Leopard Gecko Shedding Problems
Leopard Geckos are extremely popular reptiles to keep as pets. These reptiles are easy to care for and live for a long time, up to 30 years in captivity. However, these geckos are a bit notorious for losing toes due to shedding problems. The skin around the toes does not shed, and therefore dries out. As it dries, the skin tightens around the toes and begins to act like a tourniquet, cutting off the blood supply to the toes. Eventually, the toe dies from the lack of oxygen carried by the blood and the toe becomes gangrenous and falls off. Infection can result from this.
As many of you leopard gecko owners know, it is easy to tell when your gecko is going to shed. The skin color will start to dull, almost beginning to look smokey a day or two before shedding is to occur. When the leopard gecko is in this stage, it is important to give your gecko a variety of tools to make a complete shed.
I recommend offering a large, shallow water bowl filled with warm water, and I believe placing moist moss in a hideout are the best opportunities for your gecko to make a complete shed. The moist retreat will provide additional humidity for the gecko to allow the shedding skin to peel off the fresh skin cleanly. The gecko is rather good at getting the body skin and leg skin off cleanly. The toes, however, will need the warm water bowl to help loosen this skin. The toe skin is difficult for the gecko to remove because they cannot get a good bite on the skin to peel it off. They do not want to bite their toes and licking their toes is not a habit they have. The warm water gets in between the shedding skin and new skin and more often than not, the toe skin falls off. If the skin does not fall off, there are some methods you can do to help peel the skin off the toes.
The first thing to try is to take your leopard gecko and place him in a large, deep container with a shallow amount of warm water and mineral oil. The oil is thinner than water and has an easier time getting in between the shedding skin and the fresh skin. The oil will then act as lubricant to allow the skin to peel off. Since the gecko will be walking around, the gecko will be the mixer and make this process successful. However, you may need to intervene. Keep the gecko in this bath mixture of water and mineral oil. Take a cotton Q-tip, dip it in mineral oil, and use the Q-tip as a peeler. Massage each toe, trying to work the shedding skin off.
There is another method that is a bit more difficult and requires patience and skilled hand/eye coordination. Keep giving your leopard gecko warm water to soak in. The warm water will rehydrate the skin, making it soft and plump. Take needle nose tweezers and carefully pinch a piece of loosened shedding skin and slowly pull the skin off. I cannot emphasize how important it is to be gentle and slow. Leopard geckos are hardy, but they do have sensitive skin. The goal is to make the skin as soft as possible before trying this.
Lastly, a realistic view. I want to put this here because I feel if I did not, I would not be giving the whole truth. In the wild, leopard geckos are found missing toes due to shedding problems. Do not beat yourself up if you are unable to remove the shedding skin from your gecko's toes and the toe falls off. It does happen, but when you notice that the toe has fallen off, be sure to keep the wound clean so it can heal without harming your gecko further.
If you have any comments, questions, or want to add to my list of what has worked for you, please post here. Best of luck to all leopard gecko owners.