Another unfortunate leopard gecko issue

I didn’t really have time to figure out everything it said but I’m going to research some of the terms used later.


That is honestly a fascinating report. I’m out of my depth and rusty, plus all my texts are still packed (I can’t stand not being able to unpack my own stuff!) but I can offer some thoughts.

The part of the necropsy to focus on are the ‘histiopathologic diagnoses.’ That is where the pathologist puts down the sum of what they can determine from looking at the samples they were given. It’s important to keep in mind that, in this case, they did not perform the ‘gross necropsy’ (the dissecting/looking without a microscope), your vet did, so your vet will be the person with the most information to base an opinion off of.

It sounds like your gecko was extremely ill with major heart disease, fatty liver disease, and sepsis that can likely be attributed to a bacterial infection of some kind. It was definitely a longer-term issue (because of fibrin deposition and heart enlargement) but I’m totally unqualified to guess how long. The infection, once in the heart, damaged the heart valve and heart muscle itself, forming an abscess. There’s evidence of infection throughout the samples seen (except the stomach). I’m guessing that the fatty liver was just secondary to the main problem.

Salmonellosis is the word that got my attention. (Makes sense- his stool was green and stinky.) Reptiles often carry Salmonella in their GI tract and don’t get ill, though they still shed it in their poo. But (just as your vet mentioned), if a reptile is immune-compromised for some reason, their immune system can lose the battle to keep the balance, and Salmonella can then make them sick.

Given that you’ve had a previous gecko from this breeder pass away from gut problems, it’s definitely making me wonder if there’s some common thread. Perhaps the stress of being shipped was enough to tip the balance, if there was some other factor weakening their immune systems, such as congenital defect. Or it could be that the abscess was already forming/formed by the time your guy arrived.

I do think it’s likely that at least some of the factors at play were already at work by the time you received him. But I don’t know that it’s a given that the breeder would have known about what was going on prior to selling him to you.

Poor Bazel, he was a handsome boy. :broken_heart: It does sound as though the process was advanced enough that I doubt there’s anything you could have done to save him. But, as you mentioned yourself- he was doing much better and looking happier right up until he passed.


Thank you so much for your insight. Your response is very informative and easy to read.

I do doubt the breeder really knew that there was anything going on. I mean when I received him he pretty much seemed normal with the exception of not eating. Of course this can be very normal with reptiles recovering from shipping, but the rapid weight loss and no improvement back then certainly made it clear something was going on at that point. I made my best effort to maintain contact with the breeder and since he stabilized I hadn’t messaged them in a while. They were convinced that he was going through organ failure and may not survive. I let them know I was going to try to give him a chance since at the time he was gaining weight again. Ever since then it was always back and forth with his weight. I would supplement with carnivore care every other week or so.

After two geckos ultimately passing away, at this point I’m hoping for at least some reimbursement. I was so excited to start breeding leopard geckos and now it’s been a terrible failure. Financially and emotionally I’m just spent on it.


It seems like necrosis is an often repeating problem. I think the main problems were in the heart, which makes me think a bacteria infection was circulating through the blood and organs. Since there were so many granulocytes (white blood cells) in the bones maybe some of the problems originated from there (which could have then spread to the blood). It seems like leukocytosis is also present often which pinpoints an infection.
Salmonellosis also interested me, seeing reptiles essentially always have salmonella I think it had to do with a weakened immune system (possibly from another infection) that allowed it to take over.
I’m still not sure how this all relates to the other deaths. Maybe you have a unique bacteria type floating around that your current reptiles have developed immunity to? It’s unlikely that these deaths have nothing to do with each other, especially since your care is above par. I think you have a scientifically interesting case.

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If there is such a bacteria, how would I go about testing for it? Wouldn’t it have come up from previous cultures in some way?


I honestly have no idea what the next best steps would be. It likely came from a different source (though it’s possible it could have mutated in your collection), maybe it came from a breeder. When was the first time an animal seemingly lost weight or had an internal problem?


The first animal that had an issue was a pine snake that died suddenly in January 2020. I had it for maybe a month and then it had died suddenly. A couple months after that a speckled king from the same shipment started losing weight and developed neurological issues. That one was tested for IBD and it came back negative. Everything that snake touched was tossed even before I got the results back. I went directly home after the vet mentioned the possiblity and began sanitizing and was very careful between animals.


Now I remember that you mentioned it earlier in the thread. You also mentioned that they were an unreliable seller. If you decide to get another reptile I would treat your current animals as quarantined and make sure there is no way anything could spread from them to your new animal and see if it makes a difference. It could be worth reaching out to specialists and scientists to see if there’s anything known that could do this. But, I have no idea how to do this. @t_h_wyman might have thoughts.


Though I suspected it earlier, after reading the report I’m thinking it’s less likely that it’s a problem throughout your entire collection than that it’s a problem related (in some fashion) to receiving animals from that breeder.

It seemed that the breeder jumped to the conclusion that Bazel was in organ failure pretty early in his disease process. That makes me wonder if maybe that breeder often loses animals to organ failure. That could mean several things. It could be a result of congenitally inherited defects being present in the breeder’s stock to some degree. Alternatively, something about the husbandry the breeder maintains could be leading to illness. I don’t mean to make any assumptions, I’m just thinking possibilities through.

It reminds me of how, in mammals, an infection can spread from elsewhere in the body via the circulatory system to the heart, where the bacteria erode the heart valve(s). This is extremely common, for example, in small breed dogs that don’t have routine dental care (the infection spreads from their mouth to their heart- a vegetative endocarditis).


This right here.
The pervasive infection, fatty liver, and low weight of the animal when it arrived all make me think the breeder may have a problem. There is likely no way to check, but I wonder about their feeders. I agree, it sounds like they might have a little too much experience with “organ failure” in their animals.

Sad for your loss, really lovely boy and it sounds like you did everything right. It’s always rough when you do all you can and it still doesn’t seem to be enough. From the pictures, he was clearly doing better, just sounds like he rallied too late. (Finally got some good care, well done on your part!:+1:)

Don’t give up. Those tangerine Leos are worth the effort, they’re so bright! You’ve just had a run of bad luck and it can happen to anyone anytime. Dust yourself off, check that you’re doing everything right, then persevere. You’ll be fine. You had a lovely boy there and he gave you a ton of experience you can use to be better. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us so we can benefit some too.


I have not had time to read through all of this and I will attempt to revisit later but…

I hesitate to jump to the conclusion of the breeder being the issue as a sole source here. This is a stance I take broadly, so not just specific to this topic. It can be an easy “solution” but adopting it often clouds the judgement and eliminates people from viewing other viable potential issues as well.

Perhaps, after I have time to revisit and read all fifty posts here, I may change my mind. But I still advocate considering all possibilities and not just fixating on one


Oh, I agree, usually.

After reading the posts, though, it seems to me the OP did fine. The lab reports suggest, to me anyway, that this was a problem that was extant before the animal was shipped. Having a similar previous problem from the same breeder, that sounds like it presented in a similar way, combined with the breeder’s ready and familiar response, is what really makes me think they may be the origin, albeit unwittingly.

Not saying there is anything sinister here, or laying blame, just that I would start moving my investigation there to find the point of origin.

I’m not clear whether the earlier sick snakes the OP had came from the same place as the geckos, but I didn’t think so? But the OP’s collection as a whole sounds like it is ok, and they’re following quarantine practices. Yet two animals, from the same breeder, seem to have had similar problems. (We don’t know for sure, however, no tissue analysis was done on the first animal as far as we, the peanut gallery, know.)

We can’t lay any blame here or point fingers. WE don’t have all the information, only what we’ve been given to work with in the thread. I was just putting in my $0.02 like a busy body :grin:. I do that when I get pulled in by puzzles. (Aspie, I can’t NOT try to solve a puzzle and analyze patterns. 🤷)

And I want to offer some support to someone who, it sounds like, did everything they could and still got a rough deal. I honestly think, from the information in the thread, the problem started before the gecko was shipped.

The thing that stands out to me is that the breeder had a ready diagnosis and care suggestion, and a treatment plan and a recommended product. Well done by them, they seem to have been supportive and cooperative. The immediate suggestion of a food supplement, to me, feels like they’ve had this problem themselves and this is how they worked it. Which is why I would be curious about the food items they are using. Do they purchase from another vendor? Produce their own? What are the details? If you’re feeding live prey to the geckos, it could very well be the source, since it hasn’t been treated in a way that would substantially reduce the risk of pathogens like freezing or drying.

Not sure if leopard geckos would even take non live prey, but I feed f/t to my snakes for more reasons than just protecting them from being bitten. If you don’t produce the food yourself, you can’t be 100% about what’s in it. All you can do is take reasonable precautions.

Also could be the local water treatment, bedding supplies, storage conditions for consumables like paper towels used in cleaning, is there a cat litter box in the airflow for the facility, disposal of waste practices, etc. The list goes on…


Just to clarify after rereading some stuff (in case there is any confusion). The breeder I got the snakes from that passed is not the same breeder I got the two tangerine leopard geckos from. The breeder I got the snakes from happened to not be reputable.


In addition, I certainly don’t expect that the breeder had any malice in mind with either of these geckos. The first one I really thought was a freak incident. I had a necropsy done and they found the intestinal rupture and I thought that’s that, no reason to do a histo since that should obviously be the cause.

I know we can’t name names, but if this is a widespread problem in the breeder’s collection… they are a rather large and well known breeder in the hobby. When researching I really couldn’t find any bad reviews or anything I find that would suggest buying from them was a huge risk. If anyone is willing to PM me to discuss this breeder in private I would be curious to hear any thoughts or opinions.


Also thank you very much for the positive vibes. I don’t know if I will keep pursuing leopard geckos at this point, but maybe if the inspiration hits me again.


I want to be clear.

I’m NOT saying the breeder is bad, at fault, guilty, evil, a demon worshiper, or any other nonsense.

WE , the peanut gallery of the internet, do not have ALL the information in this case. No conclusions can be certain or absolute, definitely not at a level of assigning fault.

The OP has been very gracious and helpful in supplying information to us. From that, we as a community will do our best to support and troubleshoot, which is why this place is so much better than any other forum I’ve been on so far. The people here are the best. And I’ve been around since before there were forums, before dial up, I remember saving data on cassette tapes… dang I’m old.

IMHO, the care rendered was excellent, well above the normal practice I have seen elsewhere, unfortunately. Taking the extra step to get the lab work was a great idea and I think more keepers should do that, thank you for sharing the results.

Dude, I think you did all you could.:+1: I also think it nearly worked. And I think the problem came TO you, not FROM you. Just my two coppers worth of air.

Like I said before, you have my condolences for your loss. Sad and tragic and absolutely invaluable experience for you. The knowledge and experience you gained from this is the hardest won kind. Treasure it.


If you’re just looking for inspiration…

Seeing the amazing pics from welshmorphology on here, and reading about her rescues does a pretty good job for me.:eyes::fire::exploding_head:


If it’s a big breeder who is normally successful, I would want to check their food source even more, oddly enough.

An odd shipment from time to time of lesser quality feeders from a supplier would give them small spikes of problems in their population. Enough for them to recognize a problem and develop a treatment plan, but not consistent enough to identify the source or to harm their production.

Nice that they worked to help you, some of the bigger breeders have some unfortunate stories attached to them, deserved or not.


They definitely seemed nice and concerned before. When the first gecko died they were sympathetic and offered credit towards another. When this one came in with problems I gave them an update every week or so and they were quite responsive (though I didn’t send the first email on the problem for about a month and a half, hoping he was just adjusting slow). I sent the email regarding this one’s death a couple days ago, I haven’t heard back yet. I am giving them a week before trying to contact them again.


Have you seen any other problems in your current collection since?