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  1. #1
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    Gecko Not Eating - 2 Weeks Plus! (long)

    Hi there.
    Please know that I have spent hours and hours reading all the archives of this awesome forum. But I can't find the answers that I need.

    *****
    2 and a half weeks ago, I brought a Leopard Gecko home. She was needing a new home, and we were "needing" a new pet. This is my first lizard.

    I am very thorough in my pet care and research. I did lots of reading (library books and internet) as well as many visits to gecko owners as well as chatting with the staff at local exotic stores and independent breeders.

    About the lizard = she is a blizzard leopard gecko. Super cute <grin>. I'm guessing she is about 1 year old. The people who had her before had her for 6 months. She was bought from a store (not sure what one).

    The problem = she has eaten NOTHING since bringing her home. 2 weeks and 3 days. No food.

    We have the same mealworm colony that she was eating in her previous home (she was eating 5-8 a day). I also picked up superworms for her in hopes that a bigger critter would inspire her to eat. I have not tried crickets. She has never had them before. I currently replace her food twice a day, so that she always has "fresh" gut loaded food, should she decide to eat. I have been keeping 2 mealworms in her cage at a time. I tried to do more, but they climbed on each other and escaped the dish and dug into the sand. A superworm is in a teacup - it can't get out, but the gecko could get it if she wanted to.

    I have tried putting the food in front of her. I have tried feeding her with tweezers. I have kept the food dish in the original spot. I have moved the food dish. She walks through the dish of mealworms, they go on her feet. If she sees them in the sand, she may lick them, but then walks away from them. If a lizard can look offended - she looks offended.

    Her enclosure is the same one that she had in her previous home. I kept things in the same location. Her original setup had a little fake rock hide, two climbing rocks, a water dish and a worm dish. I removed one of the rocks (too tippy) and also added a moist hide (which she LOVES). I have also added the teacup with the worm.

    She is on sand. Always has been. I have not replaced the sand since I got her. I have been scooping it. She has been pooping a bit. 4 or 5 times in the 2 weeks, though none in the last few days.

    Size of enclosure = 12"high x 12"deep x 24" wide

    Screen top. Heat bulbs on top (I have 2, one 50w, one 75w - I vary which one goes on depending on the temps).

    Temps (as I understand they are important for digestion and general gecko happiness) are apparently fine (according to varied internet sources, and the reptile experts at the exotics store. They range from 95 at the hottest (on top of her little cave), to 92-87 inside her cave and her moist hide, to 85-77 in the main parts of the enclosure. One corner area is 75.

    All those temperature are ground temperatures taken with a digital thermometer with a probe that we used to use for our home, but now is a gecko thermometer. I believe that it is accurate.

    Calcium = using Repashy Superfoods Leopard Gecko Calcium Plus . They used to dose her food once a week. Since she is not eating, I have put a bit of the calcium in her mealworm dish. So she could eat that if she needs it. And so that the mealworms (should she eat them) would be calcium covered.

    Gecko behaviour = she is a lovely little gecko. She was handled about once a week in her previous home in the last little while, but more when she was "new". We left her alone for a few days, then I started leaving my hand in her enclosure. She would lick it, then I would take my hand out. After about 5 days, she climbed on to my hand. We took in slow - but she will happily come out for some very gentle and brief handling. She wanders around the cage (I smooth out the sand so I can see her activity). Her active times are in the morning and around dinner time. She comes up to the glass, looks around, and will follow the people around the room.

    Kids = I have 3 kids (7,4,4). The do not "hold" her. Yesterday, I let her crawl on their legs. She is MY pet, not the kids. They are not allowed to open the cage without me. I have a pile of books on one corner as my "alarm" to prevent that.

    So - the big questions...

    How long can she go without food before she is seriously damaged? Her tail is still a bit chubby, but less thick than it was two weeks ago. Do other geckos just go off food like this?

    And - more importantly, perhaps....Is there ANYTHING I can do to get her to eat? The people who I got her from have absolutely no interest in taking her back. So it is up to me to solve this.

    Thanks for reading this (It grew into something longer than I had anticipated). Your feedback is eagerly anticipated.

    Kat (the worried gecko mom)






  2. #2
    Technical Administrator Rich's Avatar
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    Re: Gecko Not Eating - 2 Weeks Plus! (long)

    Hi Kat. Welcome to HC!

    There are a few things I would suggest doing to help get things squared away. The first thing I would do is remove the sand. It doesn't matter how long the gecko has been on it without issue. The gecko is being subjected to the possibility of impaction when it shouldn't be. This will explain why the sand is so dangerous.

    It is a common occurrence that when searching the internet for information on leopard geckos, this issue is always controversial. There is still a huge amount of leopard gecko owners that suggest the use of sand and other granular substrates as a "safe" substrate material. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

    Granular substrates have been known to cause impactions in leopard geckos. There are two types of impaction that could occur. The first is called an Acute Impaction. An acute impaction is when the Leo swallows a large amount of substrate and it blocks the vital organs used to process food. (Stomach, intestinal tract, etc.) The results of this type of impaction will lead to lethargy, lack of appetite, lack of bowel movements, sand in the stool, etc.

    The other type of impaction, and often the most deadly form, is the chronic impaction. A chronic impaction is the slow accumulation of sand that binds to the lining of the intestinal tract. Over time, and often years, it will create a blockage. This blockage will also have the same detrimental effects as an acute impaction. The biggest problem with this type of impaction is that when it is discovered, it is most often too late to cure.

    To prevent the possibility of this happening to your leopard gecko, avoid all granular substrates. None of them is as digestible as they claim and each poses the CHANCE that your gecko could become a victim of an impaction.
    The sand simply isn't a good idea. This is especially true for a younger gecko who has a smaller digestive system.

    I would also suggest adding a Under Tank Heater on a rheostat. Belly heat is as important as ambient temperatures. The belly heat aids in the digestive process. I didn't see anywhere in your post that stated the tank had one. I only noticed lights. (Are these lights black lights and stay on all night?)

    I would also suggest a deeper feeding dish for the mealworms and add a rock beside it to make it easier for the gecko to view inside. This will allow you to add more mealworms and a small piece of carrot for them to eat. The more the mealworms move around the more interested the gecko will be.

    You should have a shallow dish of pure calcium in with the gecko at all times. I realize you dust the feeders, as you should, but the gecko knows when it needs more calcium in its diet. My geckos eat from their calcium regularly and I also dust.

    The gecko can go without food for a fairly long time if it had enough fat reserves in its tail before it went off food.

    The tank you described sounds like a 10 gallon. Most information out there says that this is an adequate size for the life of a gecko. I personally believe they need something with more floor space so a proper heat gradient can be maintained at all times. it is very difficult to keep the temperatures constant in a 10 gallon.

    Stress could be causing the little guy not to eat. Between the move and the attention he gets he could be stressed. The location of the tank in the house could also be an issue. If it is in a high traffic area it could be stressing the little guy out.

    To ensure there is no parasite issues you should consider having a vet run a fecal float. They are pretty inexpensive and will rule out parasites.

    After you remove the sand try buying a few crickets to see if they get his attention. Crickets are constantly on the move and they often will get the geckos attention enough to induce hunting.

    I also suggest reading our care guide. lol I am bias because I wrote it, but its the best on the net.

    Leopard Gecko Care Guide (Eublepharis macularius)

    I hoped I touched on everything.

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  3. #3
    Elite Member Medium's Avatar
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    Re: Gecko Not Eating - 2 Weeks Plus! (long)

    Nice job Rich, I just second a parasite check, new Leo's can carry them and eventually kill them if left un-treated.

  4. #4
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    Re: Gecko Not Eating - 2 Weeks Plus! (long)

    Thank you so much for your time and your replies.

    I agree that sand may not be the best, but at this time I am wary of changing even more stuff around in her enclosure. If she is impacted, it is not going to change her current situation. I was planning to replace sand with flagstone once she settles in.

    My lizard is in a very low traffic area, and is not given much attention. She is handled every couple of days for a few minutes, but only when she initiates it (such as when I am changing her worms and she comes over and crawls on my hands). We read books sometimes in her room, and watch her, but not a lot of hands on.

    Calcium situation, I had been keeping calcium in her worm dish, but now have it in its own container. Working on getting a bigger container for worms.

    I do not have an undertank heater. I will look into this. The lights I have are overhead. They are red heat lights. They are on all the time.

    I will also look into a reptile vet for a fecal analysis.

    I have now purchased crickets, and during her next lively period, I will give her a couple to see if her interest is triggered.

    I have read (and re-read and re-read) your care guide. I agree - it is the best on the web. Did you write that book too?

    I also picked up "Repta-Aid" by Flukers on the recommendation of the owner of the local lizard store.

    Any thoughts on that?

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