What to Do If a Leopard Gecko Drops Its Tail
What to Do If Your Leopard Gecko Drops Its Tail
In my five years of working with leopard geckos, I never had one drop its tail until recently. While changing my hatchlings from my old rack to my new one, one of my tangerine leopard gecko hatchlings dropped her tail. It startled me a bit.
Why Did My Gecko Drop Its Tail?
When transferring my gecko from the holding container to the new rack, it tried to jump out of my hands. At that moment, I grabbed my gecko with my other hand. Big mistake, because I accidentally grabbed the tail.
The tail quickly started shaking and wriggling, and I immediately thought to put her in the tub so that she wouldn't drop her tail. Well, what I didn't notice was that the tail was already halfway off and it was torn halfway through. The second I put my gecko in the tub, the tail flopped right off. I was slightly worried, but I knew exactly what to do. I have been working with reptiles for five years.
First Aid for Geckos
Beloow, you will find pictures of a successfully regenerated leopard gecko tail from day one to day 31. Keep in mind that you may find different treatment options, but the following tips for first aid helped my tangerine leopard gecko hatchling heal up and recover nicely.
1. Remove the Substrate
If you are housing your leopard gecko on loose substrate such as sand, calci-sand, dirt, or wood shavings, you will 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, since substrate can get into the open wound and cause an infection.
2. Set Up a Hospital Tank
If you house the gecko with a mate, you will want to set up a hospital tank with paper towels as the substrate. Make sure that you have appropriate heating and overall housing necessities in the hospital tank. You want the enclosure to mimic the regular enclosure in order to reduce stress.
3. Maintain a Proper Environment
The key to making sure that your leopard gecko successfully regenerates its tail is to keep the area clean and to keep the housing at an appropriate temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Feed Normally
Continue feeding the gecko normally, and remove any uneaten crickets after 15 minutes, give or take.
5. Monitor the Wound
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 veterinarian-approved antibiotic.
6. Consider Veterinary Care
If the tail is infected, you will want to take your gecko to a qualified reptile veterinarian as soon as you can. Just make sure that you do not let the situation get too serious before acting on it.
A Regenerated Tail on a Leopard GeckoClick thumbnail to view full-size
Why Would a Gecko Drop Its Tail in Captivity?
Geckos really don't have to worry about predators in captivity, unless your cat can get into the enclosure or you are inappropriately housing a small gecko with a larger reptile (this is BAD and you should separate them). However, pet geckos will still drop their tails when they are stressed or threatened.
Common Reasons a Gecko Will Drop Its Tail
- Bullying from cagemates
- Illness/low immunity
- Being 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
Why Do Geckos Drop Their Tails?
Tail-dropping is a defense mechanism that helps the reptile escape predators. Many geckos and smaller lizards do not have any real defense mechanisms like 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 a bird, mammal, larger reptile, or any other predator tries to grab at a small gecko, it can drop its tail to distract the predator long enough to dart off into safety.
When a small reptile drops its tail, the tail continues to wriggle and flop around (as seen in the video) to distract the predator, giving the gecko enough time to find safety.
Always Consider Working With a Veterinarian
While informed first aid and at-home care is generally fine for experienced reptile owners, if this is your first time dealing with an injured gecko, reach out to your nearest reptile veterinarian. Always do what's in the best interest of your companion.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.