|By Dr Pete Wood BSc BVSc Nahoon Animal & Bird Clinic
Cats, dogs, parrots, hamsters … we’ve all been there, done that, right? But how many of us have loved (or treated) a lizard?! Dr Pete Wood gives us insight on his experiences treating a Leopard Gecko, and explains why they’re becoming popular pets around the world!
The Leopard gecko’s ‘proper’ name is Eublepharis Macularis, with the first word referring to its ‘real’ or ‘true’ eyelids, and the second meaning ‘spotted’. Its natural area of habitat includes Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Northwest India and Pakistan. Leopard geckos are becoming one of the most popular captive kept lizards. The reasons being, they are easy to tame, do not bite, breed easily and their housing and food requirements are simple and fairly inexpensive. Leopard geckoes are very hardy lizards if the normal requirements are met and will adapt to almost any home. They are relatively small in comparison to other lizards and have a very calm temperament and can be handled easily.
A Head For Lights?
Leopard geckoes have a segmented tail which may be autotomised, and movable eyelids with a vertical slit pupil unlike many geckoes. They also lack toe pads, having clawed toes instead. Another interesting feature of the leopard gecko is the ear – due to the auditory system structure, when viewed from the side, light shines right through the gecko’s head! Adults grow to approximately 220 mm. As with many other reptiles, these lizards shed periodically. This species eats the sloughed skin. In captivity, this species has a life span of approximately 22 years.
Day Naps A Priority
Like most other geckoes, Leopard geckoes usually hide away under logs or in burrows during the daytime while they sleep. When active they tend to be inquisitive animals. Although Leopard geckoes are ground-dwelling species their clawed toes allow them to climb on rocks and branches. This will allow them to absorb heat ventrally and to bask in the sun at the same time. An interesting behaviour of Leopard geckoes is that they are defaecatorial. They often deposit their faeces in the same area of their terrarium.
A leopard gecko named Kerneels was admitted to the Nahoon Bird and Animal Clinic on three occasions between January 2007 and October 2008 presenting with severe gastric impaction caused by the ingestion of grit/sand which had been used as a substrate on the floor of the reptile housing. Apart from the impaction, Kerneels was in good health and well cared for. I carried out a gastrotomy on Kerneels for the first time in January 2007. He was showing symptoms of enlarged abdomen, lethargy and anorexia. He was anaesthetised using Forane gas. Approximately a tablespoon of grit was removed at this time. The gecko was treated with fluids and an oral solution of Baytril. He recovered well and his digestive system was fully functional when he was discharged. Just over two months later, the gecko was admitted to the clinic presenting with identical symptoms. The same procedure was followed using Forane as an anaesthetic and supportive therapy of fluids and Baytril oral solution. His recovery was uneventful and complete. After both of these operations, the substrate of Kerneel’s housing was discussed at length with his owner. Sand, gravel or grit are not recommended as substrates as juvenile geckoes are inclined to ingest the material, perhaps as a result of a dietary deficiency or in the pursuit of prey; and suffer impaction as a consequence. Preferred substrates are include newspaper, carpet and coarse gravel. In October 2008, Kerneels was again admitted to the clinic; this time suffering from a massive impaction. I performed a gastrotomy and removed approximately 40 g of grit. Supportive therapy this time was as before and he recovered well from the procedure, and it appeared that his digestive system was working after the removal of the impaction. Unfortunately Kerneels died two days later and I presumed the cause of death was due to organ failure following the massive impaction. There is a wealth of information available on the housing, care and general needs of these small reptiles. They are hardy creatures; this is illustrated by Kerneels surviving two operations for severe impaction. They make interesting pets and with the correct attention to their diet and proper housing, can bring pleasure to owners for many years.