile veterinarian will be able to best assist you in diagnosing and treating your sick lizard.
To get an accurate diagnosis, your vet will need to determine which parasites might be infesting your leopard gecko’s body. They will perform some health tests and analyze their stools.
After determining what is infesting your leopard gecko, your vet may prescribe a dewormer that you can administer yourself at home. They might prescribe a course of antiparasitic medication that will reduce the population of parasites in your leopard gecko.
At the vet’s, they will be able to prescribe anything else they might need as well as give you any tips to help you prevent issues like this from getting worse. Your leopard gecko will have the best chances of survival with a reptile vet’s help.
You should use this chance to also educate yourself on the cleanliness of their environment and what steps need to be taken to keep them healthy for the remainder of their life.
When you take your leopard gecko in for treatment, your vet may put an extra emphasis on keeping their tank cleaner than you usually do it. This is because a clean enclosure will make for a healthy gecko.
The key to preventing parasites is cleaning up their feces as soon as they are passed, as leaving these droppings around can cause a build-up of parasites.
You should also make sure that the insects you feed them should not have any larva or defects in them as well. When gut loading crickets, or other feeders, take the time to get a good look at them, making sure they are without infection.
It is usually common knowledge amongst owners not to house two or more leopard geckos together in the first place. Some leopard geckos may already have contracted the parasites and are contagious to other geckos.
Making sure your leopard gecko has its own enclosure away from other leopard geckos is the best idea. They like their space anyway and they will be less stressed out on their own.
All in all, it is best that you know and understand the many types of parasites that could infest your leopard gecko to quickly catch the issue before it becomes an extreme case.
Caring for your leopard gecko is to quickly spot symptoms and take them in for treatment before it becomes a more painful issue for them and an expensive issue for you.
Keep your beloved pet lizard healthy and make sure you pay extra close attention to the little things they do, as it might be a warning signal for you!
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