When your leopard gecko drops its tail, it is doing so as a defense mechanism in reaction to a real or perceived threat. Thankfully, their tail will regenerate over time if you simply clean the wound, remove stray substrate, and monitor the regrowth carefully for infection or other complications.
If youve never observed a leopard gecko drop their tail, this phenomenon is very shocking and even makes some reptile owners squeamish. Still, as gruesome as this appears at first glance, your gecko is biologically designed to have this defense mechanism, also known as caudal autonomy or self-amputation.
The most common cause of tail dropping in leopard geckos by far is stress or a perceived threat in their environment. Tail dropping is a defense mechanism these lizards have evolved to give them a better chance at survival in the wild. The most common reason for tail dropping in leopard geckos is, by far, a stress reaction to a perceived threat.
Usually, in captivity, this means youve either accidentally scared or dropped the gecko, causing them to utilize their primary defense mechanism as a response. Dont feel too bad, though, as this process causes your gecko very little pain and is an intended behavior developed over centuries of evolution. You were probably caught by surprise when you noticed the detached tail still flopping and twitching around in your geckos tank or wherever they happened to drop it.
You might want to wait for the muscle spasms in the dropped tail to cease before you reach for it, though, as the sight of movement from a severed limb makes many leopard gecko owners understandably squeamish. Thankfully, leopard geckos have developed this form of defense over years of evolution and are physically equipped to slowly regrow a new tail in the place of the severed one. This process takes time, often weeks or even months, and the new tail usually doesnt grow back to the same size as the previous one.
Clean the area around their tail with warm water and a mild, diluted antiseptic like Betadine, a Povidone-iodine solution designed for wound care and cleansing. It will take around a month or longer for your geckos tail to grow back, and in most cases, it will be smaller than it was before it dropped. To ensure proper gecko tail regrowth, some reptile owners take photos of the nub each day to monitor the growth process.
If you typically use a loose substrate, consider substituting it with reptile carpet, tile, or paper towels during the regrowth process. Be sure the vivarium environment you keep your gecko in is maintained at an ideal temperature, so your lizard doesnt feel any additional discomfort from their surroundings during the tail regrowth process. Thankfully, your gecko will not be in pain from the dropped tail, but the stress from the event might affect its appetite or energy level in the following week or so.
It is also very common for leopard geckos to seem more fearful or nervous after a tail loss incident because they dont know if they should trust the safety of their environment. If your gecko is dropping their tail every time you pick them up, they are either ill, or you are handling them in an extremely stressful and painful manner. Preventing tail dropping is quite easy provided you are extra careful when handling your lizard and not cohabitating them with larger, more dominant members of their species.
Since environmental stress isnt the sole cause of tail dropping, in addition, you will need to monitor your geckos weight regularly and be sure they are getting the vitamins and nutrients they need to avoid becoming underweight and malnourished. Seeing a reptile vet once or twice a year will also help you look out for any warning signs, keeping your lizard from becoming ill and potentially dropping its tail as a result. To most beginner reptile owners, tail dropping in gecko species is a frightening and upsetting experience.
However, reptile experts know this defense mechanism is important to many lizards chances of survival in the wild, and leopard geckos have retained this ability even in captivity. Thankfully, this issue is easy to treat at home and even easier to prevent if you are a dedicated, informed leopard gecko owner.
What causes a leopard gecko's tail to fall off?
Why does a leopard gecko drop its tail? In the wild, a leopard gecko drops its tail to survive when threatened by a predator. While the fallen tail is still moving and distracting a predator, leopard gecko has some time to escape. … Tail might be injured, or it might fall off fully – also called autotomy.
How many times can a leopard gecko drop its tail?
Keep an eye on the injury, and expect to wait 30 days before the wound heals and another 30 days before the tail grows back. Your gecko can drop its tail multiple times over its life, but it may lose the ability to regenerate when it is old and considered a senior.
Does it hurt a gecko to lose its tail?
Well, thankfully the loss of a tail for a leopard gecko is a natural event, which has evolved over many years to become one of the most effective defences systems we know about in the reptile world. For this reason, that scientists believe that the loss of a geckos tail is completely painless.
How do I know if my leopard gecko is dying?
A dying leopard gecko will show signs of extreme weight loss, abnormality or even lack of droppings, lethargy, sunken eyes, and lack of appetite. Very often, the most fatal sign is lack of appetite because it signifies that your leopard gecko is ill, impacted, or just waiting for its death.
In this post, we will discuss shedding, or molting in leopard geckos, how often it happens and how to help your leopard gecko. What is more, we will discuss tail loss or injury in leopard geckos, why they do it and if their tail grows back.
While the fallen tail is still moving and distracting a predator, leopard gecko has some time to escape. Leopard geckos only drop their tail in a life or death situation, so imagine how much stress they are going through.
Leopard geckos tail might also get injured if it gets stuck between terrariums doors or other structures. Young leopard geckos can get hungry and confuse a moving tail with food. This old 2012 picture shows a leopard geckos tail regeneration time lapse.
The first thing to do if you have seen your leopard gecko drop its tail is to remove it from the tank if there are any other lizards. Before returning your leopard gecko back to the vivarium, clean it properly to avoid wound infection. To accelerate the healing process, add some more waxworms or superworms to leopard geckos diet.
Feed the crickets using tongs , because they can run around and bite your leopard geckos wound. Never miss a meal your leopard gecko doesnt have any fat reserve and it needs even more food to bounce back and regrow the tail. Young leopard geckos tend to shed more often than adults because their body is growing.
Place your leopard geckos shedding box in the warm part of the vivarium. Dont worry about the basking light evaporating the water inside the box this will not happen quickly. Make a bath for your leopard gecko and use tweezers or your fingers to slightly peel the skin once it is wet.
This is not usual if you have provided it with a moist hideout which you fill with vermiculite or other humidity holding substrate.
In my five years of working with leopard geckos, I never had one drop its tail until recently. While changing my hatchlings from my old rack to my new one, one of my tangerine leopard gecko hatchlings dropped her tail. It startled me a bit.
When transferring my gecko from the holding container to the new rack, it tried to jump out of my hands. Keep in mind that you may find different treatment options, but the following tips for first aid helped my tangerine leopard gecko hatchling heal up and recover nicely.
If you are housing your leopard gecko on loose substrate such as sand, calci-sand, dirt, or wood shavings, you will want to remove it all and throw it in the trash or outside (however you want to dispose of it). If you house the gecko with a mate, you will want to set up a hospital tank with paper towels as the substrate. Make sure that you have appropriate heating and overall housing necessities in the hospital tank.
Continue feeding the gecko normally, and remove any uneaten crickets after 15 minutes, give or take. Check on the leopard gecko daily, so that you can closely monitor the wound for signs of infection. If the tail is infected, you will want to take your gecko to a qualified reptile veterinarian as soon as you can.
Bullying from cagemates Illness/low immunity Being grabbed by the tail Stress and fear Skin issues and retained skin on the tail Bacterial, fungal, or protozoan infections Abscess or swelling in the area Many geckos and smaller lizards do not have any real defense mechanisms like secreting nasty oils when bitten or playing dead when harassed, so they rely on their tails to help them get away from predators in the wild. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.
Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. When they drop there tail can it cause problems like leg swellings and loss of appetite Alex, sometimes their bodies don’t think they need the tail anymore, so it doesn’t grow back.
Geckos regrow their tails just fine in the wild, without anyone cleaning the stump or keeping them away from the equivalent of substrate. Oh, and there’s mounting evidence that neosporin actually is bad for a human wound, much as it turns out hydrogen peroxide definitely is. Again, if the lizard is healthy and well fed (including being free to choose what nutrition it actually needs), then its own immune system can handle things just fine.
Or he is starving to death because he is super skiny and his skin is turning pink but he won’t eat! You should never put any reptile in any sort of fine, loose substrate (ESPECIALLY not sand) as they can swallow the sand and it can become impacted and KILL your reptile (this goes for all geckos, beardies, etc, unless the anima does not constantly lick its surrounding substrate, such as a monitor of any kind.) my gecko dropped his tail a part grew back but now its just hard please help
my baby leo tail just fell off today she’s on reptile carpet I just cleaned it and put her to soak in warm water now what should I do Before that he was shaking and twisting his head around when i was holding it; he looked dead not moving. I put the calcium supplement on his food the same day is tail was dropped.
my leopard geckos tail hasn’t even grown half way back and its been a year is this bad? I was out of town for about four days this week and asked someone to take care of my house and housesit. When I came home, I think they were looking at my gecko because his shelter was moved off of the heating pad that I have for him.
Also, I keep a little bowl of calcium powder in his habitat for him to eat because I read that you should do that. I noticed that the front of his tongue was bright red, and then it gradually faded into a soft pink. thank you for the charts, my family and i got a small baby gecko at the pet store.
we felt bad for the small gecko, espescially when one of the pet store workers told us that while cleaning the leo cage, the hide fell on him and he dropped his tail he also got a couple scrapes in his back, head, and jaw. the other leopard geckos in the cage picked on him, and so he could not grow his tail back right away. i thought that maybe it would not be able to grow it back, but these charts give me LOTS of HOPE!
i sent one of the people an email and im waiting for a reply but it sounds like they have a really good price thank you so much. That is odd, as I have seen leopard geckos for sale on those sites that fit your budget. im looking for any morph in specific but it has to be a adult female and not to expensive, but i open for any kind.
few morphs that i would like:mack snow, blizzard, rainwater, jungle,emerine, stripe,raptor or patternless The higher end morphs may still come with a price over $40, but that all depends on the breeder and the quality of the animal. Theres two white things in her lower belly but they dont like eggs, is it organs or something my male doesnt have it.
It can take as long as a month or more for a first time breeding female to lay her first clutch. ok, i have decided to not get another, but my male hasnt mated with my female yet, when will they, its been a month since i put them together, i havent seen any eggs The problem is that 30 gallon tanks are taller, which make it a little harder to heat.
The new gecko would need to be quarantined for at least 30-60 days to ensure that it isn’t ill and doesn’t carry parasites. hi, i have two geckos, a male and a female, and i was thinking about getting another, i have a ten or fifteen gallon tank, if i put enough hides is that good to house them. i have a heating pad in the cage so i dont think hes too cold but idk whats wrong.
Ok but the other day i also noticed something in the tank there was a bunch of smushed together and im guessing one threw up, what happened? I walked downstairs to find our jack russell terrier had jumped thru the top screen of our 4ftx2ft all natural, self-sustaining terrarium. I walked downstairs to find her frantically digging & running thru the tank – our leopard gecko was upside down without his tail.
He is traumatized – his color is pale and he is not moving much, but is breathing what seems to be normally. Our terrarium is our fav hobby and we baby it and our super awesome gecko. The toes are the hardest spots to shed, but with proper humid hide, temperatures, and overall health, the gecko shouldn’t have any problems.
By buying the shed aid product, you’re just wasting that money, when water does the same job. I only help remove the skin when it is soaked in the Sheeding Aid because I know not to pull it off. I only help remove the skin on the toes because the rest comes off fine.I didn’t know about the tubberware container part through, I’ll try that instead of buying some shedding Aid, Thanks for the tip.
The information sheet I got told me to keep humidity at 10-30, pretty dry. Does humidy effect the shedding process at all, and if so what is needed to help my Gecko???? Anna, the sand is a bad choice of substrate to begin with, as the gecko can ingest it and become impacted, which can be fatal.
If the gecko has recently lost the tail, the sand needs to be removed, as it can infect the wound while healing. I’ve seen some geckos though that naturally don’t have a super fat tail, but are still really healthy and not underweight. Plus, it’s cheaper to use a tupperware container, cut a hole in the lid, put moist paper towels in it and create a cheap humid hide.
Shed Aid is an overpriced product that is really a waste of money, as water will do the same thing. I pick up my gecko and hold him in one hand while I use twezzers (the small ones you use on your face and such) to remove the shedding very carefully. The Shedding Aid even helps to remove dried on sand on the toes of the gecko.
i know a lot of people who feed there geckos meal worms more than crickets and they have super fat tails. You may want to do a lukewarm soak a few times a week, and try to loosen any skin around or in the eyes. Definitely add a humid hide to the enclosure which will make shedding easier for the gecko.
Apparently, my husband said that he didn’t know that it needed more moisture when shedding it’s skin and now it’s eyes won’t open. He’s been following the recommended saline solution eye drops, but it hasn’t corrected the problem. The red bulb isn’t manufactured to increase temperatures, and it’s not a heat lamp.
Made the moss slightly damp and put it on the warm side of tank. I put the red heat lamp on during the day but that doesn’t necessarily increase the substrate temp (I use reptile carpet) Is that ok and will my leo seek the warmer temp up higher nearer the heat lamp? It’s doubtful that the light is putting off enough heat to affect what the gecko is feeling on the surface of the tank.
The heat lamp is a pet store purchase, typical red light of 50w. Also, I assume I only want to “heat” half the tank…..so not the side where the food and water are located?! What I don’t have is the damp moss “hut” that is recommended….my leo is a baby so I assume that is quite important for it’s shedding.
The UTH is best for leopard geckos, and you won’t need the heat lamp at all. we just brought our baby leopard gecko home and don’t have a heat pad. Still summer here but what do we do when the weather changes: keep lamp on all the time?
Keep an eye on the prolapse, as you may have to take the gecko to a vet for proper correction. i forgot to mention, I just adopted him from a friend 3 weeks ago who just moved back to UK so the only info I have about leopard geckos is what i have discover through the net and the odd weeks of pet sitting, I dont know any history on him or how old he is just that he is yellow, spotted, 5 inches long and named spike, normally i give him 7 worms a day (as told) and normally he eats them and once a week i shake the worms in vitamin and calcium powder….I really enjoy my leos company and hope for a happy healthy strong life for him, but i am scared that he is really not doing well…should i be worried about his current situation???? I am not sure but I think my leo had a prolapse, i noticed for a couple days it looked like there was sand stuck to it just under his tail by the back legs and his tail seemed a little shriveled, So I put him in a large container of luke warm water just enough to cover his body but not his head and maintain the temp for about 15 mins and switched the sand to paper towel.
when i put him back into his tank there was some traces of blood but it looks as though his prolaps fixed its self, but his tail is still shriveled a tiny bit….anything i can do
How Do You Care For The Wound?
After you have removed the dropped portion of your gecko’s tail and disposed of it, you will need to take a close look at your leopard gecko’s new nub to be sure it isn’t bleeding or swollen.Usually, leopard geckos drop their tails cleanly, but in rare cases, complications arise where the tail is still partially attached to the lizard’s body.In most cases, there will be little to no blood loss thanks to the muscles contracting around the nub, quickly and neatly closing off the surrounding blood vessels.Clean the area around their tail with warm water and a mild, diluted antiseptic like Betadine, a Povidone-iodine solution designed for wound care and cleansing. It is safe for animals and will help protect the tail nub from infection.Using a non-toxic, animal-safe antiseptic is crucial because your gecko will lick their nub frequently as their new tail grows in.It is very important to avoid further tail droppings in the future.Your gecko stores fat in their tail, so they temporarily lose significant fat reserves on their body by dropping it.While they will be fine if they drop their tail once or twice during their lives, repeated tails drops are indicative of chronic stress or even illness and other health issues.Check the tail for infection every day and notify your veterinarian if you notice any bleeding, oozing, or swelling around the tail wound.
Ensuring Your Gecko’s Tail Grows Back Correctly
It will take around a month or longer for your gecko’s tail to grow back, and in most cases, it will be smaller than it was before it dropped.This is normal, but it is also an important reason you don’t want your lizard to often drop their tail.Regrown tails are usually stumpy, oddly-shaped, and don’t always match the rest of the gecko’s body or their original tail in color and pattern.To ensure proper gecko tail regrowth, some reptile owners take photos of the nub each day to monitor the growth process.This is a great way to see how much of your lizard’s tail grows back with each passing day and will also help you pinpoint exactly when any issues occurred if the tail is not growing back normally.Either way, make sure you are cleaning the wound daily and keeping any loose substrates away from your gecko and its tail.If you typically use a loose substrate, consider substituting it with reptile carpet, tile, or paper towels during the regrowth process.Keep checking the new tail stump for signs of infection, and provide your gecko with plenty of nutritious food to make up for the fat they lost in their tail.Be sure the vivarium environment you keep your gecko in is maintained at an ideal temperature, so your lizard doesn’t feel any additional discomfort from their surroundings during the tail regrowth process.Thankfully, your gecko will not be in pain from the dropped tail, but the stress from the event might affect its appetite or energy level in the following week or so.Keep your gecko quarantined by themselves in a calm, clean vivarium away from any loud noise or other animals.It is also very common for leopard geckos to seem more fearful or nervous after a tail loss incident because they don’t know if they should trust the safety of their environment.It will take some time for your lizard to regain trust in you and its vivarium setup, so don’t handle them excessively and give them plenty of time and space to begin feeling safe and comfortable again.
How To Prevent Leopard Gecko Tail Dropping
Your gecko has already dropped its tail at least once; you need to be extra careful moving forward to not let this happen again.Even though your gecko is designed by years of evolution to be able to drop its tail as a defense mechanism, in captivity, tail dropping should never be happening regularly or even occasionally.Tail dropping, or caudal autonomy, is a defense mechanism, not intended everyday behavior.It is supposed to be used in life-or-death situations with predators in the wild, so they can safely escape and live another day.If your gecko is dropping their tail every time you pick them up, they are either ill, or you are handling them in an extremely stressful and painful manner.Since your gecko’s tail becomes weaker and smaller each time it grows back and is subject to potential complications each time it happens, you will want to prevent this from happening again.While all reptile owners are human and humans make mistakes, your gecko will not appreciate feeling like they have to regularly amputate their tail to feel safe.Preventing tail dropping is quite easy provided you are extra careful when handling your lizard and not cohabitating them with larger, more dominant members of their species.If you are keeping your leopard gecko in an appropriate enclosure and feeding them the proper diet, you shouldn’t have any further tail-dropping incidents.Since environmental stress isn’t the sole cause of tail dropping, in addition, you will need to monitor your gecko’s weight regularly and be sure they are getting the vitamins and nutrients they need to avoid becoming underweight and malnourished.Seeing a reptile vet once or twice a year will also help you look out for any warning signs, keeping your lizard from becoming ill and potentially dropping its tail as a result.
Do leopard geckos regrow their tail?
Yes, leopard gecko’s tail will grow back, but it won’t be the same. The new regrown tail will be made of different structure supported only by a cartilage. It will also look different – shorter, round in shape and of different color.
Leopard gecko molting or skin shedding
There can be two types of tail injury in leopard geckos – losing the part of the tail or losing it fully. In both cases, the tail will be dropped at the fracture point.
Where to place a shedding box?
Place your leopard gecko’s shedding box in the warm part of the vivarium. This is because the moist hideout located in the cold spot will be too cold inside and your leopard gecko might get sick or start brumating! Leopard geckos don’t like being cold, either.Place the moist hideout in the middle of the terrarium. Don’t worry about the basking light evaporating the water inside the box – this will not happen quickly.Water will condensate on the sides of the hideout and retain the humidity. You can always spray some extra water if needed. The temperature inside the shedding box should be around 83-86 degrees Fahrenheit (28.3-30 degrees Celsius). You can check it with a digital thermometer that has a probe.
Why Did My Gecko Drop Its Tail?
When transferring my gecko from the holding container to the new rack, it tried to jump out of my hands. At that moment, I grabbed my gecko with my other hand. Big mistake, because I accidentally grabbed the tail.The tail quickly started shaking and wriggling, and I immediately thought to put her in the tub so that she wouldn’t drop her tail. Well, what I didn’t notice was that the tail was already halfway off and it was torn halfway through. The second I put my gecko in the tub, the tail flopped right off. I was slightly worried, but I knew exactly what to do. I have been working with reptiles for five years.
First Aid for Geckos
Beloow, you will find pictures of a successfully regenerated leopard gecko tail from day one to day 31. Keep in mind that you may find different treatment options, but the following tips for first aid helped my tangerine leopard gecko hatchling heal up and recover nicely.
Remove the Substrate
If you are housing your leopard gecko on loose substrate such as sand, calci-sand, dirt, or wood shavings, you will want to remove it all and throw it in the trash or outside (however you want to dispose of it). If you leave the gecko on the loose substrate, it will be hard to keep the wound clean, since substrate can get into the open wound and cause an infection.
Set Up a Hospital Tank
If you house the gecko with a mate, you will want to set up a hospital tank with paper towels as the substrate. Make sure that you have appropriate heating and overall housing necessities in the hospital tank. You want the enclosure to mimic the regular enclosure in order to reduce stress.
Maintain a Proper Environment
The key to making sure that your leopard gecko successfully regenerates its tail is to keep the area clean and to keep the housing at an appropriate temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Continue feeding the gecko normally, and remove any uneaten crickets after 15 minutes, give or take.
Monitor the Wound
Check on the leopard gecko daily, so that you can closely monitor the wound for signs of infection. If you think that you see signs of infection, you can apply a veterinarian-approved antibiotic.
Always Consider Working With a Veterinarian
While informed first aid and at-home care is generally fine for experienced reptile owners, if this is your first time dealing with an injured gecko, reach out to your nearest reptile veterinarian. Always do what’s in the best interest of your companion.