Leopard Geckos

Does It Hurt A Leopard Gecko To Lose Its Tail – What To do Next

The gecko tail, and its mechanisms, are one of the most intriguing defence systems we know of in the reptile world. Species such as the leopard gecko have this defence system, which allows them to drop off, or detach their tails when threatened, or in the event of being captured by a predator. If you have never witnessed this action taking place, then you may be wondering, does it hurt a leopard gecko to lose its tail?

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Well, thankfully the loss of a tail for a leopard gecko is a natural event, which has evolved over many years to become one of the most effective defences systems we know about in the reptile world. For this reason, that scientists believe that the loss of a geckos tail is completely painless. Gecko and lizard species of all kinds are quite low down in the food chain. They are pretty much on the menu for anything that it big enough to eat them. Even other lizards. From big birds of prey, snakes, rats and larger lizards, there’s plenty a gecko should be afraid of in the wild.

What happens when a leopard gecko loses its tail?

Does it hurt a leopard gecko to lose its tail? This may be as a little bit of a stock to you, but there are two things that happen in this situation. First of all, you have the gecko. This little guy will scurry along the floor looking for the closest object or crevice to crawl into or under. You have to remember, in the event of a geckos tail dropping off, they are extremely scared and worrying for their lives. They only do this if they feel it is a matter of life or death.

Secondly, you have the tail. For roughly 30 seconds after it has detached, it will wriggle around, as if it is still attached to the geckos body. The wriggling and twitching resembles the actions of a gecko which is trying to get free. Because of this, more commonly than not, a predator will be fooled into thinking it has just caught its next meal. It will continue to fight against the tail until it eventually realises nothing is actually attached to it anymore. By this time, hopefully the gecko has found somewhere safe to hide.

Do pet leopard geckos lose their tail also?

Although this may be new to you, and can come as a shock, you should remain calm. Specially if you’re a gecko owner and you have never found yourself in this situation before. You shouldn’t feel as if you have done anything wrong, as this happens all the time with new gecko owners. Although it isn’t ideal for your gecko to have to go through the experience, it’s not going to kill them.

You should being to think of the reasons why this might have happened, and what you can do in the future to make sure this doesn’t happen again, or at least too often. Here are the possible reasons why your leopard geckos tail may have fallen off.

Thoughtless Handling 

This is most likely the common reason why a leopard gecko detach its tail. Many new gecko owners will usually forget that a leopard tail can detach, so they’re not always thinking about the consequences of handling their pet correctly. Leopard geckos are fast, and curious, so this pairing makes for an inquisitive reptile. 

Leopard geckos take a while to gain the trust of a human so handling can be very stressful for them. Commonly a leopard gecko will try to evade being handled at first, however this is where the problems can start.

As a leopard gecko tries to flee, and run away, many new owners will try to stop them by grabbing them, just like a predator would. Obviously a leopard gecko doesn’t know that you are of no harm to them, so they will naturally be scared. In an attempt to catch your gecko when it is running away, you will most likely cause its tail to fall off.

It has become stuck 

You should know by now that a leopard geckos tail is very fat. Almost the size of its body. So you can understand why sometimes it may get stuck, specially in a new enclosure, or an enclosure which has just been re-furnished.

Keep this in mind when you are filling your enclosure with hides, rocks and climbing apparatus. A leopard geckos will enjoy climbing over, under and through its apparatus, so make sure there is enough room for them to freely pass through. 

Be sure to place the furniture well enough apart so that there is no chance of your gecko becoming stuck or wedges between something. Leopard geckos can detach their tails at any time, so it doesn’t need to be a treat from a predator all the time. Sometimes it can be as a mean to free itself from a position where they have become stuck.

The tail has become infected 

Lastly, if you are quite confident the first two points have been avoided, and there is no way either of them could be the reason for your geckos tail falling off, then perhaps it could be due to an infection.

There are a number of infections which can lead to a gecko tail falling off. Infection such as “stick tail” and “tail rot” are just a couple of the more common tail infections. These infections can cause a lot of pain for a leopard gecko and no doubt a lot of stress also. These infects can be treated if caught early, however if the tail has fallen off then you haven’t noticed it soon enough.

I would suggest to take your gecko to a veterinarian and explain what has happened. They may offer some antibiotics to help cure the infection and have a better chance of a healthier tail to regrow after.

Will a leopard geckos tail grow back?

Yes. A leopard gecko has the ability to regrow its tail again once it has been detached. There is also no limit to how many times a leopard gecko can regrow its tail. It totally depends on the individuals healthiness and age. A leopard gecko which has a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet has no limit to how many times it can regrown its tail.

An unhealthy leopard gecko on the other hand may struggle to regret its trail at the rate of a healthy gecko. The process of losing a tail and regrowing it is extremely stressful for a gecko. So sometimes they may want to take their time in regarding it, specially if they know they’re actually not in much danger, like a pet gecko would realise after a coupe of years.

In the wild, this is a leopard geckos main defence system again predators. So when they lose their tail, it is of high priority to grow another one back as soon as possible, before another predator has a go at catching the little lizard.

What are the after effects of a leopard gecko losing its tail?

Although this act is completely natural, there are a few after effects that come from a gecko losing its tail. You have to remember that losing the tail is fairly instant, which means there’s never to much to to prepare for it.

Once the tail has detached, the area of the geckos body where the tail was previous attached will be open to the surrounding elements. What I mean by this, is that it’s now technically an open wound, so it will become vulnerable to bacterial infections, diseases and parasites.

Unfortunately, in the wild there is nothing we can do to help the prevention of this. Geckos will usually find a spot where it can stay hidden and lay low for a few days whilst the detached area heals and closes up. But pet geckos can be helped. The main thing you can do to help your leopard gecko recover as quickly as possible is to keep its enclosure as clean and sanitised. This means removing any waste as quickly as possible, to reduce the chance of infections. Also, keeping the humidity levels low, to ensure the detached area can heal quickly and close up safely.

Some other after effects include;
  • The tail being naturally shorter than the previous one.
  • The colour may be different to the previous one.
  • The end of the new tail will become blunt, instead of pointed.
  • The tail might to be a fat as the last tail, it could be a little skinnier.

These are all things which you should be aware of and not worry yourselves with. These different after effects are completely natural and happen to every gecko which drops its tail. The main thing for a gecko owner is that you make sure the detached area doesn’t become infected and regularly check its healthiness.

So how exactly do leopard geckos lose their tails on demand?

If you could even try to imagine, being able to detach a limb on demand without it being painful, then you’d probably also imagine it would be a very stressful process.

At a specific location in a leopard geckos tail there is specially evolved connective tissue, that is designed to be able to release and detached itself if needed. This mechanism is able to happen due to closely positions blood vessels both in a leopard geckos tail, and body, where the tail would detach from.

The blood vessels constrict which allows no blood to flow through. Once this happens the tail can then becomes weak, meaning it can detach itself with ease and no harm to the geckos health. Because there is no bone in a leopard gecko tail, and its made completely of cartilage, there is no known pain which arrises from this event.

Conclusion 

Well there you have it, everything you need to know on the question, Does it hurt a leopard gecko to lose its tail. To recap, No, it does not hurt a leopard gecko to detach its tail. However it can be very stressful.

You should try to avoid this happening with a pet leopard gecko, and remember to keep the enclosure clean and sterile in the event that it ever doesn’t happen. Through this period of time when the detached area is healing is when it’s most vulnerable to infections, so please keep a close eye on its healthiness.

If you feel there are any problems or infections then please visit your veterinarian as soon as possible for professional advise.

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