Leopard Gecko Calcium Deficiency Symptoms

Are you concerned about your leopard gecko’s health and nutrition?

Are you noticing strange behaviors or crooked limbs in your pet?

Owners must be cautious about providing their pet reptiles with proper husbandry and diet. 

Without proper nutrition, health issues, such as calcium deficiency and metabolic bone disease (MBD), can occur. 

This article will discuss typical causes, symptoms, and treatment to combat calcium deficiencies in leopard geckos.

leopard gecko calcium deficiency symptoms

Leopard Gecko Calcium Deficiency Symptoms

Signs of MBD may change with the severity of the illness. 

These are the most common symptoms of MBD:

  • Lethargy.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Swollen limbs.
  • Can’t lift belly off of the ground.
  • A soft jaw or facial bones.
  • Flexible bones which dent or bend.
  • Crooked legs and backs.
  • Deformed or easily broken limbs.
  • Paralysis.
  • Jerking, shaky movements, especially when walking.
  • Tail thinning.
  • Coordination problems.
  • Difficulty catching prey.

Even with mild symptoms, contact a veterinarian. 

Early detection dramatically increases the chance of your leopard gecko making a full recovery.

What is Metabolic Bone Disease?

Calcium intake is a critical aspect of health across many reptile species, including leopard geckos. 

When there is not enough calcium present, the gecko’s body will use the calcium in its own bones to survive, leading to MBD.

MBD happens in captivity, but it’s a preventable illness. 

It affects the bones, metabolism, locomotion, reproduction, and essential everyday functions of reptiles. 

Functions requiring UV lighting for vitamin D3 production are significantly affected. 

MBD is dangerous if gone untreated, wearing away bones, bending and breaking limbs, and even paralyzing or killing the animal.

Common Causes of Metabolic Bone Disease In Leopard Geckos

Several factors play a role in a leopard gecko developing MBD. 

MBD has to do with a disruption of calcium absorption. 

But prevention isn’t always merely a matter of feeding your leo more of the mineral. 

Leopard geckos’ bodies require a number of variables working together in order to absorb and utilize the nutrients they ingest.

Lack of Calcium In Diet

These pets need calcium for healthy bones, teeth, muscles, and body tissue. 

MBD can quickly develop if there are improper calcium levels in your leopard gecko’s diet.

Low Ratio of Calcium To Phosphorus

Phosphorous prohibits calcium absorption.

It’s the opposite of D3 in this way. 

As a result, leopard geckos need to consume at least two, if not three times, as much calcium as phosphorus. This is a ratio of 2:1 or 3:1.

Phosphorus is an oxalate. 

It binds to calcium and renders it inactive. 

Stick as close as possible to a 3:1 ratio.

This helps the leopard gecko have an appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals in its body.

Not Enough Vitamin D3

Calcium absorption only occurs when vitamin D3 is present in the body.  

If vitamin D3 isn’t present, it doesn’t matter how much calcium your leopard gecko ingests.

These two factors have the most significant impact on calcium absorption outside of the diet itself:

  • Appropriate tank temperatures.
  • UVB lighting.

Both are required for leopard geckos to maintain vitamin D levels.

Additionally, dietary vitamin supplements can provide leopard geckos with vitamin D3. 

Learn more about this in the “Treatments for MBD” section below.

Reproductive Cycles

Breeding female leopard geckos are at higher risk for MBD. 

Because her eggs must also be provided with essential vitamins and minerals, an ovulating female must ingest more nutrients. 

Other Diseases

Other diseases may also cause MBD as a sort of side condition.

  • Kidney and liver diseases.
  • Small-intestinal diseases.
  • Parathyroid diseases.

Your leopard gecko has a higher risk of MBD if it also has one of these diseases.

Treatments for MBD

In the earliest stages of MBD, it is possible to reverse the damage. 

If you notice symptoms of MBD, it is imperative to take action immediately.

A healthy leopard gecko must be provided with various ways of remaining healthy and attaining a well-balanced diet. 

These four suggestions will allow you to treat your gecko’s MBD and help you maintain its health and happiness.

Gut Loading and Dusting Feeder Insects

Before giving your leopard gecko its feeders, it is essential to “gut load” the insects. 

This means offering them nutrient-rich foods and allowing them to digest for at least 24 if not 48 hours beforehand.

Using a supplement powder is another excellent solution for increasing essential vitamin and mineral intake. 

Dust the feeder insects with this powder before each meal, and leave a bottle cap full of the supplement out in your leo’s vivarium.

This Rep-Cal phosphorus-free powder is an excellent option for a supplement. 

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Rep-Cal SRP00200 Phosphorous-Free Calcium...
  • Rep-Cal Ultrafine Powder Is An Excellent Source Of Calcium For All Reptiles And Amphibians
  • Scientifically Formulated From 100-Percent Natural Oyster Shell Phosphorous-Free Calcium Carbonate With Vitamin D3 To Aid In...
  • Mix with vegetables, fruits and pastes approximately 1/2 tablespoon Rep-Cal with 1/2 tablespoon herptivite per lbs of food

Pure Calcium Sources

Another treatment option is to leave grated cuttlebone in the tank. 

This is one of the purest sources of minerals you could give your leo.

UVB Lighting

To help your leo produce its own vitamin D3, provide mild levels of ultraviolet radiation according to these guidelines:

  • 2% to 7% output of UVB rays.
  • 12 to 14 hours per day of light exposure.
  • Limited (but some) direct lighting.

Make sure there is are no materials between the UV lights and your leo. 

Plexiglass, glass, plastic, and metal mesh all block UV rays.

Veterinarian Visit

It’s never a bad idea to take your leo to the vet when you notice signs of MBD. 

It is vital to do so if you don’t notice an improvement after attempting the above treatments.

Final Thoughts

Just like any other animal, leopard geckos require a well-balanced diet, including necessary vitamins and minerals like calcium and vitamin D3. 

If your leopard gecko does not receive enough of these essential nutrients, it could wind up with a condition like calcium deficiency and even metabolic bone disease.

If you notice symptoms like crooked legs, extreme weakness, lethargy, or a thinning tail, it is essential to begin treatments immediately. 

By practicing proper husbandry, it is possible to reverse symptoms and avoid the painful reality of MBD. 

Take care of your leopard gecko, and you will live a healthy and happy life!

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