Why Do Leopard Geckos Lick Their Eyes?

There is something uncanny about a leopard gecko’s unblinking stare pinning you while it licks its eyes with a long, flexible tongue.

It’s weird to us, but it’s completely normal, in most cases, for this reptile. 

Leopard Geckos, or Leos, lick their eyes to keep them clean and moist. Even though Leos evolved moveable eyelids to protect their eyes, they still lick their eyes to keep them clean. Leopard Geckos engage in this natural behavior because they cannot produce tears and need to moisten and clean their eyes.

Leopard geckos are taxonomically called Eublepharis Macularius, which means “good eyelids” and “spotted” in Latin.

The family Eublepharidae also includes the African fat-tailed gecko.

To find out more about Leopard Geckos’ eyes, keep reading! 

why do leopard geckos lick their eyes

Reasons Leopard Geckos Lick Their Eyes

Leos do not have eyelashes to protect their eyes, even though they have eyelids.

Like their cousin geckos without eyelids, they use their long, mobile tongue to keep their eyes clean.

Leos commonly get shed skin stuck around their eyes and will lick them to clean them. 

Most of the time, geckos with eyelids will only lick their eye if they have something on them.

It is important to keep your gecko’s enclosure clean and humid and your gecko hydrated to minimize irritating dust.

Also, avoid sand as a substrate as it can easily get in your gecko’s eyes and cause impaction if accidentally eaten.

A dry environment can dry their eyes and cause their eyelids to stick shut.

Your gecko can get bacterial conjunctivitis, a common eye infection, from dirty water or bacteria in the environment from a dirty terrarium.

How Do You Clean a Gecko’s Eye?

If you discover your pet lizard needs help cleaning its eye, be sure to have sterile saline or purified warm water in a pinch.

Purchase sterile saline at the drugstore in a plastic bottle.

Gently squeeze the saline into and around your Leo’s eye.

Do not use force or apply any pressure, and do not rub your gecko’s eye.

Be as gentle as possible and restrain your gecko lightly while rinsing his eye.

Call the vet if the condition does not improve in a couple of days. 

Leopard Gecko Vision

How Do Leos See?

You might notice your Leo seemingly gazing into the distance without noticing the tasty meal right in front of him.

This is because leopard geckos primarily respond to movement within their field of vision.

Leos hunt insects at twilight in the wild, ambushing their prey as they go by their hiding place.

Gecko tongues operate much like a frog’s.

Both gecko and frog tongues are flexible, elastic, and quite long, with a mucous secretion at the end, making it sticky.

As soon as his prey moves, the Leo will snatch it up with the sticky end of his prehensile tongue or snap it up with his quick jaws.  

Can Leopard Geckos See In The Dark?

Leopard geckos are more active in the desert twilight’s cool and adapted to seeing in the dark.

They are not nocturnal but are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at twilight.

Leos have excellent hearing, smell, and sight senses, which they use to hunt and protect themselves from predation.

They see in color, even in the dark, having retained the cones to see color in their evolution from diurnal lizards.

Human eyes rely on rods to see, which is why we have relatively poor night vision compared to the average gecko.

The cones in their eyes make a Leo’s eyes much more sensitive to light than ours, which is perfect for their twilight lifestyle.

Common Leopard Gecko Health Concerns with Eyes

Geckos have other concerns with their eye health besides dirt and bacteria.

Because of their limited diet in captivity, Leos can suffer from hypovitaminosis A or vitamin A deficiency.

This is prevented by ensuring you feed your Leo a varied diet of insects properly gut-loaded with various foods.

If your Leo is lethargic and not eating, they could have underlying health issues such as organ dysfunction or a respiratory condition.

Here is a list of eye symptoms needing your attention and potentially your vet too:

Do Leopard Geckos Lick Their Eyes When They Sleep?

Leopard geckos do not need to lick their eyes when they sleep, as they can simply close their fully movable eyelids.

Closing their eyes protects them from harmful materials.

Gecko species without eyelids, such as Crested Geckos, will sleep with their pupils slit. 

Why Do Leopard Geckos Lick Their Face?

Leos lick their faces when they go through a shed and sense the environment.

If their environment is not humid enough, their shed may be sticking to their eyes and face.

Your Leo will attempt to remove the shed by repeatedly licking.

Excessive licking behavior in leopard geckos may indicate a leopard gecko health issue, so consult with your reptile vet if this is happening. 

Why Is My Leopard Gecko Licking Itself?

A healthy gecko will lick themselves to keep clean, as they are clean animals, and to remove shed.

After a shed, they lick their entire bodies from nose to tail.

Leos experience the world partly through their sense of smell, which includes input from the Jacobson’s organ, an olfactory sense organ.

They “lick” the environment, and the tongue “catches” chemical nanoscopic particles, which it pushes onto the Jacobson’s organ. 

The Jacobson’s organ decodes the information from the particles.

They lick their lips or nose to:

  • Inspect their environment
  • Hunt
  • Get moisture from their skin
  • Get rid of the shed
  • Grooming

Excessive lip licking might indicate an abscess, mouth rot, or metabolic bone disease, so it should be discussed with your reptile vet.

Further Reading: Leopard gecko mouth rot and what to do about it

If your pet gecko is licking too often, it could mean he has irritation from a stubborn shed, worms, inflammation, or prolapsed vent.