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The Scoop on Poop

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I’ve at times wondered why we are so obsessed with gecko poop. They poop too much, they don’t poop enough, it’s stinky poop, it’s runny poop, it’s hard poop, babies poop more often than adults, is this poop? Then we have to clean up the poop. We even go as far, on occasion, to pick apart the poop. Last but not least, it’s very important to take along poop to the vet visit. It should be fresh poop of course. Hopefully we will get an all clear on the poop.

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The “poop”

So, just why are we concerned about our gecko poop?  It’s one of the immediate indications of our gecko’s internal health.  If they eat regularly they will poop regularly.   It sounds simple enough, but if they don’t poop, there’s a problem.  This is often a husbandry related issue, such as warm end floor temperature that’s not high enough or loose substrate ingestion.  Ruling that out, there is a health issue that needs to be addressed immediately.  While there are a few things you can do at home to help things along, if your animal doesn’t respond favorably with a gift, don’t hesitate to get it to a qualified herp vet.

We also wonder if our gecko is pooping enough.  Babies typically poop several times a day, as they eat small frequent meals.  Juveniles may or may not go more than once a day while they are their development stage, depending on their appetite.   Adults who eat every two or three days may only go every two or three days.  Remember, poop is waste not used by the body, digested food they are eliminating after they have used its nutrients.

What about consistency?  Normal, healthy poop is dark brown, well formed, and has a whitish, chalky textured urate attached.  It all stinks when it’s fresh!  A change in diet can cause a change in poop while the animal’s body adjusts to something new.  An occasional slightly runny poop is no cause for alarm but, if it continues, a fecal test should be done sooner rather than later.

The “scoop”

It doesn’t really look like poop, so what could it be?  Most commonly, it’s regurgitation.  Rarely will a healthy gecko regurgitate unless it has grossly over-eaten or ingested substrate, such as sphagnum moss.   They are able to completely digest their skin after shedding, so if they regurgitate it, a detailed fecal test is in order that should include testing for the dreaded cryptosporidium.  It’s especially important to get this test done ASAP if they are eating less and fat loss in the tail (of those geckos that store fat in their tails)has been noted.  There is ongoing crypto research being conducted, but at this time, there is no known cure.

Parasites pose a number of problems, and can result in death of the animal if left untreated.  The most common symptoms include unexplained appetite loss, thin tail, regurgitation, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, and lethargic behavior.   A heavy parasite load will drain a gecko of all its resources and eventually, life.  There are several drugs used to treat parasites, some more effective with specific strains than others.  It’s very important to know what parasite is being treated, since their individual life cycles can differ, thus changing the choice of antibiotic and dosage frequency.  Also, the gecko’s overall condition should be considered in regard to medication orders, as many can be quite harsh on their systems and quite possibly harm the animal.  A general broad spectrum treatment plan may or may not be effective.  The key is a qualified herp vet.  There are detailed photos of all known parasites in the book, “Understanding Reptile Parasites” by Roger Klingenberg and, if a person has a 100x microscope, picking apart a poop would show any harmful threats.   It’s also helpful to be informed of possibilities when consulting with your vet for medications. 

What if there are no qualified herp vets available within a reasonable distance?  First, let’s address “qualified.”  Just because a vet agrees to see your lizard does not mean they’re well versed in specific herp issues, though they have a fantastic long-standing practice with dogs and cats, and exotics such as birds and ferrets.   This website can help you locate a vet:  http://www.arav.com/.  Local herpetological societies may also be able to assist in your search, oryou may even be able to get a referral from another herp keeper.   A “reasonable distance” is subjective; ours is over two hours away.   A vet close-by may be willing to telephone consult with a good herp vet in order to diagnose and treat your gecko correctly.  The time to look for a qualified vet is before you need one, to avoid the stress of desperation.  In tough economic times, a person might not be able to afford a trip to the vet, potentially costing hundreds of dollars.  And still, the gecko dies.  Had a consultation been done before it got so bad, the gecko may have had a chance to survive.  Again, look for some resources before a crisis presents itself.  Some vets will run a fecal test with just the fresh stool sample, without bringing in the animal for an office visit.   This can be especially helpful if there isn’t a qualified herp vet available close by.

Last but not least, proper quarantine practices for a new animal is a must in keeping your geckos healthy.  This includes being very careful to avoid cross-contaminating with dishes, utensils, or hands.   Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can spread like wildfire through a communal cage if  just one new animal is infected and housed with others.  Many gecko species have a tendency to share the same toileting area, thus coming in direct contact with each other’s poop.  Good housekeeping practices will minimize harmful growths that your gecko can come into contact with, as well as feeder insects that haven’t been eaten yet.

I would like to thank my vet, Dr. Ivan Alfonso DVM, for assisting me with this article.

Written by Laney Simmons

Laney has a background in geriatric nursing which fed into her passion for lizard rehabilitation. She and her partner own ByTheShore Reptiles and have been breeding many species of lizards and snakes for over 10 years. They are active members of the Jacksonville Herptelogical Society. She also enjoys growing orchids, making jewelry, baking and candy making.

38 Comments

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  1. Your scoop on poop article was very informative. So many of us put off finding a herp vet until one is needed, and as you say, it may then be too late to save your pet gecko. Also, it is always good to remind everyone of good housekeeping practices. Great article!

  2. Aloha,

    I am trying to find a way to clean off gecko poop especially from white bedding. It leaves brown stains! Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

  3. You could try bleach. ALso, do some googling about stain removal in general. There are websites that tell you how to get different kinds of stains out. Whatever will work for human feces will work for geckos’

  4. Hello
    We have had a leopard gecko for 2 years.
    He has always gone poop in the same place.
    Recently he started pooping on top of his house.
    It is at the opposite end of where he used to go to the bathroom.
    Is this ok?
    thank you

  5. Hi I’m a new reptile owner
    I have lots of questions and it seems I get bunk info from the pet co store
    my gecko is an albino leopard gecko I got him in August of last year for my b day
    he was I believe a couple weeks old at that time so he’s like almost a year old? if gecko’s have normal aging like us… or if they have dog years? anyway his name is ALEX I love him very much and he is super spoiled…. he hasn’t been eating much lately and hasn’t pooped
    tonight he finally did and it was mostly all white my worst fear is something happening to him
    please some one help? and also I need a gecko buddy that can email me once in awhile and help me out with other question’s I have, someone that actually knows what they’re talking about and not going to steer me in the wrong direction like pet co workers…. My name is Manda my email is [email protected] I have some questions about mouth rot Alex is I believe over weight… I feed him a lot of “french fries” which is wax worms but its mostly the only thing he will eat… I tried to ween him off them and now he’s moody about eating crickets and meal worms…. like I said I have a lot of questions please BFF gecko buddy respond xoxo thank you

  6. The white in the poop is actually pee. If he hasn’t been eating much, he won’t be pooping much but will pee because he’s probably been drinking. I’ll send you an email to address your other concerns.

  7. I have recently inherited an albino fat tailed gecko. We believe she/he (not 100%certain) was severally neglected by previous owner. She was seen by a vet shortly after we got her due to lack of interest in eating. The vet said she had mouth rot and she came home with antibiotics. Now I don’t have a lot of knowledge about geckos but what I do know if something won’t eat, it will eventually die. So, and I know this is a big no no but I syringe feed her when she won’t eat. I have collected a fresh stool sample to take to the vets office but I’m not sure if it should be kept in the fridge or at room temp. For food we have tried a few different types of worms and also crickets. We give her reptade and I’m back to syringe feeding. I clean her terrarium every 1 1/2 – 2 weeks. She moves around quite frequently and even climbs onto her fountain, so she is far from lethargic. She is a spunky little gal that I have grown quite fond of and would like her to live and thrive on her own (no syringe feedings). Please help!! Am I caring for her all wrong, should I be doing more or less…help.

  8. Keep a poop sample in plastic wrap in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Fat tails can be pretty picky and go off food easily in my experience. I’ve even had that experience with hatchlings who will suddenly stop eating (and their tails will get thin fast) and then pick up again. In addition, antibiotics often get geckos off their feed. What are you putting in the syringe? In my opinion it’s really crucial to get the gecko off puree if that’s what they’re eating. Try squishing a feeder and rubbing the guts on its nose. It should lick the stuff off. If you’re actually sticking the syringe into the gecko’s mouth, try putting a drop on the nose. Once it seems to have some interest in feeder guts, try holding the gecko and pushing a feeder gently into its mouth. I’ve gotten a lot of fat tails started this way. I had one that had an enlarged liver (the vet couldn’t do anything for her) that lived for over a year with me hand feeding her –no syringe, just live feeders hand fed. Even that would be a step up from syringe feeding.

  9. I don’t put the syringe in her mouth, I slowly excrete the purée and she licks it up. I will do as you said for her next feeding. Just curious as to how often I clean out her terrarium. Is my method correct or should I be cleaning more frequently?

  10. How often you clean out her terrarium depends to some extent on what the substrate is, and how dirty she gets it. For example, if you have a tile substrate and the gecko poops in the same place all the time and you remove the poop every day, it shouldn’t need cleaning too often. Many of my enclosures are planted with scavenger bugs and I let it function as its own ecosystem and don’t clean it. Your frequency seems fine to me.

  11. Thanks for the article. I just got my leopard gecko a few weeks ago. He didn’t want to eat, was hardly pooping. Previous owner only fed him dry mealworms. I went to the pet store and asked questions to other gecko owners and made Changes to his tank like getting rid of his sand and hand feeding crickets to get him to eat more since he wouldn’t hunt. And he just finished his shedding n I noticed a difference in him. He seems more active, eating better I believe… I haven’t seen him eat the crickets on his own… but I seen fewer in the tank and lil cricket legs here or there. So he must be eating them or they r eating each other. Anyways, he pooped today… which he hasn’t pooped in like 4 days n he is 7 months old. But ur article made me feel tons better because his poop looks just like u described. So now that he eating and pooping…. what do I do to get him to like me? My gecko hates my guts. I stick my hand in the tank every day and pet him. But As I pick him up he freaks out. And he will calm down for a few mins but than trys running away or squirms really bad. All I want is him to love me. How do I become his best friend? Even the hand feeding didn’t help gain His trust

  12. Glad you’re having success with him eating. In all honesty, some geckos just aren’t the kind that like being held. I have geckos like that that I have hatched in my home. I don’t think your gecko hates you (I really don’t think they’re capable of that)but being held is not something he enjoys. One idea is to pick him up, hold him in the palm of your hand and make a little cave for him with the other hand. He may feel safer that way. Some ways of picking up a gecko make them feel as if they’ve been grabbed by a predator and that also makes them freak out.

  13. Fantastic and very helpful article – still valid even so many years after being published. Appreciate your knowledge, and I’m sure the others appreciate your willingness to reach out and help them! You mentioned in the comments that you have scavengers bugs in your enclosures. I, too, would like to go that route with my son’s geckos, as the carpet substrate gets yucky/smelly very quickly; the crickets tend to hide under the carpet; and he’s afraid of using Repti-Sand or other substrate. Your insight would be most appreciated. I’d like to either in the leopard gecko cages, use sand; and in the crested geckos – and other geckos cages use ‘dirt’ and plants utilizing scavengers bugs for the waste, etc.- a vivarium of sorts. Thank you very much!

  14. Here are my best recommendations for substrates and scavenger bugs for leopard geckos and crested geckos:
    leopard geckos: sand is not recommended due to danger of impaction (and it’s really not their natural habitat at all). One option is ceramic tile which I find conducts heat well and is easy to clean. If you want, you can put a thin layer of sand between the tile and the cage bottom to allow for even better heat conduction. If you really want the geckos on a particulate substance, many people have success with bioactive setups. There are 2 articles in Gecko Time about that. Go to geckotime.com/archives and search for “bioactive”.
    Crested geckos: They do well in planted enclosures. They need a drainage layer: get hydroton (expanded clay balls) from a hydroponics store and put 2-3″ at the bottom. Cut a piece of vinyl mesh (you can buy a roll of vinyl screen at Home Depot or equivalent) to fit the bottom of the enclosure and lay it over the bottom layer. Add 3-4″ of either eco earth (coco fiber) or a soil mixture from a place like http://www.neherpetoculture.com/supplies. Install the plants. You can buy “isopods”, which are like little roly poly bugs, from the link above. They reproduce easily. I have at least 15 enclosures with them, all from one group I bought many years ago. Little tiny bugs called springtails seem to show up as well. The system works well and I never have to clean the cage.

  15. Aliza,
    I just purchased a leopard gecko a few weeks ago. The other day he turned white as a ghost for the first time and I thought we was sick until I googled it 🙂 I’m interested to know how to tell if the shedding came off his fingers as they look a little lighter than the rest of his arms and I don’t want him losing fingers! Also, his poop looks like two white and black logs on top of each other so I’m guessing he’s pooping and peeing at the same time? All I feed him is calcium covered crickets and mealworms.

  16. Congrats on your new gecko. If there is shed skin left on the toes, it will look textured, almost as if the gecko has fingers from gloves on. In that case, either spray the feet, or soak the gecko in 1/2″ of warm water for a minute or so and then use your fingernails to pull it off. If the gecko seems upset, and especially if it looks as if it’s going to bite, you can gently cover its head with your shirt tail and then pull out each foot and remove the shed.
    The white part of the poop is pee (like with bird poop) and the brown part is poop. Sometimes there’s liquid as well, which is normal. Be sure you’re giving the gecko vitamin D3 as well as calcium. The vitamin D3 helps to metabolize the calcium.

  17. Thanks for the tips! It looks like it came off by itself overnight. The calcium has D3 and he (at least I think it’s a he, too early to sex but we named him Larry) has a great appetite.

  18. Hello, We recently purchased a leopard gecko. Trying to provide the best environment for him/her we first went with a tank starter kit. After having him a week we were told we need to give him his heat source from a pad underneath his tank. So we purchased a reptile heating pad that the store suggested. His habits have changed. He is sitting on top of his hideout. But what is concerning us is he is pooping on top of the hideout and laying in it. Is that normal?

  19. Check the temperature inside the hide with a temperature gun or a digital thermometer with a probe (you can usually find a “reptile thermometer” at the pet store for less than $10). It’s likely that if you don’t have a thermostat (yes, I know, another piece of equipment to buy!) the heat under there is well above the correct low 90’s F heat and the gecko is on top of the hide because it’s too hot in there. They do pick stupid places to poop! Once you’ve fixed the heat,try moving the poop to a corner of the enclosure and see if the gecko moves his business there as well.

  20. my leopard gecko sunny’s poop has a white spot and in the middle of the white spot there is a light brown spot then there is the normal dark brown part.

  21. My Leo just went through a shed and tonight when he pooped it was not normal and kind of stuck to him. He pulled it off and when I looked at it, it looked like some of his shed. Can that be possible. I plan on keeping a close eye on him the next couple of days. He eats everyday around the same time and always poops once a day. The heat in his cage in the warm end always stays around 80 or above. I use a 100 wat bulb should I go higher? Could that be an issue

  22. Without seeing a picture, I would guess it’s possible that some shed was stuck over his vent and he pooped while he was shedding so you’re seeing the poop as well as the shed that was covering the vent and got pulled off by the poop.

  23. Thank you for the info. He did pull it off himself and I have thrown it away as I try to keep his tank clean of poop. The poop other wise looked normal

  24. I’ve read that Leopard geckos, for nutritional value, will instinctively eat its skin after it has shed. I had been lucky enough to have found reminisce of such an occasion. I was so proud of her/his growth, that I actually saved the little paw claw casing that looks as if she was throwing up the “✌”. I may have took my love for my leopard gecko to the next level just shy of creepy.

  25. P.S.
    Thank you so very kindly for your time and dedication to this Web site. Books aren’t the most reliable, being that they are rare and hard to come by with up to date info. thank you for creating a place where gecko fans and alike, can get
    friendly, informative, & updated gecko facts. It’s not just the info i am gratefulnfor but also a piece of mind knowing my lol guy is OK

  26. I had my Fancy Leopard Gecko for nearly 2 years. She would eat
    her crickets at night and in the morning leave me my morning chore of cleaning her normal looking poop and urinate.

    But since the beginning of June, she only goes poop once every couple of days. Her poop is normal when she does go, however.

    Her set up for her 20 gal tank was a ceramic heat lamp on one side and a basking light on the other for the daylight temperature Her temperature for the day was always between 80-90 degrees. She had plenty of water and she hid under the green carpet during the day.

    I did notice even with the heated ceramic lamp, she was cold. So I recently switched to an under tank heater. Got rid of the two lamps and yet she still
    isn’t pooping regularly and body still is cold to me. The under tank heating pad is set to 86 degrees. She’s eating normally and is about to shed.

  27. They can definitely vary in poop frequency and size. It all sounds fine. I think low 90’s is a better temperature for the under tank heater.

  28. Thank you so much for that info! I will definitely change the temperature to low 90’s. Honestly, that was the one thing I was really unsure about how high to set the heated pad.

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