What to Do If Your Leopard Gecko Loses Its Tail

two baby leopard gecko on my hand
© forest warrior/Shutterstock.com

Written by Hailey Pruett

Updated: February 15, 2024

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Leopard geckos are among the best pet lizards for beginners and reptile experts alike. However, not every aspect of their care is as simple or straightforward as you’d imagine. If your leopard gecko loses its tail, don’t panic–read on to learn why this happens, what you should do when it occurs, and how to prevent it in the future while your little friend’s tail is growing back.

Why Do Leopard Geckos Drop Their Tails?

two baby leopard gecko on my hand

Baby and juvenile


geckos are especially prone to tail-dropping.

©forest warrior/Shutterstock.com

Essentially, tail dropping is a defense mechanism many types of reptiles and amphibians have to help protect themselves from predators. It’s a process known as caudal autotomy or self-amputation. The vertebrae in your gecko’s tail are actually perforated to allow for quicker, cleaner, and easier dropping. This is also why there isn’t much (or any) blood when a gecko drops its tail and why the process is so fast and clean; it’s an intended defense mechanism.

If a wild leopard gecko is attempting to evade a looming predator, they can swiftly amputate their own tail to provide a distraction. Additionally, the dropped tail leaves behind a snack for the predator (such as a bird or a snake) to feed on while the gecko flees. Bizarrely, the severed tail will even move on its own for a short time. This is thanks to the still-twitching muscles and nerve endings inside, which also helps to distract (or even confuse) the predator.

Notably, younger leopard geckos are more likely to drop their tails than older lizards. This is because they are still learning how to interact with their environments and assess potential threats.

What to Do When Your Leopard Gecko Loses its Tail

It’s common for leopard geckos to drop their tails not only in the wild but also in captivity. Particularly for younger lizards, they can become startled easily when handled too roughly or too quickly. Loud noises and sudden movements can also scare them into tail-dropping. This results in them improperly assessing you as a threat to them and dropping their tail in an attempt to flee from you.

If your gecko drops their tail, in most cases, a vet visit isn’t necessary. You won’t need to get the tail reattached because, fortunately, your gecko can re-grow their tail all by themselves. However, here are a few important tips to follow while your gecko’s tail grows back.

  1. Switch the substrate in your gecko’s enclosure to something non-loose. While certain types of loose substrates can be beneficial for leopard geckos, you will want to keep any kind of debris from attaching to the tail nub while it regrows over time. This will prevent infection and keep the tail nice and clean. Paper towels, flat tiles, or linoleum stick-down tiles are all excellent non-loose substrate options.
  2. Keep the enclosure as clean as possible. This will also help prevent infection and keep any debris from sticking to the re-growing tail.
  3. Avoid handling your gecko in the meantime. Keep handling to an absolute minimum, as your gecko is more fragile (and on high alert) during this time.
  4. Ensure your gecko’s habitat is safe and secure. For example, proper temperature and humidity settings will keep your gecko comfortable. This will also ensure your gecko’s tail grows back and sheds properly. Additionally, make sure your gecko has plenty of hides so they feel safe while their tail grows back (and in general). Remove anything that your gecko could hurt themselves on or around like sharp surfaces, things they could fall from, etc.
  5. Add a bit of extra calcium and protein to their diet. Your gecko uses their tail as a fat storage. While they grow it back, they’ll benefit from a bit of extra nutrients in their diet. Extra calcium powder and a few extra feeder insects here and there will help significantly.

How Long Does It Take a Leopard Gecko to Grow a New Tail?

The amount of time it takes for a leopard gecko to re-grow a tail can take between 30 and 60 days. This amount of time all depends on their age, size, diet, genetics, and more. You will begin to notice the tail growing back within 3 to 7 days in the form of a small, fresh, pinkish nub. Over time, the tail will fully grow back. However, its pattern, shape, and color may be slightly different from the previous one!

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About the Author

Hailey "Lex" Pruett is a nonbinary writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering reptiles and amphibians. They have over five years of professional content writing experience. Additionally, they grew up on a hobby farm and have volunteered at animal shelters to gain further experience in animal care. A longtime resident of Knoxville, Tennessee, Hailey has owned and cared extensively for a wide variety of animals in their lifetime, including cats, dogs, lizards, turtles, frogs and toads, fish, chickens, ducks, horses, llamas, rabbits, goats, and more!

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