How can you tell if your leopard gecko is fat? It is often hard to tell if your pet is overweight but there are a few indicators to help you know how much food is too much food.
One common and obvious indicator of a fat leopard gecko is armpit bubbles. You may have noticed these little bubbles that seem to pop up overnight. They're usually located behind one leg, and they can be very concerning if you don't know what they are.
What Are Leopard Gecko Armpit Bubbles?
These bubbles can contain fat, vitamins, protein, or calcium and other minerals. If you suspect your gecko is a little overweight or gets a lot of calcium, these bubbles may confirm your suspicions. An overweight leopard gecko will most likely have armpit bubbles filled with fat.
These bubbles make it look like your gecko has small air sacs or blisters in his armpits. Both male and female geckos get them.
Armpit bubbles will not hurt your leopard gecko, and you shouldn't be concerned about them. They are not painful or uncomfortable and don't cause any sort of problem for your leopard gecko. They also will not pop (nor should you try to pop them) like a blister. They are completely normal in some leopard geckos and are simply an indicator that your gecko is storing something.
Some breeders think these bubbles are a sign of good health and always store calcium. But many owners notice that they disappear with weight loss.
Other Signs of an Overweight Leopard Gecko
A leopard gecko also stores fat in its tail. The tail should be nice and thick but not wider than the gecko's head. Its legs shouldn't turn into little sausages, and its belly shouldn't be too round. Since it can be difficult to tell if a leopard gecko is overweight, you may want to monitor your gecko's weight.
Remember that leopards eat a diet almost entirely consisting of insects. Some owners feed larger leopard geckos mealworms and even pinkie mice in addition to the standard gut-loaded crickets. If you see your gecko's weight creeping up, you may want to modify its diet: crickets only until it returns to a healthier weight.
A gram scale can help you record weekly weights which will, in turn, help you notice any upward (or downward) trends in your gecko's weight.
How to Prevent Armpit Bubbles
The armpit bubbles on a leopard gecko may come and go. Sometimes they pop up overnight and then are gone after a day or two, while at other times, they stick around for weeks or even longer. Sometimes they may seem larger than at other times, or one may stay while the other disappears from the other armpit.
An overweight leopard gecko may hang on to these bubbles longer if they're filled with fat, but there is no way for you to know what they're storing unless they're sampled by your exotics vet and sent to a lab for analysis.
If the bubbles disappear, they may or may not come back. If your gecko does not have excess fat or other nutrients, then it has no reason to store anything in its armpits.
Malnourished and underweight geckos don't have these bubbles since they're most likely lacking in all the things that these bubbles would likely contain. You can ask your vet to perform blood work to monitor your gecko's calcium levels if you're concerned that you're not giving it enough or are giving it too much of the mineral, but it may be that these bubbles are a good sign that you're providing adequate calcium in your gecko's diet.
If you suspect that what you're seeing on your gecko isn't normal or are not storage bubbles, don't hesitate to make an appointment with your exotics vet.
He will probably advise you to reduce the amount of calcium in your gecko's diet or recommend you stop dusting its prey with calcium. You also may want to reduce the number of gut-loaded insects you feed your gecko until the bubbles disappear.
Leopard geckos can get abscesses that look similar to the bubbles from mealworm and cricket bites, thermal burns from being too close to their heat lights, from sitting too long on a hot rock, and other sources.
If you're not sure whether it's an abscess or a bubble, bring your gecko to the vet. Abscesses can be very painful and need to be treated.
If your gecko ever stops eating for longer than a week, hasn't defecated for awhile, or seems lethargic, make an appointment with your vet to get your gecko checked out.
Obesity In Exotic Animals. Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, 2020