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Pet reptiles have relatively slow metabolisms and digest food very slowly. Unlike mammals who have higher metabolic rates and faster digestion, reptiles do not need to be fed multiple times a day—some do not even need to be fed daily. Many reptile pet parents don’t realize this fact and will feed their pets too frequently

Pet leopard geckos are commonly overfed and become overweight, and the extra bulk can affect their general health and quality of life. Regardless of the type of pet they have, every pet parent should know not only what type of food their pet needs, but also how much of and how often they should be fed.  

For more information on leopard geckos and their needs, check out our Leopard Gecko Care Sheet.

How do I know if my leopard gecko is overweight?

If you suspect your pet leopard gecko is overweight, consult your veterinarian to determine whether they need a change in diet and exercise routine. Along with regular weigh-ins,  you should also examine your lizard for signs that your pet is overweight. Here are some signs your leopard gecko is obese:

A very thick tail The tail isn’t a body part you’d immediately think of to help determine whether your pet is obese. However, their tail is where they store fat—excess fat can cause the tail to look very wide. Compare the width of the base of the tail with that of their neck and head. If it is as thick or even thicker, this may be a sign of obesity.  

Folds of skin in their armpits Examine the skin around your lizard’s arms and underarms. Does your leopard gecko have armpit bubbles? These could be pockets of extra fat that suggest your pet is overweight.  

A spine that’s hard to see A healthy weight gecko has an obviously visible spine. If their backbone is not apparent, it may be covered in a layer of excess fat, indicating that your pet is too heavy.

What do I do if my leopard gecko is overweight? 

Before drastically changing your pet’s diet, have your veterinarian examine your gecko to determine whether your lizard has a weight problem. If your vet agrees your pet is obese, they may suggest an overweight leopard gecko diet to help them shed the extra fat.  

High-fat foods like butter worms, wax worms, pinkies and superworms are like fast food for leopard geckos—they will eagerly slurp them up. However, due to their high fat content, these prey items should only be consumed every once in a while as a special treat. The occasional high-calorie worm is generally okay to offer your pet, especially in the beginning when you are trying to establish a bond with them. However, if you feed your pet high-calorie worms frequently, you may end up with a fat leopard gecko.

Instead, feed your lizard a variety of calcium-dusted, gut-loaded (fed with nutritious food), lower calorie insects—such as tomato hornworms, crickets, silkworms and Dubia cockroaches—to help keep your gecko full and satisfied while they shed the extra weight. Just be careful not to feed very large insects, as they have the potential to injure your pet. 

Here’s some general guidelines on how and when to feed your leopard gecko:

Geckos under 6 months Feed 5-7 small crickets or mealworms once a day until they reach 4” in length.

Geckos 6 to 12 months Feed 5-7 larger crickets or mealworms every other day until they are close to fully grown at 10-12 months of age.

Geckos more than 1 year Feed 6-7 large mealworms or crickets 2-3 times per week.

Overweight adult geckos Consult your veterinarian about how much to feed your specific pet depending on their degree of obesity. Don’t drastically change an overweight leopard gecko’s diet too quickly, as they can develop significant health problems. Always follow the advice of your veterinarian.

How do I make sure my gecko is staying active? 

Another great way to keep your pet at a healthy weight is through exercise. Luckily, exercise can be fun for both pet parents and leopard geckos. One way to encourage exercise is to take your lizard out of their habitat and allow them to run around. Always pick an escape-proof area, and make sure other pets don’t have access—dogs and cats might mistake your lizard as a special treat. You can even set up fun mazes for your gecko to maneuver through. Participating in your lizard’s exercise regimen is a great way to bond with your pet and have them get used to being handled.  

Another form of exercise for your gecko is chasing live prey during feedings. Offering your gecko live, energetic bugs will stimulate your pet to chase them down and burn calories. Live prey also may tempt geckos with decreased appetites to eat more.. Finally, you may consider upgrading your obese leopard gecko’s enclosure to something larger. Being stuck in a small habitat all day makes it easy for your pet to become sedentary. Large spaces filled with fun décor and hides they can scurry to are great for encouraging movement and exercise. At Petco, we have a variety of leopard gecko supplies that will help your pet live their best life and stay at an ideal weight.

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