This is Sybil.
She’s silly, adorable, and she used to LOVE hunting dubias.
I met Sybil at BeWild, a local reptile rescue I like to volunteer at. She was surrendered to them with severe MBD. At the time she couldn’t eat on her own, was severely underweight, and struggled with mobility, shedding, etc., The odds seemed against her, and humane euthanasia seemed like it was in the cards for her.
Sybil is also a fighter. She recovered in ways that felt miraculous. When I got her she could eat insects on her own again, but she still struggled a little with shedding, climbing, etc., Over the course of several months she became an amazing hunter, started shedding almost entirely on her own, and I even sometimes found her climbing and roaming around her terrarium.
I was, and still am, very proud of her for her progress.
Then, the unexpected happened. I was so caught up in celebrating her victories I almost forgot that her lifelong condition could still cause her complications. It was a reality I wasn’t ready to face so soon.
One day she decided she didn’t want any dubias.
Strange but, for a female leo, not so strange. I wrote it off as her being full.
It happened again.
“Oh no.” I though. “That can’t be good.”
It happened a few more times.
Looking back I wish I went to the vet sooner. And I would have, but my judgment was clouded by my other female leo who just had the same issue. Her sister, Fleur, wasn’t eating much this winter either. She was off feed for over a month. When the vet saw her I was told this behavior can be completely normal for females. A lot of female leo’s go on a hunger strike during the winter because of their egg cycles.
I wasn’t positive if Sybil was even capable of laying eggs, but I waited a little and continued offering insects to see if she’d take soon.
During this time I monitored her weight, stool, and shedding and hoped for the best. I offered her the small variety she’s allowed (her digestive system isn’t strong enough for worms), but still, nothing.
I took her to the vet when her weight was getting too low for comfort, and at this point, I was extremely worried. On my way there I hoped that they’d say she was fine. She just needed some time and would eat once her ovaries calmed down.
That’s not what I heard. Instead I was told that her condition was likely the cause, but we couldn’t know for sure unless we ran tests. This could be something treatable, or, to my horror, this could be something out of everyone’s hands. If she has a condition that they think she does, there’s nothing that can be done for her.
I am still waiting for those results, but in the meantime I’m doing whatever I can for her. If there’s any chance that she will get better soon, I’m going to try with all I have in me to help her.
They gave her some vitamin injections and I was told to tongue feed her, give her the meds she was prescribed, pay for some tests on her stool, and come back if things didn’t improve.
I had to go back soon after.
She’s taking the tongue feeding super well, and she accepts her medicine with little hesitation, but she still doesn’t have an appetite of her own and she still isn’t going to the bathroom regularly.
Why am I sharing all of this?
This whole situation has been breaking my heart. I’ll never mind caring for Sybil and taking her to the vet, and I’ll never regret adopting her. The part that bothers me is that I couldn’t prevent this happening to her.
Someone else had that job, and they failed.
The truth is MBD is extremely preventable.
Sybil wouldn’t have her health complications if a few simple things were done for her.
How do you prevent MBD in a leopard gecko? You give them proper care.
You decide you want a leo, you do the research, and you make sure you give them the best life possible.
Caring for a leopard gecko is simple. They only need a few things to be healthy. I won’t say “easy” because a lot of people interpret that as “I can leave it in there for a week and forget about it.” and that’s definitely almost never the case. (I have no proof, but I can only imagine this is how Sybil was treated.)
Leopard Gecko’s are simple to care for, because mainly they just need…
- A 20 gallon or larger terrarium
- A heat source, preferably from the bottom of the tank to heat their tummy
- A heat gradient, meaning only half the tank should be around 90 degrees F the other half 70
- 3 hides. One on the hot side, one on the cool side, and one in-between that can capture moisture for hiding
- Substrate that won’t impact them
- A thermostat and heat gun to keep an eye on temperatures
- A water bowl and a bowl that has calcium without D3
- And insects that are properly dusted with appropriate calcium (with D3) and multivitamin
This isn’t a full guide, but if you want one you can find my care guide here. It also provides information on other sources you can go to for more leo care tips. I also have a video on how to prevent MBD in leopard geckos you can find here.
There are plenty of other nuances to leopard gecko care, which is why you should always do your research, but for anyone starting out this should help point you in the right direction.
Don’t listen to people who say they just need insects thrown into their home. They need to be dusted with proper supplements.
The key point I want to make here is that you HAVE TO dust their insects with calcium and multivitamin. Some people switch off days (some days calcium some multi), but I use GoHerpings method and always use a mixture of 2/3 calcium 1/3 multivitamin.
This small step is super important, and it’s often the reason leo’s get MBD. Without these vitamins and calcium their bones develop improperly. Once they develop incorrectly they can never be fixed. Our bones don’t change shape, and neither do theirs.
What can we do to prevent MBD? Properly feed and home our little friends. It’s really that simple. Which should be a relief for new owners. All we need to do is hold ourselves accountable to do our research.
I’m hoping for good results from Sybil’s vet, but in the meantime I want to do what I can to help keep this from happening to other Leo’s. I write about them in my blog from time to time, but again you can also find videos on my YouTube.
I’m a small creator, so I’m fairly responsive. You can message me anywhere and I’ll get back to you! If you have any questions or comments I’ll try to help in any way I can. My whole point in this article is to share how heartbreaking this condition is and how simple it is to prevent it.
If you want a leo, it’s all about doing your research.
If you are a parent getting your child a leo, I urge you to do your own research and share the information with your child, but you should still monitor the geckos care. Kids are awesome, but we all remember cutting corners on our chores as kids so we could play our favorite games. Make sure your kid is feeding and monitoring their gecko regularly. A lot of geckos would be saved this way. Some kids may just forget to check on their gecko or not realize how important regular care is.
Lastly, if you know someone who has a gecko, and suspect they’re not caring properly for it, try to kindly ask questions and fill them in with simple tips to improve their gecko’s care. I’d like to believe most people aren’t trying to neglect their pets, and are just lacking information, but I know realistically some people have the knowledge and don’t apply it. At the very least we can try our best to help the leo’s in our lives. There’s lots of great videos online you can direct them to!
Thank you for reading! I’m currently doing a sticker sale to help support Sybil’s vet bills and bring awareness to MBD. I will also be donating half the profit to the rescue that rehabilitated her!
$3 for 1 or $5 for 2
Until Next Time,