Why Is My Leopard Gecko’s Throat Moving Fast? (Explained By Vet Tech)

Why Is My Leopard Gecko's Throat Moving Fast

Leopard geckos are adorable pets that are well-loved by their owners. These little lizards can be very interesting to watch because they have many distinct behaviors.

Even though they’re nocturnal in the wild, you can often catch these lizards hunting, grooming, and exploring during the day in captivity. One of the behaviors you might observe in your pet gecko is a quickly moving throat. You’ll probably start to wonder if it’s normal and ask;

Why is my leopard gecko’s throat moving fast?

If you’re leopard gecko’s throat is moving fast, it’s not an immediate cause for alarm. Most likely your gecko is just swallowing, investigating, breathing, or excited. They may even just be moving their throat to help with a shed. In some cases, however, panting might be a sign of respiratory infection.  

This article will go over all of the possible reasons that your gecko might be moving its throat quickly.  We’ll also discuss how to know when panting is a problem and what you can do to help your gecko breathe better.

Reasons Why Your Leopard Gecko’s Throat Is Moving

To figure out if your gecko is in a sticky situation or not, you’ll have to guess why its throat is moving fast.

This list should help you narrow down the cause of your gecko’s panting and help you decide whether you need to do something or not.

1. They’re Breathing Normally

The first thing that might cause your gecko’s throat to move quickly is normal breathing. Even though your gecko doesn’t move their throat to breathe all of the time, it’s not uncommon.

The anatomy of a leopard gecko’s throat and mouth is slightly different from ours. Leopard geckos don’t have a hard palate on the roof of their mouths. Instead, geckos have a choana and a choanal slit. To keep it simple, the choana is the space where air passes from the nares and into the mouth.

In order to take a deep breath through its nares, your gecko might need to shut their mouth and use their throat to create suction. While this isn’t necessarily common it’s also not unheard of.

2. They’re Swallowing Food

Another thing that could cause your gecko to move their throat quickly is that they’re swallowing a lot of food.

Geckos are known for biting off more than they can chew. If you’ve seen your leopard gecko hunt, you probably know why. They tend to go for the biggest and best bugs first.

Even though they aren’t that fast, they’re not bad hunters. And once your pet grabs a bug, they’re not going to let go of it, even if it’s a little too big.

If you notice your gecko’s throat working overtime while eating, they’re probably just swallowing a mouthful. You can clearly see the process in this video:

But, if you notice that they keep trying to swallow and their food isn’t moving up or down, you may need to help them by removing some bugs from their mouth.

That way, they’ll be able to swallow easier and chew their food a little more thoroughly.

3. They’re Trying To Cool Down

Another thing that could cause your gecko to move its throat fast is panting.

Reptiles are cold-blooded. But, this is a common misnomer and doesn’t mean that they’re cold. Really, cold-blooded animals have no internal way to regulate their temperature. They need to rely on the environment to keep them at a good temperature. Reptiles can fluctuate in temperature wildly depending on their environment.

One of the best ways for an animal to cool down is to pant. Panting helps animals lower their body temperatures through evaporation. Saliva hits the air and evaporates which helps draw heat away from the body. Panting also helps animals expel hot air more quickly.

If your gecko’s throat is moving fast and its mouth is open it may be panting. Panting for a short period of time is normal, but if your gecko keeps it up, it may be a sign that its environment is too hot for them.

4. They’re Investigating An Area

Like dogs, reptiles use their senses of smell to investigate new areas. When a leopard gecko is intently smelling, it might be stationary and start breathing quickly. The more breaths a reptile takes, the more information they get. This has a lot to do with how reptiles taste and smell.

Snakes and lizards have pretty good senses of taste and smell because of their vomeronasal organ. This organ is located above the mouth and provides sensory information for the brain to interpret. There’s a lot that goes into the functionality of the vomeronasal organ but air supply is essential to it.

When a leopard gecko takes air in, they’re gathering tons of information about its environment. So, when a gecko’s throat moves quickly, it might be because they’re trying to investigate its area.

5. They’re Excited

Just like any other pet, leopard geckos can get excited!

Many leo owners report that their geckos start panting when they see their food being prepared. Their throat will move fast and they’ll stare with intensity at their food.

Though this may be some sort of prey response, it’s likely just an expression of excitement and a state of alertness in your pet. They’re aware food is coming and their body is getting ready for the chase.

Seeing your gecko pant before mealtimes seem to be normal behavior for some leopard geckos, but may vary among individuals.

6. They’re Trying To Communicate Something

Throat movements are one of the weird ways that geckos communicate in the wild. Leopard geckos and other species of geckos might communicate things like aggression through throat movements.

Throat puffing is a common trait in geckos. Geckos puff their throats during mating season to appear bigger. Geckos also puff their throats when they feel threatened.

When geckos puff their throats, it might look like they’re panting or moving their skin quickly.

While their neck puffing is not as impressive as that of a green anole in the video below, it’s still quite noticeable.

If your leopard gecko is puffing its throat in captivity, it might be a bad sign. Your leopard gecko could be either challenging you or may feel threatened by you.

If you think your leopard gecko is afraid of you, you’ll want to fix that as soon as possible. Read our article here to figure out what you can do to help your scaly friend feel safe and calm while you’re around.

7. They Might Have A Respiratory Infection

One of the more problematic things that may cause your gecko’s throat to move fast is a respiratory infection, and they are quite common in all captive reptiles.

Reptile respiratory systems are fragile and can be affected by both temperature and humidity imbalances. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to maintain the proper environment for exotic reptiles.

These animals come from all different climates all around the world and have a very specific set of circumstances in which they thrive.

Open-mouth panting is one of the symptoms of a respiratory infection and leopard geckos. Other signs and symptoms of respiratory infections in leopard geckos include lethargy, loss of appetite, and audible breathing sounds.

If you suspect that your pet might be suffering from an upper respiratory infection you’ll want to take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Respiratory infections may not start out as life-threatening illnesses, they can escalate quickly and make your pet very sick.

So if you do notice your gecko’s throat moving quickly in combination with other symptoms it might indicate the start of a respiratory infection.

8. They’re Trying To Shed Their Skin

The last reason that might explain why your gecko is moving their throat so quickly is that they’re trying to shed extra skin.

Shedding is a cyclical process that most adult leopard geckos go through once every month or once every other month.

In an ideal situation, the shedding cycle is completed within one to three days and your pet should shed its entire skin within one day.

During shedding your gecko’s skin color, attitude, and behavior will change. You might also notice some new behaviors like scratching, eating their own skin, or stretching their body in weird ways.

When your gecko moves their throat in and out, it may help them get the last of its old skin off.

Hopefully, we’ve given you some ideas as to why your leopard gecko’s throat is moving so fast.  Now, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions on this topic.

Frequently Asked Questions

Even though there are many explanations for why your gecko’s throat moves quickly, these more specific questions might apply directly to your situation.

How Do I Know If My Leopard Gecko Is Having Trouble Breathing?

One of the biggest giveaways that your gecko is having trouble breathing is that they sit for long periods of time with their mouth open. While panting is normal, having trouble breathing is not.

If your pet is having trouble breathing for a long period of time they’ll likely become lethargic and pale. You may also hear audible breathing noises if your gecko has something blocking their airway.

If you think your gecko is having a hard time breathing we recommend taking them to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

What Does It Mean When A Leopard Gecko Moves Its Throat?

Usually, when leopard geckos move their throats to communicate it’s usually associated with aggression.

Throat puffing is a common behavior noted in wild geckos that can usually be observed during mating season or times of conflict and danger. Hopefully, your gecko isn’t puffing its throat at you.

Why Is My Gecko’s Neck Twitching?

Is your gecko’s neck twitching?

While throat movements may be normal neck twitches aren’t. A neck twitch could indicate a serious neurological problem. On the other hand, a twitching neck could also indicate that an item of your pet’s meal is still alive inside of them.

If the twitching stops after a couple of minutes you can assume that it was just a bug trying to escape its final fate. However, if the twitching continues this might signal neurological issues.

As with anything health-related, you should take your leopard gecko to the vet as soon as you notice this issue.

Closing Thoughts

If you just now noticed that your leopard gecko is moving their throat quickly, don’t panic! This movement most likely has something to do with breathing, cooling down or communication.

There is a possibility that your gecko might be breathing this way because they’re sick or having trouble swallowing.

Always keep an eye on your part when you notice new behaviors and take note of when and why they happen. That way the next time you notice your gecko’s throat moving you can rest assured that nothing is wrong.