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Leopard Gecko Is Choking: Top 2 Causes, Signs And First Aid

As a responsible gecko owner, you may be wondering if it is possible for your leopard gecko to choke. Choking on food is not a great experience even for humans. If you have experienced this before, you will not wish that your gecko choked.

Just like humans, leopard geckos can choke, but it is usually very rare. Generally, choking occurs when you feed your gecko with anything larger than their eyes’ width.

In this article, we will help break down everything you need to know about leopard gecko choking, from the causes to how you can provide first aid to your leopard gecko.

This article has been reviewed by Dr. Gospel. Read more about our knowledge control process here.

Leopard Gecko Is Choking: Can Leopard Geckos Choke?

Yes, it is quite possible for leopard geckos to choke. The major reason leopard geckos can choke in captivity is to feed your gecko with larger insects. However, it is rare to find your leopard gecko choking because they have teeth and chew their food before swallowing it.

You can detect that your gecko is choking if it starts to cough or make a gagging sound.

Leopard Gecko Is Choking
Pet leopard gecko got choked on a large feeder insect

Causes Of Choking In Leopard Geckos

Choking usually occurs when leopard geckos swallow larger insects. Although it is a rare occurrence, baby or juvenile leopard geckos experience choking more than the adult. This is because baby and juvenile geckos are not fully developed and have narrow throats compared to adults.

Choking can then occur when you feed them with larger insects. This is because they can have a hard time chewing the insect because of its size and can then choke if they attempt to swallow it.

Your leopard gecko may choke if you feed them with too many mealworms. This is because mealworms have a tough exoskeleton that can be harder for your gecko to chew and digest. Your leopard gecko may also choke if it accidentally ingests loose substrates in its enclosure.

Signs Of Choking In Leopard Geckos

You can easily detect when your leopard gecko is choking. Some of the signs that leopard gecko gives when choking are stated below:

  • Your leopard gecko is struggling to swallow its food.
  • Your leopard gecko starts gagging while eating
  • Your leopard gecko coughs a lot while eating
  • Your leopard gecko points its head towards the ceiling to help force the food down its throat.
  • Your leopard gecko starts gaping and shaking its head to regurgitate the food.

Once you notice any of these signs, you may need to assist your gecko in removing the food or getting the food to slide down its throat.

Getting professional help is the best recommendation if your pet lizard is choking.

Feeding live insects to your pet gecko unsupervised can cause choking [source: Leopard Gecko]

First Aid For Leopard Gecko Choking

Here are some ways that you can help your leopard geckos when choking:

  • By removing the obstructions from their mouth
  • By helping your leopard gecko swallow the obstructions
  • By taking your leopard gecko to the vet.

Removing Obstructions If You Can

When choking, you can help your leopard gecko remove the obstruction if you believe it is within reach.

Materials needed: a small grabbing tool like a tweezer.

Implementation Guide

  • Force your leopard gecko’s mouth open and then estimate how far the obstruction is. But make sure to use appropriate instruments.
  • Slowly move the grabbing tool down your gecko’s throat.
  • Grab on the obstruction with the grabbing tool.
  • Remove the obstruction slowly and with extreme caution.

Note: you need to be careful through this process to avoid poking your gecko’s mouth and avoid breaking off whatever obstruction you are holding. This can reduce your chance of removing the obstruction, and your gecko may even need medical assistance if you are not cautious during this process.

Help Leopard Gecko Swallow Obstructions

You can help your leopard gecko swallow the obstructions if nothing is left to grab or the obstruction is not within reach.

Implementation Guide

  • Get a syringe and fill it with lukewarm water.
  • Squeeze a few drops of the water into the back of your gecko’s throat to help lubricate the throat temporarily or soften the obstruction up enough to swallow.
  • If this does not work, your gecko will need immediate medical attention to help increase its survival chance.

It’s Time To Go A Vet

After trying to remove the obstruction without success, the next thing is to take your gecko to an exotic vet for help. You will need to contact a vet quickly to help increase the chance of your gecko surviving this scare.

This is because it does not take long before your leopard gecko can suffocate when choking. You can then hope that little air can pass through your gecko to help ensure your vet has enough time to get the food out of your gecko’s throat safely.

This means the faster your gecko gets to the vet, the better.

Note: Although our gecko’s life is important, it is not as important as our life. You should avoid putting yourself at risk of getting into an accident when rushing to take your gecko to the vet.


Whenever your leopard gecko starts to choke, the worst thing you can do as an owner is panic. This is because when you panic, you will make bad decisions, think irrationally, and even put yourself at risk when driving to the hospital.

The best thing to do is to have a clear mind and figure out the next step to take as your gecko is choking. You will need to pay attention to your surroundings and make quick and logical decisions to avoid worsening the condition.

Furthermore, by panicking, you will stress out your gecko when choking.

How To Prevent Choking In Leopard Geckos

Although it is rare for leopard geckos to choke, it is better if you can try and prevent it from happening. Some of the ways that you can prevent choking in leopard geckos are stated below.

Do Not Feed Leopard Geckos With Food That Is Too Large

Although leopard geckos love eating, your gecko may have a hard time handling large food. It is recommended that you feed your leopard gecko with insect feeders that are not larger than the space between their eyes.

When feeding your leopard gecko, you should also provide your gecko with fresh and clean drinking water to help ensure it can wash the food down properly.

Feeding According To Age (Size) Of The Leopard Geckos

When it comes to feeding your leopard gecko, you should keep in mind that not all geckos can eat the same-sized food. This is because baby and juvenile geckos tend to choke on food that adult geckos can easily eat.

For instance, you cannot feed baby leopard geckos with insects like superworms. Instead, it is more suitable to feed them with baby roaches or crickets. You can only start feeding them with big worms when they get older.

On the other hand, the adult leopard gecko has a developed body and can easily chew up and swallow large insects. It is quite rare for adult leopard geckos to choke on a large insect. Most times, adult leopard geckos usually choke when there is something like a loose substrate or other small foreign objects in their enclosure.

Why is my leopard gecko gagging?

There are lots of reasons why leopard gecko gags, such as to signify aggression, when startled, overheating, metabolic bone disease, respiratory illness, etc. Leopard geckos can also gag if something is lodged in their mouth and they are trying to regurgitate undigested food.

How do you know if a lizard is choking?

It is quite easy to know when your lizard is choking. Some of the signs that your leopard gecko is choking are gasping, having breathing difficulty, and making coughing sounds. In most severe cases, your leopard gecko airway is blocked and can be fatal if not addressed immediately.

How do you get a leopard gecko to open its mouth?

You can get your gecko to open its mouth by enticing it. You can do this by brushing a thin dowel, your finger, or with a stainless-steel gavage needle horizontally past his lips. You can also stroke the gecko’s lips for your leopard gecko to open its mouth.

When opening a leopard gecko mouth, you will need to be gentle and avoid forcing their mouth open.

The Last Sentences

Although it is rare for a leopard gecko to choke, knowing what to do when this happens and preventing it from happening is a great idea. You can avoid choking your gecko by not feeding it food more than it can handle and ensure you don’t feed it with a large food.

If you have any comments or questions about why your leopard gecko chokes, you can send your comment in the section below.

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