Crested geckos are a popular pet reptile for both beginner and expert reptile keepers alike, in part thanks to how easy they are to care for.
However, even though they are fairly low-maintenance pets, they are still susceptible to a fairly wide range of illnesses, diseases, and other health conditions.
Here are seven of the most common illnesses and health conditions in crested geckos and how to treat and prevent them.
Metabolic Bone Disease
One of the most common illnesses not just in crested geckos but in reptiles, in general, is the dreaded metabolic bone disease, also known simply as MBD.
This illness is caused by a calcium deficiency and causes weakened bones and muscles.
It is painful, progressive, and deadly in severe cases, though it is also preventable and even treatable over time to an extent (depending on the severity of the illness).
Other symptoms of MBD include:
- Swollen or deformed limbs and joints
- Soft bones or otherwise weak bones throughout the body
- “Rubber jaw,” or a softened jaw bone
- Curved or arched spine
- Lethargic behavior
- Bumps along with the limbs
- Jerky or unsteady gait
- Muscle weakness and inability to climb
- Seizures (in extreme cases)
Sometimes stress shows up first before the other parts of the disease.
Check out these signs of stress in crested geckos and what to do about it.
Preventing Metabolic Bone Disease
Preventing metabolic bone disease is thankfully very simple, especially if your pet gecko is still young.
Because a deficiency causes MBD in calcium, it is crucial to provide your crestie with a calcium-heavy diet and sprinkle their food with a calcium supplement every meal.
We recommend a powdered supplement such as Fluker’s Calcium Reptile Supplement to maintain proper calcium levels.
Feeding your gecko a diet rich in calcium is also recommended, as a supplement itself usually is not enough to prevent MBD if their diet is otherwise poor.
Additionally, although crested geckos don’t need UVB lighting to survive, they still benefit from a small amount of UVB exposure.
A low-output UVB bulb of around 3% to 5% like Lucky Herp’s T8 5.0 UVB Bulb is perfect for a crested gecko habitat and will help in the process of calcium absorption.
Treating Metabolic Bone Disease
Treatments for metabolic bone disease vary significantly depending on the severity of individual cases.
For very mild cases, a calcium supplement and increased UVB exposure are often enough to reverse the effects of the illness.
However, for reptiles with more advanced MBD, treatment will often require a reptile veterinarian to prescribe additional oral supplements to promote calcium absorption.
Overall, chances of survival are fairly high yet significantly lower as the illness becomes more severe, so prompt diagnosis and treatment are essential.
Cryptosporidiosis, also commonly known simply as “Crypto,” is an intestinal tract infection caused by a single-celled parasite known as Cryptosporidium varanii.
Although it more commonly affects fat-tailed lizards like leopard geckos and fat-tailed geckos, it also infects crested geckos and other reptiles.
The most common cause of cryptosporidiosis is contact with infected fecal matter. It spreads most easily through dirty, contaminated surfaces.
Cryptosporidiosis is extremely difficult to treat and eradicate once the gecko has become infected.
Symptoms of a crypto-positive gecko include:
- Sudden extreme weight loss
- Lethargic behavior
- Lack of appetite
The best way to prevent cryptosporidium from forming in your gecko’s enclosure is to keep it as clean as possible at all times.
Remove uneaten insects or other food immediately after each meal and clean feces from the enclosure daily.
Additionally, keep track of your gecko’s weight and appetite in case they show any sudden changes.
This way, you’ll be able to act quickly if your crestie inexplicably loses a lot of weight and seek veterinary help as soon as possible.
Cryptosporidiosis is extremely resistant to treatment, but some treatments have effective long-term care for crypto-positive geckos.
It is also aggressively infectious and will quickly spread to other reptiles if they contact the infected animal.
If you suspect your gecko is infected, you will need to see a reptile vet for a proper diagnosis.
Usually, veterinarians prescribe medications like paromomycin to lower the number of cryptosporidium parasites in the gecko’s body.
Unfortunately, there is no quick and certain cure for cryptosporidiosis, but it is possible to manage long-term.
Another common condition among not just crested geckos but reptiles, in general, is impaction.
Impaction is a severe blockage of the digestive tract, usually caused by the accidental ingestion of substrate or other inorganic matter.
Most cases of impaction are easily resolved at home, but severe cases will often need veterinary intervention.
Since an impacted gecko is unable to pass stool, impaction quickly becomes deadly if left untreated.
Symptoms of an impacted crested gecko include:
- Bloated or firm stomach
- Lack of bowel movements
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden weight loss
Poop can tell you a lot about a crested gecko’s health.
Learn all you need to know about crested gecko poop in our guide here.
The main way to prevent impaction in crested geckos is to avoid using unsafe substrates like gravel, wood chips, and sand.
Substrates with a lot of small, indigestible particles are the most common cause of impaction in reptiles.
Since your gecko uses their tongue to interact with its environment, they will ingest small amounts of the substrate over time and become impacted if they are unable to pass them.
For similar reasons, it also helps to always feed your gecko on a clean dish to prevent them from ingesting their substrate during meal times.
Finally, it is crucial to feed your pet crested gecko appropriately-sized insects.
Avoid offering any insects wider than the space between the gecko’s eyes, particularly hard-shelled insects which are harder to digest.
In milder cases, impaction will resolve itself over time.
Still, it is a good idea to help this process by soaking them in a warm bath and gently massaging their belly.
This will make it easier for them to pass the impacted mass.
Additionally, a drop or two of olive oil or mineral oil administered by mouth is a great way to help soften the impacted mass and help the gecko pass it safely.
In severe cases, veterinary intervention and possibly even surgery will be needed to clear the impaction, though this is fairly rare.
Respiratory infections in reptiles are most commonly caused by improper humidity and temperature settings within their enclosures.
These infections tend to occur in geckos housed in very cold and overly humid habitats, and they function similarly to how pneumonia affects humans and other animals.
A gecko with a respiratory infection will exhibit the following symptoms:
- Labored breathing
- Sudden weight loss
- Discharge coming from the nose and mouth
- Coughing or wheezing sounds
- Abdominal bloating
- Loss of appetite
Preventing Respiratory Infections
The main way to prevent your gecko from developing a respiratory infection is to set up its enclosure properly and maintain the correct humidity levels and temperature settings.
Humidity levels within the enclosure should always stay within 60% to 80%, and the temperature should be around 72 to 77° degrees Fahrenheit (25° C).
In addition, be sure to avoid harmful substrates with lots of tiny, indigestible particles like sand or gravel.
If ingested, these substrates will aggravate respiratory issues.
Finally, keep the enclosure as clean as possible at all times.
Remove uneaten insects and thoroughly clean any feces from the habitat daily.
Treating Respiratory Infections
Treating a respiratory infection will usually involve veterinary intervention, as your vet will need to prescribe certain antibiotic medications to be administered by mouth.
The ill gecko will also likely require supplemental hydration as they recover.
As a reptile owner, you will also need to adjust the gecko’s enclosure settings to ensure the respiratory infection does not reoccur.
Dehydration is a common condition often affecting many species of reptiles, including crested geckos.
Dehydration occurs when the gecko doesn’t get enough hydration and loses fluids faster than replenish them.
A dehydrated crested gecko will display the following symptoms:
- Dull, wrinkly skin with little to no elasticity
- Sudden weight loss
- Stuck skin shed, particularly on the toes and tail
- Poor appetite
- Sunken in eyes
- Protruding bones, namely ribs and hips
Since dehydration is caused by insufficient water intake, the main ways of preventing the condition involve boosting your gecko’s hydration levels.
This means not only ensuring your gecko ingests enough fluids but also ensuring proper humidity within their enclosure.
First and foremost, be sure your gecko always has a water bowl full of fresh, clean water.
However, keep in mind many cresties will not drink standing water, so it helps to mist the enclosure with a spray bottle or misting system regularly, so they can lick water droplets from their plants.
Additionally, be sure the enclosure’s humidity and temperature settings are correct, as low humidity along with high temperatures is a common cause of dehydration in crested geckos.
Mist the enclosure daily and monitor the humidity and temperature with a dual thermometer and hygrometer such as Repti Zoo’s 2-Pack Reptile Terrarium Thermometer Hygrometers.
Treatments for a dehydrated crested gecko will depend on the severity of their condition.
For cases of mild dehydration, treatment is possible at home by offering more water, misting the enclosure more often, and soaking the gecko in warm water daily.
For more severe cases, however, veterinary care is often necessary.
Your reptile vet will need to prescribe additional fluids either by mouth or injection, and you will likely need to soak your gecko in water for longer periods to sufficiently boost their hydration levels.
As far as external parasites go, reptile mites, also known as Ophionyssus natricis, are the most common among crested geckos.
These mites are commonly spread through dirty enclosures contaminated by excess fecal matter and other bacteria.
Reptile mites are very tiny and often look like small, moving black or brown spots present on the animal’s skin and around their enclosure.
Mites tend to prefer attaching themselves to the thin-skinned parts of the reptile’s body, like within the folds on their armpits and around their eyes and earlobes.
Geckos with reptile mites will display the following symptoms:
- Presence of small black or brown dots moving around on the gecko’s skin
- Twitching and scratching
- Irritable behavior
- Unexplained, excessive weight loss
- Loss of appetite
Preventing Reptile Mites
Like with many other conditions on this list, the best way to prevent reptile mites from contaminating your gecko’s enclosure is to keep the enclosure clean at all times.
Mites thrive in dirty, moist conditions, so it also helps to ensure the humidity settings in the enclosure aren’t too high (or never above 80% at most).
Additionally, always use good hygiene practices when interacting with your gecko or their enclosure.
Wash your hands thoroughly both before and after handling your crestie or anything in their habitat.
Treating Reptile Mites
Properly treating reptile mites requires removing the mites from your gecko’s skin and eradicating them from the gecko’s enclosure.
You will need to temporarily quarantine your gecko in a separate tank while cleaning out its main enclosure.
Soak your gecko in warm water and use a cotton swab to gently remove any mites visible on their skin.
Check between the folds of their skin carefully.
It is also good to use a reptile mite treatment spray such as Natural Chemistry’s Reptile Mite Spray.
In the meantime, you’ll need to remove everything from your gecko’s enclosure and clean it thoroughly, ideally with a diluted bleach solution (1 part bleach to 20 parts water).
Wipe everything off with a warm, wet cloth to remove any traces of bleach remaining in the enclosure and allow it to dry out completely for at least 24 to 48 hours.
Floppy Tail Syndrome (FTS)
Floppy tail syndrome, also sometimes known simply as FTS, affects crested geckos’ tails.
FTS causes a crested gecko’s tail to “flop” over to the side or hang over the gecko’s body, particularly while they are hanging upside-down while clinging to a surface within their enclosure.
Thankfully, the condition is purely cosmetic and does not negatively affect the animal’s health in any major way.
Unfortunately, though, it isn’t very well understood, so we don’t know what causes it, but it is suspected that sleeping upside down frequently will cause the gecko’s tail to become more “floppy” over time.
Additionally, geckos with deformed tail and hip bones due to genetic issues or other illnesses are more susceptible to having floppy tails.
Preventing Floppy Tail Syndrome
The best way to prevent floppy tail syndrome is to simply limit your gecko’s ability to sleep upside down within their enclosure.
Provide your crestie with plenty of plants, hides, and other decorations to give them plenty of spots to sit comfortably without being able to lie upside down or at odd angles.
Treating Floppy Tail Syndrome
Currently, there aren’t many known treatments for floppy tail syndrome aside from just preventing your gecko from sleeping upside down in their enclosure.
In some cases, if the floppy tail hinders the gecko’s ability to lay eggs or pass stool, veterinarians will recommend amputating the tail entirely.
This, however, is extremely rare, as usually, the floppy tail will not affect the gecko’s health or overall quality of life in any major ways.