Leopard Gecko Underbite: Causes and Treatment

Leopard Gecko with underbite

An underbite in leopard geckos is when the lower jaw extends further than the upper jaw. It’s not a natural feature for these reptiles. Several factors can cause this condition. Metabolic Bone Disease, trauma, and genetic factors are common culprits. Understanding these causes helps in early detection and proper care. If you’re noticing signs of an underbite in your leopard gecko, it’s essential to pinpoint the cause and seek appropriate treatment.

Key Takeaways:

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD): This is a leading cause of underbite in leopard geckos. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is crucial to prevent bone softening and brittleness.

Trauma: Cuts and wounds inside the mouth can lead to bacterial infections. To avoid this, use soft, digestible substrate and feed appropriately sized, softer insects.

Genetic Factors: Some leopard geckos may be predisposed to developing an underbite due to their genetic makeup. Knowing your gecko’s genetic history can help you anticipate potential health issues.

Dietary Adjustments: A balanced diet that includes calcium-rich foods like calcium-dusted insects is essential. Ensure that the prey is appropriately sized for your gecko.

Causes of Underbite in Leopard Geckos

Leopard Gecko with underbite

Leopard geckos, like all reptiles, have specific care requirements to ensure their health and well-being. One concern that can arise with these creatures is an underbite. Several factors, ranging from health issues to genetics, can lead to this condition.

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)

Metabolic Bone Disease, commonly referred to as MBD, is a significant health concern for leopard geckos. It’s a condition that affects the skeletal system of these reptiles, resulting in various symptoms. Common indicators of MBD in leopard geckos include weak limbs, difficulty moving, and, in severe cases, noticeable deformities in the spine and jaw, leading to conditions like underbite or broken legs.

A primary cause of MBD in leopard geckos is poor nutrition. Specifically, a diet lacking in essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D can be detrimental. Without these nutrients, a gecko’s bones become soft and brittle, making them prone to fractures and deformities.

Two notable types of MBD that affect leopard geckos are Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism (NSHP) and Hypertrophic Osteopathy (HO). NSHP is caused by an imbalance of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D3, while HO results from prolonged inflammation of the periosteum, the layer covering the bones.

The good news is that MBD is largely preventable. By ensuring proper care and a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, leopard gecko owners can keep their pets healthy and free from this debilitating condition.


Trauma is another leading cause of underbite in leopard geckos. Physical injuries, especially cuts and wounds in the mouth, can pave the way for bacterial infections. These infections can deteriorate the gecko’s oral health, leading to conditions like mouth rot and, subsequently, an underbite.

Several scenarios can expose a leopard gecko to trauma. One common cause is the ingestion of substrate. If a gecko accidentally swallows coarse or sharp substrate, it can cause internal injuries or wounds in the mouth. Another risk comes from feeding inappropriate insects. Hard-shelled or overly large insects can injure a gecko’s mouth during consumption.

Genetic Factors

Genetic factors play a pivotal role in the health and physical attributes of all living organisms, including leopard geckos. When it comes to the occurrence of underbites in these reptiles, genetics can be a contributing factor. Certain genetic traits can lead to jaw misalignment, resulting in an underbite.

It’s worth noting that some leopard geckos might be more predisposed to developing an underbite purely based on their genetic makeup. Just as humans can inherit physical traits and health conditions from their ancestors, geckos can inherit specific genetic predispositions that affect their jaw structure and alignment.

Treatment Options for Leopard Gecko Underbite

Addressing an underbite in leopard geckos is crucial for their overall health and well-being. While prevention is always the best approach, several treatments are available if an underbite does occur. These treatments range from dietary adjustments to professional veterinary interventions.

Dietary Adjustments

Dietary adjustments are often the first line of treatment when addressing a leopard gecko’s underbite. A proper diet plays a pivotal role in ensuring the health and well-being of these reptiles. Providing a balanced diet with the right amount of calcium and other essential nutrients can significantly improve a gecko’s jaw health.

One of the primary steps in this direction is incorporating calcium-rich foods into the gecko’s diet. Using calcium powder or feeding calcium-dusted insects is a practical approach to ensure they get the required calcium intake. This nutrient is essential for bone health and can help rectify jaw misalignment caused by nutritional deficiencies.

In addition to nutrient-rich foods, it’s also vital to focus on the size of the prey. Feeding appropriately sized prey ensures the gecko can eat without straining its jaw. Smaller, softer insects are preferable, as they are easier to consume and digest, reducing the risk of further complications or injuries.

Vet Consultation

When it comes to treating underbites in leopard geckos, vet consultation is paramount. While dietary adjustments can be beneficial, it’s essential to get a professional opinion to address the root cause effectively. A vet, especially a reptile vet, has the expertise to identify and diagnose the underlying issues causing the underbite. You might be required to take a stool sample to him, and you can read how to collect poop here.

The role of the vet doesn’t stop at diagnosis. They play a crucial part in crafting an appropriate treatment plan tailored to the specific needs of the gecko. This plan might include dietary recommendations, medication, or even surgical interventions, depending on the severity of the underbite.

Proper Handling and Care for Prevention of Injuries

Proper handling is a fundamental aspect of leopard gecko care. These delicate reptiles require gentle handling to prevent injuries, especially those that could contribute to conditions like underbites. When handling a leopard gecko, it’s vital to take necessary precautions to ensure their safety. Avoid sudden movements, grasp them gently, and always be aware of their reactions.

Providing a suitable enclosure is another essential aspect of care. The right enclosure, combined with an appropriate substrate, can significantly minimize the risk of trauma. A soft, non-abrasive substrate is preferable, as it prevents accidental ingestion and reduces the chances of injuries.

Several factors come into play when ensuring the well-being of a leopard gecko. Along with proper handling, it’s crucial to provide a safe and comfortable environment. This includes avoiding rough or aggressive handling, ensuring the enclosure has the right temperature and humidity levels, and regularly checking for any signs of distress or injury.

By taking these steps, gecko owners can ensure their pets remain healthy, reducing the chances of underbites and other health issues.