Common Healthcare Issues in Lizards

Common Healthcare Issues in Lizards

Reptiles have become increasingly popular as pets in the past number of years. Two of the most popular reptiles people enjoy keeping as pets are geckos and bearded dragons. Just like any other pet, these lizards can suffer from common health issues. It is important to understand what these issues are, how they are caused, and what can be done to prevent them to ensure your pet lizard lives a long, happy life (and many of them do).

In this blog post, I will explain what healthcare problems geckos and bearded dragons are prone to, and how you can try and avoid them.

Dr Bobby Ortiz, small and exotic pet vet, posing with a bunny patient

Dr. Bobby Ortiz, M.V.B.

Dr Bobby Ortiz, aka 'Dogtor Bob', is a small animal and exotic veterinarian based in Dublin. He has a strong interest in Small Mammal (rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets) and Reptile medicine and surgery.

He grew up in a family of avid animal lovers, which led him to work as an Aquarist at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific in California. It was there he decided he wanted to become a vet, and specialise in exotic animals, that needed the same care and medical attention that dogs and cats are given.

He lives with his wife and Brittany Spaniel Bodhi, and has dreams to build a new tropical marine fish tank in the near future!

Healthcare Issues in Geckos

A healthy, happy Gecko will be bright and active; but there are few things that you need to be aware of to your pet’s ongoing health.

Shedding is normal for a Gecko and they will shed a lot of skin while they are growing. However, if you notice discolouration or paleness in your Gecko’s skin, it may indicate the humidity in his enclosure is not correct.

Tail Loss

Geckos are fragile creatures, and as a method of defence when feel threatened, will lose their tail. This is a sign of severe stress, and while your Gecko’s tail will re-grow (this takes up to four months) it is important to try and prevent it from happening. Always handle your Gecko with care and if you notice signs of distress, try to calm them by separating him from other Geckos, or removing the culprit.

young gecko in his vivarium

Impaction & Constipation

Vomiting, loss of appetite or a ‘lumpy’ stomach, are all indications that your Gecko is suffering from impaction. This can lead to severe health problems and is caused by a number of different reasons; poor diet, lack of calcium, dehydration or over feeding. If you notice these symptoms, bring your gecko to a vet for medical attention and advice on the best course of action.

Respiratory Issues

Respiratory issues can stem inappropriate husbandry. If the temperature in your tank/vivarium are inappropriate, it can cause your Gecko to fall sick. Make sure to monitor the temperatures in your vivarium using a thermometer during the day and at night to ensure your heat source is properly functioning.

Metabolic Bone Disease

This is a very common issue in reptiles due to lack of calcium in their diets and inappropriate UVB lighting. This disease can lead to bowed legs and other deformities. Food supplements are very important, and make sure to provide a calcium-rich diet and plenty of vitamin D, as well as full spectrum UV lights to help metabolize calcium.

bearded dragon in enclosure looking up

Common Healthcare Issues in Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons are also prone to metabolic bone disorders. Food supplements containing calcium and Vitamin D are very important for your bearded dragon, and can be used by sprinkling over their food or gut loading insects that they eat.

Respiratory infections (such as pneumonia) can occur in bearded dragons that are experiencing stress, have an inadequate diet, or in poor, cold, or unhygienic living conditions. Symptoms include sneezing, discharge from eyes or nose, bubbles emerging from the mouth or nose, heavy or wheezy breathing, open-mouthed breathing, lack of appetite, and lethargy.

Fungal infections can happen as a result of bacteria grown from damp conditions. Although this is the accurate environment for some reptiles, it should still be closely monitored. Symptoms include damp, weak and damaged skin. I recommend trying an anti-fungal spray such as BEAPHAR Deep Clean Disinfectant for Reptile Housing, which provides long-lasting protection against salmonella, MRSA, E. coli and fungi, and is effective against viruses such as calicivirus and influenza A. If any signs of infection are present, you should seek veterinary attention right away, as MRSA and E.Coli are serious health concerns for humans.

Keeping Your Lizard Healthy

Cleaning the Habitat

Like any pet, regular cleaning of your pet’s home will be required to maintain its ongoing health. Establishing a regular routine will help you to keep your lizard’s vivarium clean and disease free.


  • Remove waste, debris, dead feeder insects, and shed skin from the vivarium
  • Change water, then provide clean fresh water
  • Remove and clean any objects that have faecal matter on them


  • Clean and disinfect enclosure thoroughly
  • Also clean and disinfect interior items such as decorations, feeding and watering items
  • Replace soiled substrate.


As with all reptiles, Geckos and Bearded Dragons have the potential to carry pathogens such as salmonella; so children under five should not handle them, and hands should be thoroughly washed before and after handling.

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