Can a leopard gecko regrow its tail?
How does a leopard gecko lose its tail?
Understanding the various behaviors of your leopard gecko is essential to identifying what types of behaviors are normal and when you should seek medical attention from your veterinarian.
Seeing your gecko lose its tail for the first time may be alarming, but rest assured, this is a normal reaction to several things and is not fatal to your gecko.
In this article, we will learn if a leopard gecko can regrow its tail and what situations would cause your gecko to lose its tail in the first place.
Table of Contents
Will Your Leopard Gecko Regrow Its Tail After Losing It?
A leopard gecko has the natural ability to regrow its tail after losing it, but the tail may not look the same as before. Generally, the newly regrown tail will be shorter, wider, and blunter at the end than the original tail. The new tail may also be a different color and pattern than the old one.
This entire process is part of a defense mechanism called autotomy, in which an animal will detach a part of its body when it is threatened.
In the case of the leopard gecko, the tail is the part of the body which will detach.
There is a connective tissue in the gecko’s tail which allows it to break off when necessary.
When geckos drop their tail, the blood vessels to the tail constrict, so there is only a small amount of blood loss.
While tail dropping is a natural process, it puts a lot of stress on the leopard gecko and can affect its health if special care is not taken to ensure any infection in the wound.
Wild leopard geckos will take care of tail loss and regrowth on their own, but with proper treatment, a captive gecko will be able to make this transition more smoothly.
The regrowth process begins immediately after the tail is dropped and will take two months or more to complete.
This newly regrown tail is usually a lighter color than the original tail.
The leopard gecko can regrow their tail multiple times during their lifespan, but they may lose this ability when they reach old age.
Why Did Your Leopard Gecko Drop Its Tail?
As stated previously, a leopard gecko will drop its tail due to a defense mechanism known as autotomy.
A gecko’s body is specifically designed to lose its tail without causing a lot of trauma to the rest of its body.
However, this does cause a large amount of stress to the leopard gecko, impacting its health and overall well-being.
It is important to investigate why your leopard gecko drops its tail to prevent tail loss from happening in the future.
The most common causes of leopard gecko tail loss include:
- A response to fear or stress
- Improper handling
- Getting the tail stuck
- Illness or infection
Let’s take an in-depth look at these causes so you will know how to avoid them.
A Response to Fear or Stress
When faced with a predator in the wild, a leopard gecko will drop its tail as a distraction.
The newly dropped tail will wiggle for several minutes, distracting the predator long enough for the gecko to escape.
Luckily, captive leopard geckos will not face any predators, but it is possible for a gecko to be bullied if more than one gecko inhabits the same enclosure.
If the bullying continues, the victim could activate its defense mechanism and drop its tail.
It is essential to monitor your leopard gecko’s behaviors if you keep more than one in the same enclosure.
Be aware of bullying, and isolate the victim in a separate enclosure if you notice this behavior.
A leopard gecko will also drop its tail if it is startled by loud noises or bright lights, so it is best to maintain a calm atmosphere near your gecko’s enclosure by placing it in a less busy area of your home.
The environment inside your leopard gecko’s enclosure is also a source of stress due to improper temperature or humidity.
Monitoring the temperature and humidity of the enclosure, along with regular cleaning, will go a long way in keeping your gecko healthy and happy.
Grabbing your leopard gecko by the tail or otherwise aggressive handling may cause it to drop its tail.
Be gentle when handling your gecko, and do not hold it tightly if it’s attempting to escape your grasp.
By studying your leopard gecko’s behavior, you will learn to recognize when it does not want to be held.
Signs your leopard gecko wants to be left alone include chirping, arching its back, or swishing its tail from side to side.
Never, ever grab your leopard gecko by the tail, as this will always result in a tail loss which could easily be avoided.
If your leopard gecko is a new addition to your household, allow it to become acquainted with you and its new surroundings for 3-4 weeks before attempting to hold it.
Do not handle a shedding leopard gecko, as this can interfere with the shedding process and cause the skin not completely to shed.
To avoid undue stress, you should not handle a pregnant leopard gecko too frequently.
Pregnancy is a challenging and stressful time for a gecko, so you should keep her as calm as possible to prevent any complications from arising.
Getting the Tail Stuck
If a leopard gecko’s tail becomes stuck or trapped by something in its enclosure, the gecko will drop its tail to get free.
When you set up a leopard gecko enclosure, be aware of any crevices or tight spots between any objects such as rocks, hiding spaces, or food and water dishes.
Keep these objects away from each other as well as the walls of the enclosure to prevent your gecko from becoming trapped and dropping its tail.
Also, take care not to drop anything on your leopard gecko during feeding accidentally or while maintaining its enclosure, as this will also result in tail loss.
Illness or Infection
If you have ruled out any of the above reasons for your leopard gecko to drop its tail, the cause may be due to an infection or illness.
Tail rot is an infection of the tail spreading to the rest of the gecko’s body if it is not treated correctly.
Symptoms of tail rot include a black or brown discoloration on the tail and the infected area becoming dry and stiff.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your leopard gecko’s tail, you should seek veterinary care as soon as possible to keep the infection from spreading and entering the gecko’s bloodstream.
Parasites and illnesses such as metabolic bone disease will also cause your leopard gecko to drop its tail.
Signs of illness in your gecko include loss of appetite, lethargy, muscle spasms, or the inability to walk or stand.
A thinning tail is also a sign of illness, as leopard geckos store fat in their tails, and they will only use this fat in emergencies such as pregnancy or condition where they are unable to eat.
Any of these symptoms need to be checked by your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
What Should You Do If Your Leopard Gecko Drops Its Tail?
The first thing you should do if your leopard gecko drops its tail is to separate the gecko from any others you may have in the enclosure.
The other geckos might bully the gecko with a detached tail.
Next, you will want to change loose substrate to paper towels in the enclosure.
Loose substrates such as soil or sand can get into the tail wound and cause infection.
Replace the paper towels frequently to keep the enclosure clean.
Monitor your leopard gecko’s tail stump for any signs of infection such as discharge, swelling, or redness.
If you see any of these signs, seek veterinary help right away.
You should also check the temperature and humidity in the enclosure to ensure an ideal environment for your leopard gecko to heal.
Since most of the fat in a leopard gecko’s body is stored in its tail, it will lose most of its fat reserves.
You should feed your gecko a little bit more than you usually would so it can remain healthy during tail regrowth.
Be sure to remove crickets and other feeder insects not been eaten within 15 minutes because they might bite at your leopard gecko’s tail wound.
This is not only uncomfortable for your gecko, but it may lead to infection.
While it is very alarming when your leopard gecko drops its tail, it is a normal reaction and not fatal.
Be aware of signs of infection on the tail stump and make your leopard gecko’s environment as clean and as comfortable as possible.
Tail regrowth is very stressful for a leopard gecko, so lower its stress by placing the enclosure in a quiet room in your house and ensuring your gecko gets the proper nutrition.
If you are a new leopard gecko owner or are uncomfortable with treating a dropped tail on your own, consult a veterinarian for help.
They will be able to check for signs of infection and prescribe the proper treatment for your leopard gecko.
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