What vitamin supplements do leopard geckos need?
How should you add a vitamin supplement to your leopard gecko’s diet?
Making sure your leopard gecko gets the proper nutrition it needs is vital to its health and well-being.
Vitamin deficiencies can lead to problems shedding, illness, and disease, such as metabolic bone disease.
Adding supplements to your leopard gecko’s diet is necessary, as feeder insects do not provide enough nutrition for a gecko to thrive.
In this article, we’re going to explore what other vitamins your leopard gecko needs and explain how to add a vitamin supplement to their diet.
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Leopard Gecko Vitamins And Minerals Your Pet Needs
The most important two supplements for leopard geckos are calcium and vitamin D3. Vitamin D3, a hormone, is often added to calcium powders because D3 is needed for the gecko to absorb calcium properly. A calcium deficiency will lead to metabolic bone disease as the leopard gecko leaches calcium from its bones.
Metabolic bone disease is incurable due to the bone deforming effects, and it is often fatal for leopard geckos.
Symptoms of metabolic bone disease in leopard geckos include:
- Deformities and softening of the bones
- Bowed legs
- Loss of appetite
- The inability for the gecko to stand or hold its body up off the ground
Once these symptoms are present, it is usually too late to provide any treatment to improve the gecko’s quality of life.
There is no cure for metabolic bone disease, resulting in a painful death for the gecko.
Luckily, with proper calcium and vitamin D3 supplementation, metabolic bone disease is easily prevented.
Since leopard geckos are insectivores, their diet consists entirely of live insects, giving them limited nutrition options.
Even if you offer your gecko a variety of feeder insects, they still do not contain all of the nutrients your gecko needs to stay healthy.
Phosphorus Ratio For Leopard Geckos
One problem is how many insects have too much phosphorus concerning the amount of calcium they contain.
Too much phosphorus can prevent certain nutrients from being appropriately metabolized by the leopard gecko.
The proper calcium to phosphorous ratio for leopard geckos is 2:1, so be sure to use a supplement with this ratio.
The table below shows the calcium to phosphorus ratio for some common insect feeders.
|Calcium to Phosphorous Ratio
As you can see, insect feeders do not offer nearly the amount of calcium a leopard gecko needs, so a calcium supplement with D3 is very important.
Multivitamin supplements are also available, both with and without calcium and D3.
These supplements provide additional vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Vitamin supplements containing multivitamins and minerals in addition to calcium and D3 make it easy, especially for novice leopard gecko owners, to provide their gecko with the essential nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
How Do You Add a Vitamin Supplement to Your Leopard Gecko’s Diet?
Calcium and multivitamin supplements come in a powder used to dust insect feeders before feeding them to your leopard gecko.
Simply place some live insect feeders in a plastic bag, add the supplement powder, and gently shake to coat the insects.
You can spray a light mist of water onto the insects before dusting them to make the supplement powder stick to them better.
You should also gut load the live insect feeders 12-24 hours before feeding them to your gecko, as a gut-loaded insect is more nutritious than an empty insect.
Provide the insect feeders with a varied diet of greens and other vegetables to ensure they receive a healthy range of nutrients.
Gut-loaded insects will pass these nutrients to the gecko when they are eaten.
Foods excellent for gut loading include dark leafy greens, apples, squash, carrots, oats, and potatoes.
There are also commercial insect foods which work well, and they include several vitamins and minerals as well as moisture.
Avoid gut-loading insect feeders with iceberg lettuce and cabbage, as these are mostly made of fiber and water and offer little nutrition.
You should avoid acidic fruits and vegetables as well.
You should dust the insect feeders every time you feed them to your leopard gecko.
Feeding Leopard Geckos
Juvenile leopard geckos less than a year old should be fed every day, while adults should eat three to four times per week.
As a general rule, leopard geckos should be fed two insects for every 1″ inch (2.5 cm) of body length, measured from the nose to the base of the tail.
Do not include the length of the tail in your measurement.
If you are using a feeding dish in the enclosure, remove any insect feeders which remain uneaten within fifteen minutes.
If left in the enclosure, insects may bite your gecko, causing injury and possible infection.
Repashy Calcium Plus, vitamin and calcium powder, is an excellent, well-rounded supplement recommended by many breeders and includes essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, in addition to calcium and D3.
Calcium powder without D3 may be placed in a small dish in your leopard gecko’s enclosure to provide your gecko with calcium whenever they need it.
If you choose to do this, it is important to use a calcium powder without D3, as too much D3 is thought to cause problems with a gecko’s kidneys.
Be aware this method is a bit unreliable, as it is difficult to gauge how much calcium your leopard gecko is getting, and the powder by itself isn’t very tasty.
You may add a separate vitamin supplement to your gecko’s diet if you are nursing a sick gecko back to health.
Be sure to keep using the calcium plus D3 supplement, as separate vitamin supplements usually do not contain these two nutrients.
Besides a varied diet of live insect feeders and vitamin supplements, always provide clean, fresh water for your leopard gecko every day and properly maintain its habitat.
Can a Leopard Gecko Overdose on Supplements?
While it is extremely rare, it can be possible for a leopard gecko to overdose on D3.
This happens because D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it is not flushed from the body through waste.
Vitamin D3 overdose is usually only a concern if you are using a UVB light above your gecko’s enclosure in addition to D3 supplementation.
Symptoms of vitamin D3 overdose include:
- Loss of appetite
- Fluid retention
- Dehydration and excessive thirst
Too much vitamin D3 can lead to kidney damage and even death from kidney failure.
D3 overdose is more common in basking reptiles such as iguanas and chameleons.
Another supplement which may lead to overdose is vitamin A.
Vitamin A deficiency is more common than overdose in leopard geckos because they can not process vitamin A from beta carotene.
Insects are not naturally a good source of vitamin A unless they are properly gut-loaded, and most vitamin supplements contain beta carotene as the source of vitamin A.
Most supplements use beta carotene instead of vitamin A because there is concern among reptile owners around vitamin A being toxic to reptiles when too much is given at once.
It is just as easy for a leopard gecko to overdose on vitamin A as it is to receive too little of it.
If you notice vitamin A deficiency symptoms such as swollen eyes, improper shedding, or lethargy, seek a veterinarian for the proper diagnosis and treatment.
Is a UVB Light Necessary if You Use Supplements?
Although some owners use a UVB light above their leopard gecko’s enclosure, it is not required for the gecko to survive.
While UVB light can provide a source of vitamin D3, leopard geckos are not basking reptiles, and they typically avoid the sun in the wild.
With a proper D3 supplement, your leopard gecko will receive the proper amount of nutrients without the need for a UVB light.
UV lights can also be harmful to leopard geckos because they have sensitive skin and eyes.
The natural light in your home should be sufficient enough to give your gecko a sense of day and night.
If you decide to use a UVB light, be sure to do plenty of research on the proper intensity safe for your leopard gecko.
Also, be mindful of how far you should place the light above the enclosure and provide plenty of shady areas for your gecko to hide.
Since leopard geckos are nocturnal animals, you should always be sure to turn the light off at night in whichever room your gecko’s enclosure is located.
What Types Of Food Should You Avoid Giving To Your Leopard Gecko?
Leopard geckos are insectivores, and they cannot digest plant fibers, so you should never give your gecko any type of fruits or vegetables.
Geckos are also attracted to live prey’s movement, and they will not find dead or freeze-dried insects very appealing.
Never feed your leopard gecko lightning bugs or fireflies, as the substance which makes these insects glow is very toxic to your gecko and can lead to death.
Human food, such as table scraps, should also be avoided because it does not offer any nutritional value and is harmful to geckos.
To avoid a choking hazard, never feed your leopard gecko any insect bigger than the space between its eyes.
Be sure to feed your leopard gecko different kinds of insects instead of the same type of insect at every feeding.
Not only does this prevent your gecko from becoming a picky eater, but a wider range of properly gut-loaded insects will provide more nutrients.
Mealworms and waxworms, for instance, should be fed only as a treat because they contain much more fat than other insects.
You should not feed your gecko any type of dog or cat food.
While some reptile species may have dog food kibble for an occasional treat, this is not true for leopard geckos.
What Should You Do If Your Leopard Gecko Refuses To Eat?
If you notice your leopard gecko is refusing to eat, do not be immediately alarmed.
There are several reasons why a gecko will refuse to eat, which are just part of its natural behaviors and not signs of something more serious.
During shedding, leopard geckos may become more aggressive in addition to refusing to eat.
Once the shed is completed, your gecko will go back to its normal behavior and resume eating again.
Be patient, as the shedding process can last for two to three days.
Maintaining optimal humidity in your leopard gecko’s enclosure will help the shedding process go more smoothly.
Pregnant geckos usually do not eat for up to three months before laying their eggs.
This is also normal, and a gecko can go for long periods without eating due to the fat stored within its tail.
You should use a thermometer to ensure the enclosure is at an optimal temperature for your leopard gecko at all times.
A gecko’s body requires heat to digest food properly, and if the temperature in the enclosure gets too low, the gecko may stop eating or even go into a state of hibernation.
Hibernation is a common behavior in wild geckos, and it allows them to survive during the winter.
The ideal temperature inside your gecko’s enclosure should be between 80-85° degrees Fahrenheit (29° C).
If a leopard gecko becomes dehydrated, it will also refuse to eat.
Always provide clean, fresh water for your gecko every day to prevent dehydration.
Even though leopard geckos in the wild can survive for several months without eating, if you see any changes in your gecko’s behavior or notice a lack of appetite, you should seek veterinary care right away.
A veterinarian specializing in exotic animals, such as birds and reptiles, will be able to properly diagnose your leopard gecko and prescribe the proper course of treatment.
Calcium and vitamin D3 supplements are necessary to your leopard gecko’s diet.
Along with a varied diet of gut-loaded insects, supplements will provide your gecko with the nutrients it needs for healthy growth.
Vitamin D3 and calcium supplements will also prevent your leopard gecko from getting metabolic bone disease and other illnesses.