It’s natural to want to diversify your leopard gecko’s diet by including some unlikely delicacies. But how far can you go? Can your leopard gecko eat lettuce?
Leopard geckos can’t eat lettuce. Since they are insectivorous, their digestive systems aren’t designed to digest lettuce and other vegetables effectively. As such, lettuce offers leopard geckos no nutritional value.
Why can’t leopard geckos eat lettuce?
There are several reasons why your leopard gecko can’t eat lettuce. These include:
Incompatible design of their digestive system
The major reason why your leopard gecko can’t digest lettuce is that its digestive system isn’t designed to do so.
It doesn’t have a functioning cecum – the part of the digestive tract that is usually responsible for digesting the cellulose present in plant matter. The cecum is usually located between the large and small intestines in herbivores and omnivores.
Your leopard gecko’s digestive system is shorter than required to fully digest vegetables like lettuce.
Your gecko’s gut is alkaline, while lettuce and other vegetables need an acidic environment to be digested properly. It doesn’t even have the microorganisms that produce cellulase – the enzyme needed to digest cellulose fully.
Teeth & Jaw Size
To make matters worse, the jaws of leopard geckos are too small and weak to handle the rigorous chewing required to digest lettuce.
Their teeth aren’t designed to handle the grinding that lettuce and other vegetables require. They aren’t flattened like those of herbivores and omnivores.
They Don’t have Gizzards
Moreover, unlike some reptiles that have similar teeth but can eat vegetables, they don’t eat rocks that help them grind such food. These rocks are called gastroliths and are usually stored in the gizzard. Unfortunately, leopard geckos don’t have gizzards.
Generally, leopard geckos are attracted to live prey. Their movements and mannerisms are interesting to leopard geckos and help keep them engaged.
They even help them exercise. As such, it isn’t easy to get your leopard gecko interested in lettuce, especially if they are young, active, and healthy.
Even if your leopard gecko does agree to try eating lettuce, they will most likely not like its taste. This can make your leopard gecko throw up immediately after eating.
Low nutritional value
Lettuce isn’t that nutritious for leopard geckos, especially iceberg lettuce. So offering this vegetable to them will mainly offer them water.
Related: Can leopard geckos eat fruit?
What will happen to your leopard gecko when they eat lettuce and other vegetables?
Most times, vegetables just pass through your leopard gecko’s digestive tract without causing any harm. This is particularly common if your leopard gecko only ate a small amount of vegetables.
This isn’t always the case, though – sometimes your leopard gecko throws them up immediately.
Worse still, if you feed your leopard gecko large amounts of vegetables, they can get impacted. After all, a leopard gecko’s gut is usually narrow and can get blocked easily.
This can lead to lethargy, loss of appetite, constipation, and bloating.
While you can try dealing with the impaction at home by administering a few drops of olive oil, increasing the temperature a bit, giving your leopard gecko warm baths, and massaging its belly, this may not work.
So if the symptoms persist, take your reptile to the vet immediately. If left untreated, impaction can be fatal.
Can you use lettuce to gut load your leopard gecko’s feeder insects?
Generally, you can use any kind of fruit or vegetable to gut load your leopard gecko’s feeder insects, lettuce included. So if you truly believe that lettuce contains some vitamins that can help your gecko, don’t hesitate to feed them to your pet’s favorite insects like crickets and mealworms.
Just ensure that you gut load the insects at least 24 hours before feeding them to your leopard gecko.
Also, try to include more nutritious vegetables and fruits in the process. More importantly, dust the insects with calcium powder and vitamin D3 before offering them as a meal.
Also, don’t use lettuce to create a slurry for a sick leopard gecko – they aren’t nutritious enough to make the situation better.
No matter how you look at it, feeding your leopard gecko lettuce is never good. It has no known health benefits and can even lead to vomiting or impaction.
So even if you really feel like this vegetable can help your reptile, feed it to feeder insects instead of your leopard gecko – at least this isn’t dangerous.
And if your leopard gecko accidentally eats some lettuce, notify your vet and monitor its symptoms. As soon as you see something alarming, take your pet in for a checkup.