Crested Gecko Respiratory Infection: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Respiratory infections are among the most common health conditions seen in crested geckos. 

Whether you suspect your gecko is suffering from this condition or you simply want to prevent it from occurring in the future, you’re in the right place.

In crested geckos, respiratory infections are primarily caused by bacteria, parasites, certain viruses, or fungal growth due to improper humidity or temperature settings in the animals’ enclosures. The illness is typically treated with antibiotic medications prescribed by a reptile veterinarian.

To learn more about this particular health issue, keep reading. 

We’ll cover everything you need to know about what causes a respiratory infection, symptoms of this particular condition, and how to both treat and prevent it in the future.

crested gecko respiratory infection

What Causes Respiratory Infections In Crested Geckos?

Crested geckos contract respiratory infections by being housed in enclosures with improper humidity settings and/or temperatures. 

A respiratory infection is exactly what it says on the tin, so to speak: a condition of the gecko’s respiratory tract. 

If left untreated, the condition is painful, progressive, and potentially fatal.

Aside from conditions like metabolic bone disease, respiratory infections are among the most common health issues amongst crested geckos.

When a crested gecko is housed in poor conditions with improper humidity or temperature settings, they become susceptible to increased bacterial growth, fungal growth, and certain viruses propagating in their enclosure. 

Dirty enclosures due to poor husbandry will also cause crested geckos’ immune systems to weaken and, in turn, cause the animal to become even more prone to such growth and viruses.

Alternatively, respiratory issues are sometimes also caused by certain parasites, which are similarly far more likely to thrive and spread in poorly maintained conditions in a crestie’s enclosure. 

These parasites are then often spread to the gecko itself when it ingests dirty water or happens to lick a dirty, contaminated surface in their enclosure.

Crested geckos, in particular, are pretty sensitive to incorrect temperature and humidity in captivity. 

Because they are tropical and arboreal geckos native to very mild yet humid habitats, they ideally need relatively low temperatures and comparatively high humidity levels in captivity to thrive. 

Unfortunately, many novice reptile owners are either unaware of the correct settings or consistently struggle with maintaining these conditions. 

As a result, crested geckos often suffer from respiratory tract infections more commonly than other reptiles and gecko species.

Symptoms Of Respiratory Infection In Crested Geckos

If you suspect your crested gecko possibly has a respiratory infection, you’ll likely want to identify their symptoms first and determine if they are indicative of respiratory distress. 

Because the condition primarily affects the gecko’s lungs and respiratory tract in general, you’ll notice the symptoms primarily affect their breathing and eating habits.

More specifically, look for the following symptoms to determine if your gecko potentially has respiratory issues:

  • Difficulty breathing, in particular very difficult or noisy breathing and open-mouthed panting
  • Decreased appetite or loss of appetite entirely
  • Frequent coughing, unusual wheezes, sniffling or gasping noises
  • Lethargic behavior or a sudden, unexplained loss of energy
  • Bloated or hard abdomen
  • Excess mucus or discharge coming from the gecko’s mouth and nose
  • Sudden weight loss

Suppose you’ve determined your pet gecko is displaying any of the above symptoms. 

In that case, it’s a good idea to go ahead and take them to a reputable reptile veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Your local exotics vet will likely need to run specific tests and examine your gecko to confirm the presence of a respiratory infection.

Once your vet has confirmed your gecko is suffering from a respiratory infection, they’ll need to prescribe medications. 

They will likely have care recommendations for you and your pet moving forward. 

Most importantly, you’ll need to be sure to maintain a clean enclosure for the recovering gecko and adjust the habitat’s temperature and humidity settings to the correct levels.

Check out our detailed guide on the main types of crested gecko sickness.

Treating Respiratory Infections In Crested Geckos

As we touched on earlier, you will need to see a reptile veterinarian to 100% confirm or deny the existence of respiratory infection in your crested gecko. 

While it’s possible to simply observe your gecko’s symptoms and rule out most other issues by process of elimination, it’s still crucial to see a vet, so they can prescribe the correct antibiotic treatment. 

Additionally, your vet will be able to tell you if the illness was likely caused by bacterial/fungal growth or a parasite.

Depending on which one of the above conditions caused your gecko’s respiratory issues, the exact treatment and medication prescribed to them will vary slightly. 

Most antibiotics are typically designed to be given to your pet by mouth. 

Many infected geckos also require additional hydration, vitamin supplements, and even careful hand-feedings to prevent them from becoming more dehydrated or malnourished as they recover. 

It is normal for your pet to be noticeably weaker and more lethargic during the beginning of the recovery process. 

However, they should begin to show significant improvement within just a few days once they’ve been given antibiotic medication.

Antibiotic medications frequently prescribed to crested geckos for respiratory issues include: 

  • Enrofloxacin 
  • Piperacillin 
  • Ceftazidime 
  • Amikacin

If your gecko still doesn’t show any signs of improvement after several days of antibiotic treatment, consult with your veterinarian once more for further advice. 

In rare and especially severe cases, some geckos will need surgery to fully recover.

Ensuring Proper Crested Gecko Enclosure Settings

In the meantime, while your gecko heals, you’ll also need to do a deep clean of their enclosure. 

This is a safety measure to prevent the infection from recurring while the gecko is especially fragile and healing. 

Be sure to thoroughly sanitize the enclosure itself as well as any decorations or furniture inside, and have a temporary enclosure ready to house your gecko in while you prepare their primary habitat for them. 

The temporary enclosure doesn’t need to be anything specialized, as you’ll likely be able to fully clean the gecko’s main habitat in just a few hours.

Finally, when placing your gecko back in their main enclosure, be sure their humidity and temperature settings are within the correct ranges. 

As a general rule, the humidity should be between 60% and 80% at all times. 

The temperature in the habitat should be within 72-77° degrees Fahrenheit (25° C) at all times. 

Temperatures will generally drop at night to the lower end of the spectrum and rise to around 75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C) during the day.

5 Tips For Preventing Crested Gecko Respiratory Infections

crested gecko respiratory infection 2

Fortunately, preventing respiratory infections in crested geckos is relatively simple and mostly requires basic proper husbandry and careful monitoring of the enclosure’s humidity and temperature settings. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind moving forward to prevent your gecko from contracting a respiratory infection in the future.

Deep Clean Your Crested Gecko’s Enclosure Regularly

Perhaps the most critical preventative measure when it comes to respiratory infections is to keep your gecko’s enclosure clean. 

While you should undoubtedly be spot-cleaning their terrarium daily, regular deep cleans are even more crucial to your pet’s health and wellbeing.

In general, it’s best to do a full deep clean of the enclosure at least once a month or slightly more often whenever it looks particularly dirty. 

This means you’ll need to remove everything from the enclosure and clean each item thoroughly before replacing them. 

In addition, you’ll have to carefully clean the actual walls and floor of the enclosure with a reptile-safe cleaning product, such as Zoo Med’s Wipe Out Disinfectant

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Be sure to wear gloves while cleaning to protect your hands from potentially picking up bacteria or transmitting your bacteria to the enclosure.

After you’ve thoroughly cleaned the enclosure and its decorations, be sure to also clean any food and water dishes especially well. Remember, harmful bacteria are often spread through the ingestion of contaminated water or food.

When you’re done cleaning everything in the terrarium, rinse it with warm water, allow it to fully dry, and replace the substrate completely. 

Once you’ve turned the lights back on and have allowed the enclosure to warm back up a bit, place your gecko back inside gently. 

Make an effort not to rearrange the items in the terrarium too drastically, as this will potentially stress out your gecko as they readjust.

Make Sure Your Gecko Has Fresh, Clean Water Daily

As we mentioned earlier, dirty water is a hotbed for various types of harmful bacteria responsible for infections, including respiratory conditions. 

You should ideally be replacing your gecko’s water bowl every single day or potentially even more often if they get it dirty frequently.

While crested geckos get much water from water droplets in their enclosures, they will also drink standing water. 

It’s best to use a small, fairly shallow water dish to prevent it from potentially interfering with the humidity settings in the enclosure.

In addition, don’t simply rinse the water dish and fill it back up with water immediately. 

It’s best to use a soft-bristled toothbrush or a sponge to scrub the inside of the dish carefully with hot water and mild dish soap. 

This will lift any stubborn bacterial or fungal growth, potentially clinging to the sides of the bowl.

After you’ve cleaned the water dish:

  • Rinse it thoroughly to remove any lingering traces of soap or bacteria.
  • Fill it back up with clean fresh water.
  • Place it carefully back in your gecko’s enclosure.

Always Remove Uneaten Insects From The Enclosure Immediately

In general, it’s never a good idea to leave insects in your gecko’s enclosure for a variety of reasons. 

For one, the leftover prey insects (especially fast-moving bugs such as crickets or Dubia roaches) will annoy your gecko while they are relaxing or sleeping. 

Crickets especially have been observed to “gang up” on reptiles and bite and scratch them while they’re sleeping.

Plus, you don’t want to end up opening your gecko’s enclosure only for leftover bugs to come hopping or wandering out into your home. 

Most importantly, insects will quickly dirty an enclosure with their waste and will even breed if left for extended periods. 

Many insects are common spreaders of bacterial infections, fungal growth, and occasionally even parasites.

When it’s time to feed your gecko, offer them a single insect at a time rather than dumping several into the enclosure at once. 

This way, you’ll be able to more easily keep track of how many feeder insects there are in the enclosure at once, as well as how many your gecko has eaten. 

The fewer insects there are crawling around in the enclosure, the cleaner it will be in the long run.

Spot Clean Your Gecko’s Enclosure Every Single Day

While deep cleans are certainly important, you’ll also need to spot clean your gecko’s enclosure daily to remove waste, shed skin, leftover insects and their waste, and anything else your gecko might have dirtied up over the day.

By spending 10 to 15 minutes spot cleaning your gecko’s terrarium each day, you’ll also make deep cleans a lot easier on yourself. 

More importantly, though, you’ll be able to stop the beginnings of bacterial and fungal growth in its tracks by removing any waste or insects as soon as you spot them.

This also means potentially removing substrate sections each day if you notice they are dirty and replacing them with a clean substrate. 

As a result, you’ll minimize the overall presence of bacteria in your gecko’s habitat.

Check Your Gecko’s Thermometer And Hygrometer In Their Enclosure Daily

It’s important to keep a close eye on the temperature and humidity levels in your gecko’s terrarium, so you are able to make adjustments quickly whenever needed. 

After all, poorly maintained or incorrect temperature and humidity are the main causes of respiratory infections in cresties! 

It doesn’t take long for bacteria to spread in improper conditions, and your gecko will also be more susceptible to infections in the meantime. 

Because of this, you shouldn’t go more than a day without taking a quick peek at the temperature and humidity gauges in their enclosure.

If you notice, for example, the humidity is a bit too low, you’ll be able to quickly mist the enclosure and return the humidity to a correct setting. 

Alternatively, if the temperature is too cold, all you’ll need to do is make a slight adjustment to the lighting element or heat source in the enclosure.

Either way, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking these settings at least once or twice per day.

For more details on a proper setup with this in mind, look at our guide on crested gecko lighting, temperature, and humidity.

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