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Leopard Gecko Care: The Importance of Vitamin A

By Edited Apr 16, 2014 0 0

Leopard Gecko
Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gecko_l%C3%A9opard_femelle_adulte_t%C3%AAte.jpg

Leopard Geckos are commonly purchased as pets due to their relatively long lives and ease of care.  Because of this, there is a huge variety of information on the web detailing the most optimal ways to take care of your gecko(s).  Although it is very simple to find information regarding care, it is not as simple to find firsthand accounts of prolonged health issues.

My experience with housing two Leopard geckos for the past eight years has been predominately positive but has unfortunately not been without some setbacks.  But before I detail some of the problems I’ve encountered, let me briefly explain my terrarium setup.

My Terrarium

The setup I employ is nearly identical in principal to the ones that many other gecko owners use.  There is a cool side of the twenty gallon tank which has no heating elements and houses the humidity chamber.  On the opposite end of the tank is the warm side which is heated all day by a basking lamp and a heating pad located on the very bottom of the tank.  Directly in the middle of the two sides is where I place the water dish.

The sand I use is calcium enriched and is resistant to clumping when wet, which is aimed at preventing impaction of the Leopard Geckos intestines.  I typically change the sand every year, but I have gone longer in some cases depending on how messy the lizard behaves.  Below is a picture of my actual terrarium.

My Actual Terrarium Setup

My Setup
Credit: www.infobarrel.com/Users/jumptwofall
My Setup2
Credit: www.infobarrel.com/Users/jumptwofall

The Problems Begin

Anyone who has tried looking for consistent information regarding gecko diet can probably agree that there is not a one hundred percent consensus on what the optimal diet is.  I have heard a plethora of diets used with success ranging from just a cricket based diet all the way to a predominately wax worm diet.  The diet I used for the first couple of years was somewhere in between these two.  Essentially, I would alternate feeding them crickets and wax worms every couple of days.  This method was working well for some time until I started realizing that both geckos began favoring and eventually only willing to eat the wax worms. 

This I believe, is the mistake I made.  To put it bluntly, I had allowed my lizards to become spoiled/picky eaters.  I consulted a vet specializing in reptiles and explained the situation.  I was told that the only thing to do was to try and feed them only crickets until they began to eat in a more balanced way.  When this didn’t work after another couple of years it became apparent that they simply no longer had an appetite for crickets.  At this point, they were not showing any signs of malnutrition so I continued the diet for yet another couple of years. 

The problems began suddenly when I noticed that one of my lizards began blinking his eyes excessively and eventually was reluctant to open them.  This problem rapidly progressed into an infection of his left eye which quickly rendered the eye useless.  Unsure of what the problem was I consulted the same doctor who was unsure of the problem, but said he had seen the symptoms a few times before.  After consulting another doctor from out of state, the vet explained to me that the problem was relatively common and thought to be linked to a vitamin A deficiency. 

The Solution

The treatment for this condition it turns out is vitamin A eye drops which are specifically designed for reptiles and can be purchased without a prescription.  Luckily, the treatment was discovered in time for me to prevent the other lizard (who at this point had also began showing signs of eye irritation) from getting an infection, but unfortunately was too late for the other. 

To this day the gecko that receives the preventative treatment has yet to develop an infection.  I still cannot get her to eat crickets, but in an effort to supplement more nutrients into her diet, I have begun coating the worms in a multivitamin powder.

The resolution I and the veterinarian have come to adopt is that my letting the geckos become accustomed to eating wax worms caused the nutrients they need from crickets to be eliminated from their diet.  This in turn did not cause immediate health effects, but instead produced long term effects.

 

If you have any questions or comments/experiences, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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