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Leopard Gecko Shaking Head: 2 Common Causes And How To Deal With It

Seeing a leopard gecko that was calm suddenly starting to shake its head is alarming. You can’t help but worry for your beloved gecko, wondering if it’s sick or what on earth would be happening.

Leopard gecko shaking its head appears as a weird behavior, especially to people who see it for the first time.

If you’re dealing with a leopard gecko, then you know these reptile companions are easygoing and calm, and you can’t miss knowing when something is strange. If you’re anxious about why your Leo is shaking its head around, this article is for you.

You will learn why leopard geckos shake their head if head shaking is bad and what you must do.

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

2 Causes to Explain Why Leopard Gecko Shaking Head

Leopard geckos manifest so many different behaviors from time to time and for various reasons. Some behaviors remain unfamiliar to us until one day when our lizards express them at our sight.

One concerning behavior among leopard geckos is head shaking. It is a common presentation among the Leos, and the lizard is definitely trying to tell you something. A leopard gecko can shake its head up and down or sideways.

In some cases, a single behavior can mean many things, and it might indicate a normal reaction in the body or towards the environment or a sign of a disease.

Does it mean that your little reptile friend is sick, and that’s why it is shaking its head? Below are two reasons behind shaking heads in leopard geckos. Let us look into each one of them!

Leopard Gecko Shaking Head
If a feeder insect is too large, a leopard gecko will struggle to swallow it. Hence, shaking its head

Trying To Swallow a Larger Feeder

Was your reptile friend eating when you noticed it was shaking its head? Often, leopard geckos will struggle to swallow any feeder bigger than the width of their eyes.

So, your gecko could be shaking its head because it is trying to swallow a larger feeder. If that is the case, the lizard will shake and sway its head from side to side.

Moving or shaking the head help these small creatures pass the food from the throat to the stomach, which is entirely natural. Everything else is fine, except that the lizard might be yawning and shaking its head so fast.

Therefore, don’t be so unnerved or think that your dear friend is going to die, it’s something you can solve at home.

To curb this problem or avoid your gecko struggling to swallow food, always give smaller insects. Even if they’re small lizards, leopard geckos express an enormous appetite and will munch on any insect wriggling in front of them.

So, it is good to keep an eye on your gecko when it is outside and keep its house free from insects loitering around.

Leopard Gecko Is Choking

At least we are familiar with choking, and we know it’s not a pleasant experience. Leopard geckos can choke, but the possibility of them choking is minimal. It is a presentation that can happen on fewer occasions.

These reptile pets have teeth that perfectly chew food and will typically swallow their food effectively as long as the feeder is not too large for them to handle. However, if your gecko friend is choking, you will definitely know.

If you notice your lizard struggling to swallow food, vocalizing, and coughing a lot, this tells you that your friend is choking. Moreover, a choking Leo will be busy pointing its head up, trying to make the feeder go down.

The baby and juvenile leopard geckos are more likely to choke on their food than the adults because of their narrow food channel in the throat.

What To Do if Your Leo is Choking?

If your friend is really choking, the best thing would be to try and remove the obstacle. Take a clean tweezer or any grabbing material within your reach, force the lizard to open its mouth, and then work your way back to the throat.

If the obstacle is visible and you can reach it, use the tweezer to grab and carefully remove it. Be very slow and cautious removing the sticking material to avoid hurting your pet.

Sometimes, the lizard would be so down the throat that you can’t reach it. If that’s the case, fill a syringe with lukewarm water and then squeeze a few drops at the back of the throat.

This will be an attempt to lubricate the throat or soften the feeder enough for the gecko to swallow. If all the means to try your dear friend fails, the only solution would be to seek medical attention.

Leopard Lizard Also Shakes Other Parts and Its Meaning

Leopard geckos shake their head and other body parts such as tail, legs, and body. A combination of reasons characterizes the cause of sudden shaking in these leopard lizards.

Two leopard geckos shaking could be due to very different reasons, and these causes are either standard or abnormal.

Whichever the case, if your gecko is shaking, you must intervene and see how to manage this behavior before it intensifies. Some cases need to be handled by a vet, but minor ones can be managed at home.

Let us explore the various reasons why leopard geckos shake their body or body parts and get to understand these reptile lizards more.

Shaking Body/Tail to Communicate

Your lizard friend will sometimes shake its body or tail, hoping you will recognize their presence.

This shaking behavior is more common with males when they’re around females in an attempt to introduce themselves. The lizard is only shaking its tail but appears like it is shaking its entire body.

Moreover, leopard geckos tend to shake their tail when they are expecting to receive something. For instance, if you have a specific feeding schedule for your beloved Leo, you will notice the shaking behavior come feeding time if you’re watchful.

Tail or body shaking to communicate something can be immense, or some lizards will do it slowly, and they are always in a good mood. This kind of shaking is not of concern since t’s a normal behavior.

If it’s not feeding time and your lizard pet shakes the tail looking at you, you may choose to pick it. These lizard companions enjoy the company of their owners and love being touched by them.

All leopard gecko’s body language and what they mean [source: Elle’s Reptiles]

Shaking Vigorously its tail To Defend

Not all the time will leopard geckos shake their tail to mean positively; they can use this God-given organ as their defensive weapon.

Leos typically shake their tail vigorously when they perceive a threat or feel startled or irritated. When you notice your leopard gecko is aggressively shaking its tail at another Leo, then the lizard is trying to defend itself.

Instead of fleeing, geckos usually prefer to attack their fellow counterparts who annoy them. The same behavior is manifested when a leopard lizard is hunting for food.

When attacking a predator, a gecko will lift its head up and lower the body to the ground as it tries to obtain the best position to see the attacker.

They shake the tail so vigorously, making the predator focus on the tail movement and obstruct them from seeing the body. Eventually, the gecko drops its tail and runs to save its dear life. It’s interesting, right?

When your leopard gecko defensively shakes the tail towards another gecko, it calls for immediate separation of the two lizards.

Shaking the Tail Vigorously Towards You

Vigorous tail wagging may be used to indicate that a leopard gecko is suspicious of you. Maybe the lizard is not pretty familiar with you, or you appear as a threat to it.

Anytime a gecko responds to you by defensive tail wagging as you try to approach it, withhold from touching them. Your gecko may try to bite and defend itself from you.

If your Leo shakes when you approach its cage, then it needs time to familiarize yourself. It will cool if it stops seeing you as a threat. Learn to stand outside the cage until the lizard calms down.

Likewise, make it a habit to lower your hand slowly into the cage and away from the gecko. Give your pet time to come closer and examine your hand. All these are efforts to help your Leo become accustomed to you.

Leopard geckos like licking its eyes
Leopard geckos like licking its eyes

Shake As Stress in Environment

Housing two leopard geckos together can encourage bullying, and the dominant lizard is always oppressive. Bullying is common when geckos of different ages and sizes stay under one roof.

Female leopard geckos will also fight with the babies and deny them access to food and other essential things in the enclosure. Male geckos in the same cage will often fight over territory.

The geckos that feel inferior or dominated by others mostly don’t get food and are likely to be stressed. They will continuously wag their tail to respond to the stress. These creatures will also get stressed when in a new environment.

In worst situations, a gecko may even decide to drop its tail in defense when entirely stressed. Consider housing your geckos individually to prevent bullying and stress.

But if the cages are limited, group the geckos into cages depending on size and age. Do not mix small and large Leos in the same habitat. Also, provide a habitat that is suitable for your beloved gecko.

Shaking Due to The Effect of Shedding

Shedding is a natural presentation in leopard geckos. Some geckos are seen shaking while trying to walk when nearing their shedding time. When these lizards start to prepare themselves for shedding, the skin on the body feels tight.

It creates a lot of discomfort for the gecko. The gecko shakes a bit while walking in an attempt to look for comfort and move properly. If your Leo is shaking due to the effects of shedding, the skin color will be dull.

In as much as you want to assist your friend, note that shedding is a natural process. The problem of shaking due to shedding doesn’t last long.

Leopard gecko is shedding
Leopard gecko is shedding

Shaking When Moving Is a Sign of Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic bone disease is common in the Leos that don’t get sufficient calcium, and it primarily affects the bones. It weakens the bones and makes them soft and rubbery, affecting almost all your lizard’s body activities.

The bones are so weak that your Leo cannot support itself, and you will see it shaking and have difficulties moving. The whole body or legs will be shaking.

MBD can destroy your pet and requires prompt treatment from an experienced vet. In the early stages of MBD, you can remedy it by dusting your gecko’s food with calcium and vitamin D3.


If your leopard gecko is shaking its head, now you do not need to worry since you know the reasons behind this alarming behavior.

Primarily, the geckos will shake their head when struggling to swallow a larger feeder or choking. Luckily, all the causes of head, tail, legs, or body shaking in leopard geckos have a solution.

So, it’s not something to frighten you, and you can barely lose your lizard. A gecko shaking its head or any other body part responds to a particular situation or feeling.

When you see your lizard is shaking, always try to find out the real cause and act quickly before the problem aggravates.

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