All reptiles need water to survive, but is it essential for your Leo to bathe? Do they enjoy taking a dip, and are there occasions where bathing your gecko companion would be advantageous? Here are the specifics.
Leopard Geckos do not need regular baths. Regular bathing is stressful, uncomfortable, and potentially harmful to your Leo. An exception to this rule would be if your Leopard gecko experienced shedding difficulty, developed constipation, or appeared notably dirty.
Similarly, bathing may be necessary during the mating season, where there is an increased risk of femoral pore blockage as well as prolapsed hemipenis.
5 Reasons Your Leopard Gecko Might Need a Bath
Leopard Geckos are robust reptiles that demand little maintenance. Setting up and maintaining an appropriate gecko habitat decreases the necessity to bathe your Leo. Bathing should be performed solely for the well-being of your Leo, and not for enjoyment purposes. Although videos show Leos ‘walking’ on water, these robust little creatures not only dislike the water but cannot swim. Leopard Geckos usually inhabit arid grasslands and desert regions where water is uncommon and infrequent.
Here are several acceptable occasions to bathe your Leo:
1. Your Leopard Gecko has difficulty shedding
Leopard Geckos shed their skin as they grow. In some instances, some of the old skin is leftover or is too tight to detach properly. If left unaddressed, this excess skin can cause various skin conditions or infections. Skin left between or around the toes can also constrict and cut off normal blood flow, which can, in turn, cause the toes to dry out or drop off.
Soaking Leo in warm water can help to soften the leftover skin and get the skin to fall off. To speed up the process, add a few drops of mineral oil to the bathwater. If the skin still refuses to drop off after a couple of soaks, get in touch with a vet that specializes in exotics and reptiles.
Never be tempted to pluck the shedding skin flakes, as not only can this lead to infection, but it will be excruciating for your Leo. Only if the skin is soft and can easily detach after soaking can one gently pull the dead skin off with tweezers. Instead of using your fingertips, I would recommend a dampened washcloth, paper towel, or Q-tip to massage the skin and remove the dead skin gently. A soft toothbrush is also an option if used with caution.
You might be able to tell that your leopard gecko is shedding because it is turning yellow.
2. Your Leo is Constipated
Ingesting loose substrate or anything large or wider than the space between your Leo’s eyes can cause constipation. Sever obstruction needs to be addressed immediately due to an increased risk of dehydration.
By alternating bathing your gecko for 5 minutes and massaging their bellies for 5 minutes, you can help to dislodge the blockage. It may be necessary to repeat a warm bath for up to 7 days. Take care when massaging to avoid the sensitive neck area and contact a vet if the impaction does not improve over time. Read this article for more tips on how to help a leopard gecko with constipation.
3. Your Leopard Gecko is experiencing femoral pore blockage problems
A waxy pheromone substance secreted during the breeding season can block your Leo’s pores. If not naturally cleaned by rubbing against rough surfaces, this area can cause infection. You can help dislodge the blockage by soaking Leo in warm water and gently rubbing the V-shaped slits at the base of their tail with a Q-tip.
4. Your Leopard gecko has a prolapsed hemipenis
Your Leopard geckos hemipenis may not always retract after mating. It is advisable to give them a daily sugar bath if it has still not retracted after a day of mating. If left unattended, the organ can discolor, get infected and even die.
Vaseline on the end of a Q-tip has been successfully used to massage the hemipenis back in place gently. If all else fails, visit your closest veterinarian.
5. Your Leo is noticeably dirty
If your gecko is looking noticeably dirty, smells bad or is covered in feces, it may be time to consider a bath. Not only is it unsanitary, but a soiled gecko can end up suffering from skin conditions as well as other illnesses. This can be avoided by cleaning out feces and wet substrate from the Leopard gecko’s habitat daily.
How to bath your Leopard Gecko
If you must bathe your Leo, you will need a small container that’s big enough to prevent your gecko from climbing out. It is vital to use the container only for your gecko to ensure no microorganisms are transferred to them. Lining the container with a towel will also provide your Leo with more support during bathing.
Fill the container with warm water approximately 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit (27 – 32 degrees Celsius), and do not use any soap. If you must use soap, ensure it is organic and plant-based. You can also add Sphagnum moss to the water to make your Leo feel more comfortable. Frequently test and maintain the water temperature as Leo’s cannot self-regulate their body temperature.
The water level should be at belly level, and the Leopard Gecko’s head and ears should always remain above water. In addition, avoid splashing the delicate eye area with water as they are prone to easily drying out.
Always hold your gecko in the water and never leave them unattended when bathing. Leo’s can panic easily, making them susceptible to drowning.
Dry your Leo thoroughly with a towel. Returning it to its habitat immediately after bathing will significantly reduce its stress levels. This can help prevent your gecko from exhibiting stress-induced behaviors such as hiding and food refusal after bathing.
Remember to always wash your hands with hot water and soap before and after bathing your Leo to avoid making them ill.
How often should I bathe my Leopard gecko?
In general, a Leopard gecko should not be bathed more than two times a month. Bathing frequency can be increased if your vet recommends it or if your Leo suffers from skin conditions or physical difficulties. However, bathing should be completely avoided before the age of 4-5 months.
Preventative tactics to avoid frequent bathing
With proper habitat maintenance and by following simple guidelines you should not need to bathe your Leo often.
Installing a heating pad on one area of your Leo’s habitat will ensure that they have adequate heat for proper digestion. Using non-loose substrates and feeding your gecko correctly sized meal options will prevent unnecessary constipation or obstructions.
Furthermore, misting your geckos enclosure to create a clean, moist environment, and a good gecko shedding aid or spray, can assist with your Leo’s shedding process.
Avoid bathing your Leo unless necessary or otherwise recommended by a vet to do so. Stick to regular habitat cleaning routines and tank maintenance to ensure your gecko is kept both happy and healthy.
If you must bathe your Leopard gecko, make sure that you do so safely, gently, and as briefly as possible to eliminate excess stress.