Old leopard gecko gapes open mouth/mini-yawns when offered food


New member
My 14-15 year old female leopard gecko Esper used to be a very enthusiastic eater. In fact, she was too fat because I gave in when she rushed out to beg for food.

Her diet was dubia roaches, crickets, mealworms. She would eat a hornworm if I brought one home.

All of a sudden, she has stopped eating and has developed a strange response to me offering her food. She gapes open her mouth in quick spurts, like a yawn, but not as long or drawn-out. Usually multiple short times each time I put food in front of her.

One time after doing this, I got her to eat some wax worms. But only the once. She WILL eat Reptiboost liquid food, and I have been giving her 0.5mL of that every other day because her tail is shrinking and I don't want her to start wasting. Since this behavior started I have tried offering her roaches, crickets, mealworms, wax worms, hornworms, and silkworms. She will not take any of them except one time the waxworms.

Has anyone seen anything like this before? See the video link on YouTube for an example of her behavior. She seems interested in the food (not as interested as she USED to be, i.e. rushing out of the humid hide to meet the food source), but then it's almost like some sort of weird gag or reflex happens with her mouth, and she turns away and gives up.

This has been happening for about a month. I will be bringing her in to a vet as soon as she next poops so that I can have a fecal analysis done.

The only other strange thing that has been going on with her is shedding every two weeks on the dot. Like clockwork. That seems excessively often to me, and I don't know if the exact repeating pattern means anything.

She has no other symptoms, besides the weight-loss from lack of eating. She is alert and moves around fine when I pull her out. Nothing in her mouth that I could see when I looked, no signs of respiratory distress or mucous or anything like that.

She lives on paper towels in a 20-gallon long by her self, with a thermostat-controlled deep-heat emitter and under-belly heating. She has approx. 92 on the warmest spot she can find in her cage and about 70 on the coldest. She stays most of the time in her belly-heat-warmed humid hide (like she is in the video) which is about 83-86 degrees.

Thanks for any help anyone can share.

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Active member
Sorry, I don't have a clue. Maybe consider the vet visit before she poops, or make an appointment for 3 days from now and hope for he ben (so to speak).



New member
All the exotic vets near me are booked way out for normal visits, so I was planning to take her and a fresh turd in to an emergency visit. Just waiting for the turd now...
That's really odd. I can't say what's going on with her, but my male does something similar if I offer superworms or calci worms. He got bit in the corner of the mouth by a super worm when he was a year old and the first time I offered calci worms he ate three then regurgitated. Now, if I offer either of these foods he does the same thing as your girl and closes his eyes while turning away. I call it his "yuck face".
Cats and dogs do something similar when they are nauseous and you put food in near them. Could be that she's not feeling well or maybe a bad taste / painful bite made her a bit hesitant to eat.

Just out of curiosity- make sure she's really well hydrated, and check her urates - they should be white, not overly yellow. She's an older girl and in mammals and birds, the most common health issue that leads to not wanting to eat / nausea is kidney disease, liver disease a close second. They often will eat 'junk food' on and off, but not their regular diets sometimes drink more, and otherwise act mostly normal, at least for a while.

Along those lines, kidney disease doesn't really have outward signs (dehydration, weight loss), but liver issues will lead to jaundice - the whites of the eyes, gums, and thin-skin areas on the body becoming yellowed, this will include the urates.
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