This year has been really taxing on me. I have lost four animals to sudden illnesses that have completely blind sided me (all different species). I have taken all said animals to my primary exotic vet and we didn’t really come up with any answers for any of them. I have rigorously reviewed my husbandry for the many different animals in my roster and am trying to give them impeccable care, yet here I am again with another animal failing to thrive well after quarantine.
I purchased this leopard gecko about 6 months ago. At that time he was a little under a year old, born July 2019. Upon arrival he looked healthy and ate great, went through a 2 month quarantine away from all other animals. He is currently housed in a 24"x12"x12" habitat with multiple hides and natural wood to climb on. Flooring is non-adhesive vinyl. Temperatures are reliably 88-90 on the warm side, which is done with an thermostat regulated heat mat, and about 75 ambient. His diet consists of calcium and vitamin dusted mealworms and dubias. Always fresh water available.
The one odd thing I noticed in quarantine and even now is this leo’s stool smells absolutely terrible. Since he otherwise seemed perfectly fine (and the stool looked normal) I chalked it up to that he just had particularly stinky poo. One other thing is that his tail seemed “naturally slim”? He definitely didn’t look underweight based on bodily condition.
I noticed some change about 2 weeks ago. He started hiding more mainly on the warm side. He was still eating great and eagerly came to the front of the enclosure whenever I brought out the bug bin. I would look at his tail and felt like that it looked slimmer and was wondering if I had failed to notice gradual weight loss, but I doubted this since he had obviously grown in body size over the months I’ve had him. He seemed to more rapidly lose weight starting this past weekend, even though he was still eating and pooping, but noticeably less. I made an appointment on Wednesday after he refused waxworms and the soonest I could get in due to work was Saturday. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a good fecal sample as he didn’t leave anything fresh leading up to the appointment and the vet couldn’t get him to pass anything, but he threw up the two waxworms he managed to eat the night prior (or maybe this morning). He is now on metronidazole in case the cause is parasites. I have thoroughly sanitized his enclosure and all furnishings.
I tried soaking him again tonight to see if I could get him to pass anything, but no luck. Afterwards I tried to feed him a waxworm and he would not eat it, just sort of keep it in his mouth. I am already starting to lose hope as now he seems very uncomfortable and stressed. After putting him back into his enclosure he is just standing in one spot with his eyes closed…
I am planning to call the vet again tomorrow as I believe they have Sunday hours. I feel like I should have acted sooner but I also feel that I had little warning that things would suddenly get so bad so fast.
I am incredibly exhausted at the moment due to other things that have happened today so I hope this all makes sense. I honestly don’t know how long he will make it or if the vet can do anything at this point, but I am going try to hang on to hope. Just feel really defeated.
I’ve just taken my pain meds, so I’m a bit loopy. But this sounds suspiciously like Crypto to me. Has your vet discussed this with you? I think I remember that you need a fecal sample to test, though. Not to overstep, but it sounds like it may be time either to commit yourself to aggressive intervention or decide to euthanize. (Hospitalization, fluids, diagnostics, supportive care/treatment, etc.)
Definitely start caring for him last of your reptiles every day, and do everything you can to keep separation of equipment absolute. Use gloves, wash hands often. If you get a fecal sample, collect it carefully, then store it inside a tightly sealed ziplock bag or container, and keep it refrigerated (not frozen) until you can get it to your vet to send in for testing. It would ideally be within 8 hours of collection.
Sending you and your wee one good thoughts and healing energy!
I’m also thinking crypto, which is short for Cryptosporidiosis and is a parasite that infects the intestines. If it is crypto then without treatment your gecko will keep losing weight until he dies, I’m pretty sure it also causes diarrhea which would explain the stinkiness of the feces and also causes dehydration. Crypto is diagnosed from a fecal sample but if that isn’t possible then a cloaca swab would be the next best. If he does test positive for crypto then it might not be a bad idea to soak daily to prevent dehydration.
Thank you both for your replies. My vet did mention crypto though I honestly don’t want to believe in the possibility. He came from a very high end breeder, not that it means crypto from their collection is an impossibility. I have four other Leos and they are all fine, but I will move him to an isolated area.
I am worried that I may not be able to get a fecal sample in time. The waxworm he was kinda holding onto last night was on the floor of the enclosure this morning looking partially digested and probably was thrown up again.
You might just want to have a cloacal swab done, it’s the next best thing other than a fecal sample. Until then I’d say treat him as if he has crypto but make sure any treatments you try won’t severely harm him if he doesn’t have crypto. Maybe try soaking him daily for 10-15 minutes and if it’s a last resort and he’s almost dying you could try force feeding him in hopes that he’ll at least absorb some of the nutrients. If that doesn’t work and he needs nutrients and if you and your vet think it might work then consider an iv or tube to try to get some nutrients in his body. Maybe someone else can recommend certain vitamins to put on the food so if it stays down for only a little bit then hopefully the vitamins would get absorbed. If he seems to be suffering a lot then you may choose to put him down if it seems like that would be better for him.
Upon further inspection it looks like the waxworm remains actually did go through his system and wasn’t thrown up. He has some urates around his cloaca and on the sample it does look like there is some fecal matter. Unfortunately my vet is closed today and I was mistaken about Sunday hours. I will put it securely in the fridge and take it to them first thing tomorrow.
He is quite weak now. It’s crazy how much he has worsened after taking him to the vet yesterday. Just before last weekend hit he was eating waxworms right off the tongs with zeal.
I say this out of compassion- Crypto does not have a good prognosis, and is a big problem if you have other reptiles. If your little man passes, I very very strongly suggest a necropsy with histopath (necropsy = a non-human ‘autopsy’). Crypto requires very dedicated sterilization with very specific chemicals, and you need to know if he has it, as the lives of all your other leos are on the line. You cannot store remains in a freezer if you need to have a necropsy performed- the freezing distorts a ton of evidence. Instead, place any remains in several very securely sealed ziploc bags and somewhere with temps the same as a refrigerator, then get the remains to your exotics vet immediately the following day.
I went back to re-read, and saw that you’ve lost other animals this season. There’s actually more than one kind of Crypto, and it can affect more species than leopard geckos, some including humans. It can also be present but subclinical (no symptoms). If any more animals of yours die, especially from sudden wasting, make sure you store their remains & have necropsies (with histo, not just a gross necropsy) performed on all of them. If it does turn out to be Crypto, educate yourself about what you are facing, and then decide between intensive sterilization of everything you use or buying new supplies.
Key here- don’t panic. You don’t know for sure what it is, and even if it is Crypto- there are solutions, and choices to make regarding how to assess and protect the health of your other animals. You can do this.
I would lay off of the waxies unless your vet thinks they are necessary (it’s sort of analogous to feeding a very very high-fat milkshake to someone with major GI illness). If you do decide to attempt assist-feeding, that’s generally done with a liquid formulation, via syringe. Your vet should have a preference regarding what, how much, and how often. My heart is seriously breaking for you, it’s so obvious how much you care and how hard you are working to try and help your wee one.
If you are wanting info about Crypto from an extremely reliable source , you can’t do much better than this
Thanks again for your information. I really appreciate it.
On the possibility of the others who have passed having crypto, I think previous tests and circumstances may be evidence against this. Some back story on those other animals…
I bought three different species of snakes from one seller December of last year (pine snake, florida kingsnake, and speckled kingsnake). I had the pine snake for about a month and just out of the blue found him dead one morning (not thinking, put him in the freezer instead of the fridge, so no necropsy could be performed). A couple months later the speckled king who had been doing great suddenly regurged a pinky. I gave her a couple weeks and then offered another pinky. During this feed I could see she was having great difficulty in eating and noticed her neck area was kinda thin. I got her into the vet the next day and the whole ride to the vet she was corkscrewing and had obvious neurological symptoms that weren’t there even yesterday. The vet confirmed that there was no saving her and was worried about the possibility of IBD (Inclusion Body Disease). We did a necropsy and pathology and there were no inclusion bodies present or anything else they could find. The florida king has been thriving.
The third animal was my very dear ackie monitor. He started to not eat a couple months after the IBD scare and was visibly losing weight. I took him to the vet and they did blood work and a fecal (the fecal didn’t come back with anything of concern) where we found he was anemic and had high white blood cell count, so he was fighting off some sort of infection. He was on carnivore care, antibiotics, and an appetite stimulant and was improving greatly over the next month, gaining a lot of weight back and was very active. Then when I went to feed him his carnivore care one night I noticed he was suddenly extremely lethargic again and couldn’t even hold on to anything. I got him an emergency appointment where they put him in an incubator and were giving him medicine and fluids, and when they x-rayed him they found he was impacted, even though he was on reptile carpet in his hospital tank and really was only able to eat a liquid diet for weeks. They were going to do surgery but he passed away before they were able to.
I know I mentioned four in my original post, I said that in error due to how tired I was. These three are who I have had to say goodbye to this year. I guess the other big detail is that these animals were not at the same house as my leopard geckos. I have a sort of weird housing arrangement, and by chance all my snakes (and my ackie) are/was living at one and my leopard geckos and a few others live at another. Between these two groups they share no equipment or furnishings and I always wash up after working with either group. I have been keeping a close eye on all of my animals and at times I fear walking into my reptile rooms wondering what disaster I will find next.
Whatever it is, I will try my best to keep all of my other animals safe. Everybody else seems healthy for the moment. The sick leo has been more active throughout the day today and I soaked him in warm water for 10 minutes, though he still looks uncomfortable. I will hold off on waxworms and focus on other insects instead.
Thank you those words mean more to me than you can imagine. I managed to get him to eat a herptivite + calcium dusted cricket. I remembered I have some nutribach so I may try that also for him.
He did not make it through the night. I dropped him off earlier at the vet along with the stool sample to do a necropsy and histopath.
I am so sorry for you and the loss a pet. I truly hope that this doesn’t crush your passion and love of this hobby. Know that I will keep you in my prayers. Once again I am sorry about this happening.
I’m sorry about him, you tried and did your best but sometimes there’s only so much you can do. Even through all of these losses you are a great owner and greatly care about your pets.
Thank you all so much for your kind words and help. I probably sound like a broken record with all the thanks but I truly mean it.
I can’t help but feel crushed right now. I think I’ll feel better when I have some answers from the necropsy.
I sat in bed last night thinking about him and hoping he would pull through. I’m so sorry dude.
I second @erie-herps - it’s very obvious to me that you are a caring and dedicated owner. Your animals are lucky to have you.
I just heard back from the vet. Fortunately it was not crypto, but for some reason he had a GI tract rupture and the vet could not find any explicit reason for it happening. He said though it’s rare sometimes insects with particularly hard exoskeletons can cause a rupture, but he could not even find any evidence of this. So it seems like it was a freak thing that happened.
I’m so glad to hear that it wasn’t anything contagious.
Wow, that really is not something I would have anticipated! But it does explain the very rapid, sudden decline. It also is even more evidence that there’s nothing you could have done- meaning there were no lapses in the quality of your care; you are an excellent owner.
I just lost one of my babies yesterday, the 5th one in less than 6 months. Though everyone is different, I can definitely empathize. It made me wonder- if geckos do go to a gecko afterlife or anything along those lines, and they get wings… are they like dragon wings or feathered wings? Inquiring minds want to know!
I’m so sorry that you’ve had a rough time, too. Losing animals is the worst part of the hobby even if it’s something that you have to realize comes with owning them. I have a hard time believing in afterlife, but I can take some solace in that there is no suffering after death.