There are many ways pet Leopard geckos can contract diseases. Most of these ways are husbandry-related and can be prevented, or the risk can at least be minimised. This post will identify the most common ways Leopard geckos can pick up disease and give guidelines on how to prevent it.
Through their faeces
One of the most common ways Leopard geckos will be exposed to diseases is through contact with droppings (faeces). Diseases such as worm infections, coccidiosis, protozoal and various bacterial infections can be ingested by touching, licking or eating faeces. Also see defaecatorial behaviour in Leopard geckos.
Fortunately, contact with faeces can be reduced by simply removing them. Faeces should be removed daily by using protective gloves, a scooper or plastic bag pulled over your hand.
Through contact with other Leopard geckos
When healthy and sick Leopard geckos are housed together, the risk for sharing their diseases are very high. Sick Leopard geckos should be isolated from the rest until they are cleared to be healthy by an experienced reptile veterinarian. For this reason, it is also very important to quarantine newly acquired Leopard geckos before they are to be introduced to the rest of the colony.
Through their food
Certain diseases can be transmitted from food items to Leopard geckos. Poor quality crickets are known to be able to carry internal parasites and micro-organisms can can make Leopard geckos sick.
Food should always be fresh and obtained from reputable sources. Old and uneaten food items, such as crickets and Dubia roaches, should not be allowed to wander the enclosure. Food and water containers should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
Through the air
In some cases, diseases can be transmitted through the air. The risk for air-borne diseases is much higher when many Leopard geckos are housed together in a small area. Having different types of reptiles in the same area might also increase the risk.
Although somewhat difficult, air contamination can be reduced by installing proper room ventilation. Different types of reptiles should be kept in different rooms.
Through the environment
Many diseases, such as bacterial diseases, are transmitted from the environment. For Leopard geckos this includes items such as water containers, hide boxes and their substrates, the enclosure substrate, cage furniture, etc.
These items should be selected with cleanliness in mind. Regular cleaning and disinfection of these items will prevent the built-up of potentially dangerous micro-organisms. Also see good hygiene practices for Leopard geckos for more information.
When handling a Leopard gecko, diseases can be transmitted to humans in some cases. These diseases are called zoonoses. The same is true for Leopard geckos. Humans can carry certain diseases on their hands which can be transmitted to Leopard geckos. Although Leopard geckos are unlikely to obtain human diseases, diseases from other Leopard geckos or reptiles can stick to, and be transferred from, human hands.
It is generally recommended to handle Leopard geckos as little as possible. People should always wash and disinfect their hands before and after handling a Leopard gecko – or any other reptile for that matter. The same goes for handling their food and cage furniture.
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