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 a 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.
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.
Questions & Answers
My Leo has skin built up near the tip of his tail. I have been trying to bathe him and use a cotton swab to take it off, but It starts to bleed. I don't want to hurt him, but it is getting worse. I fear he will lose the tip of his tail, plus I don't want him to be in pain. What can I do to help him ?
There are a few things you can try. First, is it built up skin or an infection? My 22 year old leopard gecko recently bit off the very tip of his tail about 2 sheds ago. I cleaned it with betadine, put some neosporin on it, and it healed within 3 weeks with no infection.
If it is truly just crusty built up skin, take the tail and soak it in mineral oil. Not baby oil. The mineral oil should soften the skin enough to get it off. It worked like a charm for my adult iguana on his spike shed.
If you can, email me a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org so I can take a look at what you are dealing with.Helpful 31
If a toe falls off on a Leopard Gecko, will it grow back? If so, how long will it take?
Toes do not grow back. The only part of a leopard gecko that will regenerate is the tail. It is very common for them to lose toes whether in captivity or the wild. Just make sure to keep the tank clean and the wound clean so no infection occurs at the sight of the lost toe. My 22 year old leopard gecko is missing three toe tips I think.Helpful 24
My Leopard Gecko has just shed, but hasn't been eating properly this past month. Today I noticed some tight skin around his toe. I have soaked it in warm water tried to get it off, with no success. The tip is red. How can I get him to eat? I have had him since December 24th, 2018. He ate well when I first got him. I offer him mealworms & crickets.
First, get the skin off his toe. If the toe is infected, which it might be if it is red and swollen, he is likely not going to eat. I recommend a vet trip at this point as the infection may have spread throughout his body causing him not to feel well enough to eat.Helpful 7
My leopard gecko has a lot of skin on her toes, so I soaked her and helped peel it off. Then, I saw the tips of her toes were brown under the shredded skin so I barely touched it and it came off. I'm worried it might be part of her toe because one foot has shorter toes than the other now. Do you know if it is? Should I be worried about it?
Yes, the brown was dead tissue. The toes fell off because the stuck shed acts like a tourniquet cutting off blood supply. This happens all too often with leopard geckos. As long as the toes are healed and not bleeding, there is no real concern here. My leopard gecko is missing a few toes and he's pushing 25 years old.
My juvenile leopard gecko has skin on her toes. I was able to get the skin off, but one of her toes is a reddish pink. I it just irritation? Or, should I treat it with something?
Yes, it is most likely irritated. You can place some cool water on it to reduce swelling. I'd even put a small amount of vaseline to avoid more irritation. If the skin is broken though, do not use Vaseline. Instead, use original Neosporin. Just keep an eye on it. It will most likely go away within a week's time.Helpful 13
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