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Treating a Leopard Gecko Dropped Tail

Updated on November 18, 2010
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Whitney has raised and bred different species of geckos, snakes, lizards, tortoises and other exotics since 2003

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Leopard Gecko Tail Dropping

In my 5 years of working with leopard geckos, I have never had a leopard gecko drop its tail, until this year. While changing my leopard gecko hatchlings from my old rack to my new one, one of my tangerine leopard gecko hatchlings dropped her tail.

It startled me a bit.

When transferring the gecko from the holding container to the new rack, I picked up the gecko and it tried to jump out of my hands, but I grabbed the gecko with my other hand. Big mistake, as I grabbed the tail.

The tail quickly started shaking and wriggling, and at first my thoughts were "I'll quickly put her in tub so that she doesn't drop her tail."

Well, what I didn't notice was that the tail was already halfway of, as it was torn half way through. The second I put the gecko in the tub, the tail flopped right off.

Since this was my first experience with a leopard gecko dropped tail, I was slightly worried, but I knew exactly what to do, as I have been working with reptiles for 5 years.

You may find different treatment options for your leopard gecko if it drops its tail, but the following are the basics to caring for a leopard gecko that has recently dropped its tail. Plus this is what has helped my tangerine leopard gecko hatchling heal up and recover nicely.

The tail giving out and slowing down

Why do geckos drop their tail?

Tail dropping is a defense mechanism that helps the reptile escape predators.

Many geckos and smaller lizards do not have any real defense mechanisms, such as secreting nasty oils when bitten or playing dead when harassed, so they rely on their tails to help them get away from predators in the wild.

When the bird, mammal, larger reptile, or any other predator tries to grab at the small gecko, it can drop its tail to distract the predator long enough to dart off into safety.

When the gecko, or small reptile, drops its tail, the tail continues to wriggle and flop around (as seen in the videos to the right) to distract the predator, giving the gecko enough time to find safety.

(The videos are not right after the gecko dropped its tail, so you are not seeing the full extent of the tail flopping and wriggling, which is definitely a sight, but you can see how it does move on its own before slowly losing steam.)

In Captivity...

When caring for geckos, the gecko really doesn't have to worry about predators, unless your cat can get into the enclosure or you are inappropriately housing the small gecko with a larger reptile (which is BAD and you should separate them). But, pet geckos will still drop their tails when they are stressed or threatened.

Common reasons that a gecko will drop its tail in captivity can include:

  • Bullying from cage mates
  • Sick gecko with an already lowered immune system
  • Grabbed by the tail
  • Stress and fear
  • Skin issues and retained skin on the tail
  • Bacterial, fungal, or protozoan infections
  • Abscess or swelling in the area

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What to do if your leopard gecko drops its tail

First off, if you are housing your leopard gecko on a loose substrate such as play sand, calci- sand, dirt, and wood shavings, you want to remove it all and throw it in the trash or outside (however you want to dispose of it). If you leave the gecko on the loose substrate, it will be hard to keep the wound clean, as the substrates can get into the open wound and cause an infection.

Next, if you house the gecko with a mate, you want to set up a hospital tank with paper towels as the substrate. Make sure that you have appropriate heating and overall housing in the hospital tank. You want to enclosure to mimic the regular enclosure to reduce stress.

The key to making sure that your leopard gecko successfully regenerates its tail is to keep the area clean and keep the leopard gecko at appropriate temperatures of 90F.

You want to continue feeding the gecko as normal, removing any uneaten crickets after 15 minutes, give or take.

You also want to check on the leopard gecko daily, so that you can closely monitor the wound for signs of infection. If you think that you see signs of infection you can apply a very thin layer of Neosporin to the base of the tail. The Neosporin will also help relieve any pain as well as help fight off infection.

If the tail IS infected, and the Neosporin did not help, you want to take the leopard gecko to a qualified reptile veterinarian as soon as you can. I would watch the tail for about 3 to 5 days after you first see signs of infection and after you have started using the Neosporin before you decide to see the vet. Just make sure that you do not let it get too serious before acting on it.

Below you will find pictures of a successfully regenerated leopard gecko tail from day one to day 31.

Leopard Gecko Regenerated Tail

Click thumbnail to view full-size
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Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a specialized reptile veterinarian.

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      Marcella 9 months ago

      My geckos tail fell off today and his name is Franko we think he got in a fight with his wife Fregreka because she was holding his tail. Or he is starving to death because he is super skiny and his skin is turning pink but he won't eat!

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      Briar 17 months ago

      You should never put any reptile in any sort of fine, loose substrate (ESPECIALLY not sand) as they can swallow the sand and it can become impacted and KILL your reptile (this goes for all geckos, beardies, etc, unless the anima does not constantly lick its surrounding substrate, such as a monitor of any kind.)

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      emileigh 3 years ago

      Ok my gecko droped her tail can they die i have another gecko in there with her and also the other day i droped her and she started flicking her tail but she stop i thought she was going to drop it but didn't till today is that normal?

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      marcus 3 years ago

      my gecko dropped his tail a part grew back but now its just hard please help

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      habib 4 years ago

      my lizards tail fell of and i am only12 years old

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      Bon 4 years ago

      How lOng does it take my geckos Tail to grow back

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      leokid21 5 years ago

      my baby leo tail just fell off today she's on reptile carpet I just cleaned it and put her to soak in warm water now what should I do

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      Amanda 5 years ago

      My lizard was in his cage for a while. i went to get him later and he didn't have a tail. why?

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      mel 5 years ago

      i am going to get a leopard gecko and I am worried about its tail falling off, how do i prevent it? please reply soon.

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      Ang 5 years ago

      my gecko just dropped its tail. Before that he was shaking and twisting his head around when i was holding it; he looked dead not moving. Then after he was able to stand up he walked around and then dropped his tail. he also got sand in his eye. I dipped him in water but the eye doesn't look as clear as his other. He also was twitching again. I put the calcium supplement on his food the same day is tail was dropped. I am going to remove the sand tomorrow so his tail wont be infected. Should I do anything else to help him out?

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      studude 5 years ago

      How do i prevent tail from falling off?

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 5 years ago from Georgia

      Remove the sand.

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      qwejhrbfefef 5 years ago

      My gekos tail is falling off and it lives in sand. What should I do so it does not get infected?!?!?!?!

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      Felicia 5 years ago

      my leopard gecko just dropped his tail because if was getting fed and his wood hut got dropped on him. I just feel so bad. It never should have happened. The tail was beautiful. Anyway, should we feed anything differently? Or more often?

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      VictoriaFrank 5 years ago

      my leopard geckos tail hasn't even grown half way back and its been a year is this bad?

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      Victoria Frank 2019 5 years ago

      My leopard geckos tail was dropped about 8 or 9 months ago and its tail grew ok at first but now its just getting fatter and fatter not longer should I be worried? please respond as soon as possible

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      charlene 5 years ago

      my leopard gecko has fallen off. I think it was cause my cat was trying to get her and scare her. What do i do, i have another gecko in the tank and also i have wood chipping in the tankk. Thanks charlene

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      Vidar 5 years ago

      My sister's gecko's tail fell off yesterday. she doesn't have tank mates. We didn't touch her at all. i want to preserve the tail how do I do that.

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      Kristen Werner 5 years ago

      My gecko is about 5 years old. I was out of town for about four days this week and asked someone to take care of my house and housesit. When I came home, I think they were looking at my gecko because his shelter was moved off of the heating pad that I have for him. When I saw him,a very small part of his tail had fallen off.

      Was this just my friend handling him wrong and scaring him, or was it a heating issue from his shelter being off the heating pad?

      Also, I keep a little bowl of calcium powder in his habitat for him to eat because I read that you should do that. I also feed him regularly. I don't think that malnourisment is an issue.

      I just don't see how the tip of his tail could fall off. I thought the whole thing falls off. What should I do to keep it clean? Will it grow back all deformed and weird?

      Thanks.

    • Whitney05 profile image
      Author

      Whitney 5 years ago from Georgia

      It sounds like a nutrition problem. Is the gecko eating? What substrate are you using? What are the temperatures?

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