Why Is My Leopard Gecko Licking His Bum?

leopard gecko after licking his bum

Bum, butt, booty, vent, cloaca, whatever you call it, it’s the back end of your leopard gecko!  Your gecko’s bum looks different from a human’s but still serves a similar purpose.  Geckos excrete fecal waste out of their vents.  Plus, their back side has a few bonus functions as well!  But, if it’s a waste excretion zone, why do you see your gecko’s mouth down there?  You probably are here asking;

Why is my leopard gecko licking his bum?

Leopard geckos love to lick things and that doesn’t exclude their bums.  Leopard geckos are very clean and will lick their bum after they poop and after they shed. They’ll also lick down there if there are any inflammatory issues or blockages.  Check your gecko’s vent out to make sure there isn’t any abnormal irritation.

In this article, we’ll get into everything you need to know about when, why, and how leopard geckos lick their bums.

Leopard Gecko Anatomy

Before we talk about butt licking in specific, we want to go over some basic anatomy.  To really understand why your leopard gecko is obsessed with its vent, you have to know what a vent even is!  We mentioned above that leopard geckos have a similar booty to a human butt.  While that’s true, there are some major differences.

The Bum

There are so many things you can call your leopard gecko’s bum.  But, the most anatomically correct name for your gecko’s bum hole is going to be either cloaca or vent.  Have you heard of this before?

A cloaca is sort of an all-in-one exit hole.  Many reptiles, birds, and amphibians have a cloaca.  This orifice is located at the rear end of many animals. More than just feces passes through the cloaca.  Urinary waste and reproductive things also pass through this opening.  Actually, the vent or cloaca is where birds lay their eggs from!

Both male and female leopard geckos have a vent.  In this article, we’ll refer to the vent as the cloaca, the butt, or the bum.

The Tongue

Another part of the anatomy equation is the tongue because a gecko can’t lick itself without it!

So, what’s special about a gecko’s tongue?

Geckos use their tongues to collect information about the world around them.  They can smell and taste with their tongues because of a specialized organ called the vomeronasal organ.  A lizard’s tongue is an important survival tool!  Your gecko might even lick you from time to time!

Since a leopard gecko’s tongue is an important tool, it’s natural that they would use it on themselves!

Why Is My Leopard Gecko Licking His Vent?

Your leopard gecko’s vent does a lot for them!  Urinary, fecal, and reproductive functions all happen there.  But… that doesn’t really explain the licking!

Fortunately, there are a ton of explanations for why your pet licks its bum.  We’ll talk about them now!

1. Cleaning Up

One of the biggest reasons your leopard gecko will lick its bum is to clean up.

When geckos defecate they don’t have toilet paper to clean up.  If they make a mess, the best way to take care of it is to lick it up!  Even though it sounds gross, it’s perfectly healthy and normal.  Animals keep themselves clean like this all the time!

While this is normal for your gecko, it is important for you to keep it in mind.  If your leopard gecko licks itself clean after pooping and then they lick you, it might be transferring harmful bacteria like salmonella right over to you!

Salmonella bacteria from a lizard’s gut is one of the reasons why you should always wash your hands after handling and also a reason that you shouldn’t kiss your scaly friends!

2. Impaction

If you haven’t had to deal with impaction yet, you’re lucky!

Impaction is a condition caused by a backup in the guts f your gecko.  The blockage can be caused by fecal matter or something that’s indigestible.  Impaction is common in geckos because they’re so tiny and sometimes have access to things they shouldn’t eat!

Why does impaction make your gecko lick their bum?

When a gecko is impacted, its vent can become swollen and strained from pushing.  Licking the vent in this situation might help to soothe the tissues and to help the gecko understand what’s going on.  If you think your gecko is impacted you’ll want to take them to a veterinarian ASAP as this condition can be fatal.

3. A Recent Shed

A less serious cause of bum licking is a recent shed!

Did you know that leopard geckos almost always eat their shed skin?  Yep!  And it’s as strange as it sounds.  Here’s a video so you can get a visual.

Leopard geckos are known for peeling their own shed skin pieces off and eating them.  Naturally, this comes with a lot of licking before and after.  The vent is an awkward place for a shed and so a gecko might spend more time licking down there to help get all of the old skin off.

If you want your gecko to spend less time licking and biting at their shed skin you can help them along.  Keeping the tank a little higher in humidity will help your gecko’s skin slide right off.  Plus, you can offer your gecko a shallow dish of warm water to soak its feet in.  Just make sure it’s not too deep as geckos really can’t swim at all!

4. Territory Marking

Ready to hear about another weird leopard gecko thing?

Male leopard geckos mark their territory in a funny way.  There are tiny pores located right next to the gecko’s vent that secrete a thick and waxy substance.  This is a hormonal substance that tells other males they’re in a gecko’s territory.  It also signals to females that this gecko is ready to mate!

The waxy substance that geckos secrete from their backside can build up over time if it’s not cleaned off.  This can create plugs over the pores and can cause your gecko to become impacted in another way!  After marking their territory, you should be able to observe your gecko cleaning off its pores to prevent this buildup.

5. Prolapse

The next two reasons your gecko might lick its bum are a little more serious.

A prolapse is a condition where the vent starts o turn inside out.  Sensitive and delicate tissues that are meant to be inside of your gecko start to show.  Prolapses are usually caused by straining to defecate.  Constipation or impaction can give your gecko pooping problems.

If your gecko is prolapsed they’ll lick their cloaca a lot.  Licking is comforting and soothing.  Licking also helps to keep the prolapse clean and moist.  A prolapse looks like a lot of red tissue around your leo’s bum.  If you notice that your lizard is prolapsed, take them to the veterinarian as soon as you can.

6. Parasites

Parasites are a surprising cause of bum irritation and we’re not talking about fleas.

Internal parasites can cause a ton of unexpected damage to an animal.  Many internal parasites have effects on the digestive system.  The digestive system ends at the vent and so the vent can be affected by parasites.  Parasites change the composition of an animal’s feces.  They might make poop runnier and cause irritation to the soft tissues around the vent.

If this is the case, your leopard gecko is going to do a lot of licking!  Just like with a prolapse licking will help soothe the irritated and swollen area.  Plus, your gecko will also lick their cloaca to keep it clean.

Parasites can be picked up from other animals, from being outdoors, or even from you!  Luckily, most parasites are easy to get rid of with a simple dewormer from your veterinarian.

Should You Worry If Your Gecko Won’t Stop Licking Their Vent?

When your gecko licks their bum it isn’t always a problem.

Licking is normal.  However, excessive licking can be damaging to your pet’s health.

You should be worried if your gecko is licking so much that it can seem to anything else.  If they ignore their food to lick and scratch their bum, something is definitely not right!  If your gecko’s vent looks red, swollen, or irritated you might also want to worry.  This could be a sign of one of the problems we listed above.

Hopefully, your gecko only licks their butt occasionally, as much as a pet dog would!

Final Thoughts

There are actually so many reasons that your leopard gecko licks its bum!  Geckos are clean animals that don’t like to have dirt or debris on them.  They’ll make sure to lick anything off of themselves that they don’t want on, including poop or a stuck shed!  If you notice that your gecko is a little too obsessed with its butt, double-check and make sure there aren’t any problems back there.

Good luck with your gecko and hopefully you can just get a little laugh the next time you see them licking their butt!