Leopard geckos exhibit various behaviors, and many leopard gecko owners will sometimes say they are very entertaining reptiles.
One of the most common behaviors in leopard geckos is frequent licking, and they are often seen licking their eyes or flicking their tongue in the air.
A leopard gecko will often lick its food before eating to ensure it is tasty.
But what does it mean if your leopard gecko licks you?
When a leopard gecko licks you, it is the lizard’s way of getting to know you. Leopard geckos have a vomeronasal organ, also known as the Jacobsen’s Organ, on the roof of their mouth. This olfactory sense organ allows the leopard gecko to taste and smell its environment to learn more about it.
Do not be alarmed if your leopard gecko gives you a friendly little lick now and then.
Your pet lizard is simply tasting and smelling you, so it will be able to recognize your scent in the future.
Leopard geckos have a very acute sense of smell, and once they are familiar with you, they will be able to tell when you come into the room.
Keep reading to learn more about the licking behaviors of leopard geckos.
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Other Leopard Gecko Licking Behaviors
Licking is very typical behavior in leopard geckos.
In addition to licking their food (and occasionally, you), leopard geckos may be seen licking their mouth, lips, or eyes.
While leos are typically hardy reptiles, these licking behaviors may indicate serious leopard gecko health issues.
So, what does this behavior mean?
When a leopard gecko opens its mouth wide and frequently licks its mouth or food, this may indicate a problem.
Leopard geckos suffering from severe calcium deficiency likely have metabolic bone disease.
Metabolic bone disease causes results in bone deformities and could lead to having a weak jaw.
A leopard gecko with a weak jaw may have difficulty holding or chewing its food, causing the animal to lick the inside of its mouth.
Carefully examine your leo’s jaw; if it feels soft or spongy, you need to seek veterinary care immediately.
Metabolic bone disease is incurable, but proper treatment may prevent further damage.
To prevent metabolic bone disease, regularly include a calcium supplement in your leo’s diet.
Calcium supplements for reptiles usually come in a powder form, and you will lightly coat the feeder insects before feeding them to your leopard gecko.
Lip licking is also an indication of a serious illness in leopard geckos.
If your leo frequently licks its lips, your lizard may suffer from abscesses or mouth rot.
The common signs of mouth rot are redness and sores on the gecko’s mouth.
You may also be able to see visible dead tissue or pus.
Mouth rot is very painful, and your leopard gecko will likely refuse to eat.
Small cuts or food stuck in the teeth are the usual causes of mouth rot, and if it is left untreated, it may be fatal.
Mouth rot requires veterinary care, and treatment includes cleaning the leopard gecko’s mouth with an antiseptic and a prescription for antibiotics.
In severe cases, surgery may be required to remove necrotic tissue from the mouth.
Your leopard gecko will need a liquid diet while recovering and additional nutritional supplements.
Further reading: What does it mean when a leopard gecko licks its lips?
Eye licking is not a cause for concern in leopard geckos and is a part of their normal behavior.
Leos cannot produce tears, so they frequently lick their eyes to keep them moist and clean.
When debris gets stuck in a leopard gecko’s eye, the lizard may get conjunctivitis or other eye infections.
You will need to seek veterinary care if your leo’s eyes are crusted shut, swollen, or otherwise irritated.
Treatment for these conditions usually involves an antibiotic eye ointment.
Further reading: Why do leopard geckos lick their eyes?
Why Do Leopard Geckos Lick Their Vent?
In addition to licking areas of their face, you may notice your leopard gecko licking its vent.
Leopard geckos are very clean animals, so they may do this for various reasons.
It is not uncommon for a healthy leopard gecko to lick its vent after defecating or marking its territory.
Leos may also lick their vents or bodies for general cleaning purposes, even if they have not defecated or produced territorial secretions.
Vent licking becomes more of a concern if your leopard gecko is doing it because of an impaction.
Leopard gecko impaction is a common health problem, and it needs to be treated right away.
The vent may be swollen, and the gecko will lick the area because of the inflammation.
Pay attention to your leo’s food intake and bowel movements, and if you notice the animal lacks an appetite and is straining to poop, it is time to intervene.
Soaking the leopard gecko in warm water will sometimes alleviate the pressure and soften the stool, so the animal can poop.
Further Reading: What leopard gecko poop should look like (and when to act)
Handle your gecko carefully when bathing it, and avoid sudden movements to prevent tail drop.
If this does not work, you will need to seek veterinary care, as impaction is life-threatening if left untreated.
A female gecko may also lick her vent if she has become egg-bound.
Egg-binding is also a serious and possibly fatal issue; you will need to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
Further Reading: Leopard Gecko Licking Vent Causes And Treatments
Do Leopard Geckos Lick After Shedding?
When a leopard gecko goes through the shedding process, you will likely see the reptile licking its entire body from the nose to the tail.
The gecko does this to remove any leftover shed skin.
Sometimes, your leo will have shedding skin stuck to their body.
A stuck shed is commonly seen on a leopard gecko’s toes, feet, and tail.
If this stuck shed is not removed, it may restrict blood circulation and cause necrosis between the toes or on the tail.
Never attempt to remove a stuck shed by pulling on it, as this may cause your leo severe injury.
Instead, soak the leopard gecko in warm water several times a day until the skin naturally falls off.
If the skin still does not budge, you will need veterinary care.
If necrosis is present due to a stuck shed, amputation is required to keep it from spreading.
To prevent problems with your leopard gecko shedding, it is crucial to maintain proper humidity levels and temperatures in the enclosure.
Average humidity levels in a leopard gecko habitat need to be between 30% and 40%, and it is best to keep levels within the higher range when your leo is shedding to avoid any problems.
Never allow the humidity to drop below 30% in a leopard gecko habitat, as this will not only cause issues with shedding but could lead to dehydration and other health problems.
Further Reading: Tips For Helping A Stuck Shed In Leopard Geckos