My leopard gecko has skin stuck to his feet and he seems lethargic. What should I do?
When a reptile has problems shedding its skin, the condition is called dysecdysis. We commonly see this problem in leopard geckos commonly caused by an environment that is too dry. Proper provision of hiding areas filled with damp moss will help prevent the problem in the future by creating localized areas of higher humidity. In addition, avoiding loose substrate or sand for bedding (opt for newspaper or paper towel instead) will help to keep things cleaner and less irritating to the skin.
If the gecko has not been able to shed for a while, the retained skin may be causing constriction of the underlying digits. Sometimes entire toes or parts of toes become devitalized and end up falling off. This is extremely painful and is often associated with infection. The lizard may show signs of lethargy and decreased appetite. If you are seeing these signs, it is imperative to get your gecko to a reptile vet. The constricted bands of retained shed tissue will need to be carefully dissected off, antibiotics and pain control will be started and recommendations to improve the general care will be made.
If, on the other hand, the signs are mild, you may be able to remove the sheds after soaking the lizard in luke-warm water. With several soaks to soften the skin you may be able to gently tease the retained tissue off with a q-tip.
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Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals. Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228. More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.
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