Mouth rot is a dangerous illness that leopard geckos can get. It can make them very sick and can even end fatally. You can help prevent it by ensuring your Leopard Gecko has a good diet and keeping its habitat clean.
What is mouth rot
Mouth rot, or infectious stomatitis, is a general term used to describe several different mouth bacterial infections. These infections are often caused by poor husbandry conditions, such as lack of food or water, dirty cages, or stress. In leopard geckos, the most common type of bacteria that cause mouth rot is called Staphylococcus.
These infections can occur in any part of the mouth, including the gums, tongue, and roof of the mouth. The bacteria can also spread to other parts of the body, such as the skin or respiratory system. If left untreated, mouth rot can be fatal.
Causes of mouth rot
The most common causes of mouth rot are stress and insufficient habitat cleaning.
Mouth rot is a bacterial infection that can be caused by several different types of bacteria, the most common of which is Staphylococcus. These bacteria can thrive in dirty conditions, making unclean habitats a major cause of mouth rot. Daily spot-cleaning to remove food remains and feces is necessary, as well as cleaning the whole habitat about once a month. Read more about this process here.
Stress is also a common cause of mouth rot. When leopard geckos are stressed, their immune system becomes weaker and they are more susceptible to infection. This stress can be caused by a variety of factors such as the wrong humidity or temperature, or feeling unsafe or threatened, among other factors.
Poor diet can also lead to mouth rot, as leopard geckos that don’t get enough nutrients are more likely to become ill.
Another problem can be chewing – when done on unsafe material, the gecko can get injured and come in contact with harmful bacteria. Make sure to only provide them with tank decor or toys that are meant for reptiles, and thoroughly clean them regularly.
Symptoms of a mouth infection
Leopard geckos can get a type of mouth infection. This can make them very sick. If you see your leopard gecko having any of the following symptoms, you should take it to a vet as soon as possible:
- Not eating
- Not drinking
- Drooling / thickened, ropey or sheeting saliva
- Having difficulty breathing
- Having difficulty swallowing
- Reddened oral tissues
- Dead tissue within the mouth
- Yellow cheesy pus in and around the mouth
- Drainage from the mouth and nose
Leopard Gecko mouth rot treatment
Real treatment for mouth infections needs to be performed by a vet. Only they can properly diagnose your Leopard Gecko’s situation and health, and use the right treatments such as:
- Antisceptic washes
- Antibiotics, as topical cream or injection
- Removal of affected tissue
- Draining abscesses
- Possibly even surgery for advanced cases
Some gecko owners will try to use regular antiseptic or antibiotic solutions, but medicine for humans can be dangerous or even deadly to Leopard Geckos. Only use medicine and treatments prescribed or approved by a veterinarian.
At-home treatments for mouth infections
What you can and should do is make the necessary adjustments to your Gecko’s habitat. If the infection was caused by a dirty enclosure, a thorough cleaning and a more frequent cleaning routine are necessary.
Stress can be caused by high or low humidity (read our article on humidity management), high or low temperature (read our article on temperature management), or other stressors like loud noise or bright lights. These conditions need to be addressed to prevent the next infection. Also, Leopard Geckos need hiding spots to retreat to. Without hiding spots, your gecko can feel stressed, as it cannot hide from predators – even though there are none in captivity, it is their natural behavior.
Additionally, with a mouth infection, a Leopard Gecko will often suffer from a low appetite. It is important to keep it well-fed to provide enough nutrients to fight the infection. You can feed a few more “treats” than usual – and make sure to dust them generously in multi-vitamins to aid in their recovery. (all about vitamins and supplements in this post)
If you manage to spot a mouth infection early on, fixing these causes can already be enough to let your gecko heal on its own. However, this is not often the case.
When to see a vet
If you notice a mouth infection in your Leopard Gecko, it’s best to visit a reptile veterinarian immediately. At best, a quick antiseptic wash or topical antibiotics will suffice, but if not, it’s best to start any kind of treatment as early as possible.