Leopard geckos are one of the most popular pet reptiles, and for a good reason; they are easy to care for, cute, and rarely show any signs of aggression.
If you are new to owning leopard geckos, it is easy to be concerned when you notice a lack of appetite from your new friend.
A leopard gecko can starve itself, but only if something is wrong. Thankfully they are very tough animals who can survive a long time without eating, and many of the causes which can suppress hunger are easy to treat.
Continue reading to learn about the different symptoms to look out for and the common reasons for a leo not eating.
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Why A Leopard Gecko Isn’t Eating
If you notice your gecko is not eating, do not panic!
A healthy adult gecko can go weeks or even months without eating, while a young gecko can go a couple of weeks without causing any long-term harm.
However, geckos should have access to food every few days, and a healthy gecko should eat at least once or twice a week.
If you notice it has been a week and your gecko has not eaten anything, there are reasons they might be starving themselves and what to do about them.
The most common reason a gecko might not eat is they are preparing to shed and will not eat in the days leading up to the shed.
Giving them a good humid hide will assist in shedding, and you might notice the gecko’s colors dulling or loose skin around them as they get close to shedding, and they will eat the shed afterward and may not be hungry for other food for a few more days.
Further Reading: Help leopard gecko shedding issues
Another common reason a gecko might not be eating is simply they are too cold or too hot: use a thermometer to make sure the heating pad side of the tank is 85-90° degrees Fahrenheit (32° C), and the cool side is around 70-75° degrees Fahrenheit (24° C).
A lack of proper heating often means the gecko is not interested in eating, and this can cause issues over a long period.
Another reason for food refusal might be due to impaction.
Impaction is a block in a leopard gecko’s digestive tract preventing them from defecating, caused by loose substrate (especially sand and dirt), eating too much food, or eating something else they shouldn’t have.
Stress may be caused by many different sources and is another major reason a leopard gecko might not be eating.
Stress may also result from overhandling, too many environmental changes, or parasites and diseases.
How To Help Increase Leopard Gecko Appetites
If your leopard gecko is not eating, it is a good idea to attempt these at-home remedies to get them back in their best shape.
Warm Water Bath
One of the most effective remedies is a simple warm water bath.
By filling a small container with warm, not hot, water to a level covering about half your gecko, you leave plenty of room for them to be comfortable and have their head out.
Warm water baths are fantastic for relieving impaction by loosening up any hard stool or helping remove any stuck bits of shed that may be stressing or confusing the gecko.
This is one of the best treatments because it is easy and often effective, and only one or two baths may eliminate any feeding issues.
Changing Their Diet
A simple change in the diet may also trigger a good feeding response.
Using crickets or super worms if they are not a part of their regular diet may work.
More exotic choices such as wax worms or dubia roaches may also be much more interesting to the gecko and get them to start eating again.
Make sure to use shallow feeding dishes with curved sides to keep any insects in and in one place to make it easy for the gecko to find and eat them.
Also, ensure only live food is used because leopard geckos are natural hunters and rarely interested in dead food.
Finally, access to fresh water is important at all times.
As desert-dwelling reptiles, they are very efficient about water usage, and rarely will you see them drink.
But they can dehydrate, so keep a bowl of water like a shallow water dish or even caps from water bottles on the cool side of the tank at all times.
Related Reading: A complete guide to what leopard geckos eat
One difficult option for many new gecko owners if it has only been a few days without eating is to do nothing,
If a leopard gecko is not displaying any worrying symptoms, waiting it out may be enough, especially if stress is the reason they are not eating.
Too much handling or a recent move/change in the environment can cause a loss of appetite, and a few days of peace may bring their appetite back.
Force-feeding is a last resort to get geckos to eat and is generally saved only for young geckos who need food because they have no fat reserves built up, and getting food is crucial.
However, force-feeding is an emergency option if nothing else is working and you don’t have access to a vet.
With a recently killed mealworm dusted with vitamins, firmly hold the gecko and tickle the sides of its mouth until it opens and force the mealworm in.
It may take some coaxing to get it down, and do not force-feed more than a couple of mealworms for 2-3 days maximum as this is a very stressful experience and only to be used as a last resort.
When To Help A Starving Leopard Gecko
If proper conditions are being met in the enclosure and health conditions continue to suffer, it may be time to seek veterinary help.
Some worrying symptoms signaling a bigger problem are rapid weight loss, 5-8 weeks without a single meal, any signs of parasitic infection, or any major changes in behavior possible due to illness.