Impaction in Leopard Geckos

This health guide does not replace veterinary care. If your gecko’s condition does not improve within 2-3 days, go to a veterinarian.

Among leopard gecko keepers, impaction is an extraordinarily common fear, and for a good reason: left unchecked, it can be deadly.

Simply put, impaction is a blockage of the gastrointestinal tract. It occurs when material the gecko has ingested gets “stuck” inside the digestive system.

Contrary to popular belief, natural silica sand does NOT cause impaction — but only if it’s used correctly. (Calcium sand, however, can cause impaction as it is made of an entirely different and unsafe mineral).

Impaction is actually much more likely to be caused by oversized feeder insects or poor husbandry — oftentimes not enough heat or hydration.

Symptoms of impaction

Generally, there are two common and noticeable signs of impaction in leopard geckos:

  • Refusal to eat
  • Blue- or purple-tinted belly

Other symptoms can include:

  • Lethargy or highly irregular movements
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Emaciation
impacted leopard gecko
An impacted leopard gecko with the telltale blue-tinted belly. Image: r/leopardgeckos

What should I do if I suspect my leopard gecko has impaction?

The first thing you should do is stop all feedings. Do not feed anything until your leopard gecko has defecated. Poops are a clear indicator the digestive system is moving along as it should be.

Next, give your gecko a warm bath. Fill a clean container with lukewarm water no higher than your gecko’s elbows. Bathe your gecko for 20-30 minutes daily. Warmth generally helps the digestive system get moving again. This step usually is enough for impaction symptoms to recede.

If symptoms still continue, begin administering “belly rubs” on your gecko while they are in the warm bath. Gently rub their stomach with your thumb in a circular motion.

Finally, if your gecko still has impaction, you will need to give them a laxative. Using a pipette or similar, drip a small amount of olive oil onto your gecko’s nose. Do not do this unless all other steps have been ineffective.

In almost all cases, the above methods are effective enough to remediate impaction. However, if your gecko still is showing symptoms of being impacted (even after the olive oil), you should take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

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