Maintaining crested gecko health is easy when you start with a healthy animal. Buy from breeders that have a good reputation. If you have a chance to see the gecko in person, you can evaluate external signs that indicate good health. To choose a healthy pet, look for the signs of a healthy gecko:
Alert: even though crested geckos are nocturnal, they should react to you picking them up and examining them. Some are more laid back, and once woken up, will simply stare at you with a curious look. A sick animal may tremble and feel unbalanced in your hand.
Clean: Healthy crested geckos are rarely affected by skin parasites, nor do they have discharge around their nose, eyes or vent (where they excrete). Many geckos have raised, colored scales or dalmatian spots that should not be mistaken for parasites, injuries or lesions. An “unfired” gecko may appear ashen, but this is because their color is controlled by their mood and time of day or night. Geckos in shed may have some stuck to their heads, body or limbs; shed stuck to the toes should be removed as this can cause the loss of digits.
Stocky: Compared to other geckos, crested geckos are solidly built. Hip bones around the pelvis should not protrude. However, ribs can be seen commonly in young animals and in adults depending on the angle you view them. Adult animals tend to be more pudgy around the throat and chest. A thin appearance could indicate dehydration rather than poor eating or disease.
Maintaining a Healthy Gecko
Proper diet and husbandry is critical to the health of all animals, and it is important to make sure your crested gecko receives the best care possible.
Minimizing stress is also important to maintaining your crested gecko’s health. With a well setup enclosure, you minimize day to day stress by giving your crested gecko a secure home with plenty of places to hide. Stress can bring latent problems to the surface; a repressed immune system from stress can induce an outbreak of parasites that were normally held in-check. Stressed animals also don’t eat well, which can result in nutritional disorders.
Crested geckos can easily suffer from dehydration, which can lead to death in a surprisingly short time. Provide a water bowl and/or use a spray bottle to mist the enclosures on a nightly basis. Open screen tanks or 20 gallon tanks turned on end offer plenty of ventilation, but do not hold moisture well. Wrapping with plastic or using plexi-glass panels to cover 50% of the screen can aid in retaining moisture. A laybox or humid hide can be a beneficial retreat. A small tupperware or gladware container filled with damp organic soil, coco fiber, peat moss or even paper towels can give your gecko an opportunity to self-regulate moisture levels. However, monitor for mold growth as they may track in food or use their retreats as a toilet!
If you have your geckos in a plastic tub, be sure there is adequate ventilation. Too much moisture can build up and cause respiratory problems and/or mold growth within the enclosure. We opt for water bowls combined with light spraying.
Always be sure that new arrivals do not come into contact with your established pets!
A 14 day minimum QT period is recommended. 30-60 days is generally standard from quality breeders. A 90 day quarantine is recommended for geckos coming from unknown sources or a pet store environment where they could have picked up diseases or parasites from other reptiles or amphibians. More on how to quarantine crested geckos can be found in our New Gecko Care Sheet.
Gecko First Aid Kit
- Eye dropper
- KY Jelly (lubricant)
- Cotton swabs (q-tips)
- Reptile-safe topical disinfectant (.05% chlorhexidine, Betadine, etc)
- Magnifying glass
- Gram Scale
- Disposable gloves
Diseases & Disorders
Overall, cresties are a very hardy animal and don’t regularly fall ill. Good husbandry will prevent most problems. Nutritional deficiencies, such as metabolic bone disease (see below), may be the most common ailment in crested geckos and can be avoided with a good diet.
If you don’t provide adequate ventilation, cresties can become susceptible to respiratory infections. If kept too humid and they can get bacterial infections of the skin. Each are easily treated, but geckos can end up dying due to these easily preventable issues.
Parasites are also a concern, the biggest worry is Entamoeba, which is an amoeba that causes dramatic weight loss, lethargy and death. Pinworm (nematodes) are usually more of a nuisance but a heavy load in an animal will cause problems. Cryptosporidium is rarely diagnosed in crested geckos but is still a possibility.
Crested Gecko MBD
Providing a balanced diet is crucial to prevent this crippling disease!
Crested geckos are susceptible to many parasitic organisms. A lot of parasites only affect their specific “host” species. There are some parasites that require an intermediary host (like an insect that in turn gets eaten by the reptile) in order to complete the lifecycle. Even if you remove the original secondary host, it’s possible the parasite can migrate to a new one.
Other diseases are spread by bacteria (especially salmonella), viri, and fungi. Wild-caught animals are the most likely to host and pass on parasites to others. Even captive bred animals can carry parasites at levels that may not be detected in one or two fecal exams, or they might not cause undue hardship on the animal so they appear healthy. Mixing animals even of the same species carries risk of parasite transmission.
Some of the most virulent and deadly parasites are protozoa: unicellular eukaryotic organisms that include amoeba (like deadly entamoeba), coccidia and Cryptosporidium. So-called “worms” are nematodes that live in the intestine and in some cases actually assist with digestion in some herbivorous animals. As cresties are frugivorous as well as insectivorous, it is possible they use symbiotic organisms to help break down their food, but there have not been any studies to my knowledge. Note that there can be many different strains (mammal-only, reptile-only, etc) of each type and usually found as pathogenic in their targeted group of animals.
Entamoeba invadens (Amoeba) – has been known to decimate crested gecko collections relatively quickly. Signs include rapid weight loss. Can be treated with Flagyl (metronidazole) with great success
Pinworm (Nematode) – a common affliction in cresties; outbreaks generally present with visible worms in the feces accompanied by a worse than usual smell. Treated with Panacur (Fenbendazole) with great success
Cryptosporidium (Sporozoan) – another “wasting disease” caused by protozoan parasites. Can be treated with paromomycin but the gecko will always be “crypto-positive”. May shed the parasite and infect other reptiles. Very rare diagnosis in Rhacodactylus, but possible. Cryptosporidiosis is not curable.
Ingesting foreign material (hair, substrate, etc) can result in a blockage in the gut.
Reptile ecdysis, or shedding, is a normal part of their growth and metabolism. When a crested gecko has a bad shed, they may need your help or the skin may constrict blood flow, leading to loss of toes, tail tips or even an entire foot (very rare). This usually occurs when the gecko is young, as hatchlings and juveniles can dry out quickly and not have adequate moisture to shed completely. Check them frequently at each feeding to ensure they don’t have stuck shed on their toes or tails. Sometimes they will have little shreds stuck to their claws, which do not cause a problem. Read more about stuck shed and what to do about it.
There is no “best” treatment for minor wounds, but the following topical disinfectants and balms can be useful for MINOR issues. In geckos, small wounds generally heal up fine as-is as long as it is a minor wound, like a tail nip.
Neosporin is great at killing germs but the petroleum in it might reduce skin healing. However, it does keep the wound moist. There is a non-petroleum Neosporin cream that is better, as long as it does not have any painkillers, which can be deadly to herps.
Silver sulfadiazine cream is great, but you may need to get it from a vet.
Honey could also be used, but then it’s high in sugar and could potentially harbor organisms that feed on sugars, or attract flies to the wound.
A properly diluted (0.05%) chlorhexidine solution is great if you have it, just be sure it is very diluted as it has the potential to harm the skin at higher concentrations. However, I use the stuff at surface disinfectant concentration and it doesn’t seem to irritate human or reptile skin. I’ve also used it at that strength on tail nips and saw no negative reaction. However, you might want to abide by the directions and go for a .05% dilution.
Egg Binding (Dystocia)
Eggs that are not laid at the appropriate time can swell during their development and become lodged in the pelvic girdle. Causes can be nutritional deficiencies (especially calcium), weak muscle tone, and husbandry issues related to humidity and lack of appropriate nest sites.
Preovulatory follicular stasis is a related disorder, in which the normal production of eggs is interupted, resulting in multiple stages of shelled and unshelled eggs developing in the reproductive tract of females. If the female cannot completely shell and expel the eggs as in normal ovulation, they can stay in the body cavity as semi-developed eggs if not reabsorbed. Surgery may then be necessary to remove the masses, which resemble a cluster of grapes in some cases.
As size is the usual indicator of sexual maturity, captive reptiles are often younger than their wild counterparts when they reach breeding size. As preovulatory stasis has not been found in the wild, it is possible that fast growth in captive reptiles can lead to reproductive issues, especially in animals less than one year of age.