Seems like a strange question, right? What is a vent, exactly? A vent in geckos refers to the animal’s genital area. A Gecko licking its vent is a completely common and natural practice, and Geckos do it for a variety of reasons. Most are common reasons, though some may warrant a trip to the vet.
Main reasons for a Gecko licking its vent:
- To clean after defecation or marking territory
- To clean after mating
- To help with shedding
- To ease discomfort after laying eggs
- To ease discomfort from constipation or impaction
- To treat and prevent infection
- To treat and prevent parasites
- To masturbate or clear plugged semen
This is a totally normal behavior in Geckos, so it should not be cause for alarm. However, if your gecko is licking frequently, you may want to take it as a sign that your gecko might need additional attention or even treatment. Read on to figure out the cause of why your Leopard Gecko is licking its vent so you know if further action is needed or not.
Where is a Gecko’s Vent?
On geckos, the vent is located under the tail at the rear end of the body. It is in front of the Cloaca, which is where fecal and reproductive material exits the body.
In male geckos, you may notice a series of pores in front of the vent, which become larger as the gecko grows and may excrete a waxy substance. This is one way to tell if you have a male or female gecko.
Females also have a row of pores above the vent, though in many female geckos they are not observable.
What is a Gecko’s Vent For?
A gecko’s vent is basically its genital area, where geckos pass fecal and reproductive matter. This is healthy and the way geckos rid the body of waste material.
Are Geckos Clean Animals?
The most basic and common reason for a gecko licking its vents is just general cleanliness. Geckos are an easy animal to take care of, and this is in part due to the fact that they keep themselves very clean.
Licking is part of this process. The licking is present for other reasons as well.
Why Do Geckos Lick Their Vents?
To clean after defecating
Part of the gecko cleaning process is licking after defecation. Many animals do this, it’s a totally natural way to keep clean.
Leopard geckos typically defecate in the same corner of their enclosure, and then may go and hide to clean up afterwards. This seems to be a ritual shared by leopard geckos. You may want to try and see if the licking occurs primarily after your gecko has visited its defecation spot. If this is the case, licking is nothing to worry about.
To clean after marking territory
If your gecko is male, you will see the enlarged pores in front of his vent. At times, the male will secrete a waxy substance from these glands and will rub it on whatever territory he wants to mark.
A male may lick his vent after this process, both to clean off any residual waxy substance left over from excretion (remember, geckos like to be clean) or to soothe the glands after secretion.
Again, this is totally normal behavior. (You may not ever notice your gecko doing this–often male geckos only mark territory when they are in the presence of another male.)
To clean after mating
Geckos mate by touching their vents together for up to around 10 minutes. After that time, it is very common for geckos, both male and female, to clean their vents.
To help with shedding
The shedding process takes quite a while for geckos, and from what we can tell it isn’t a very comfortable process. Geckos may begin licking after they shed in order to remove any remaining dead skin and to soothe the new skin underneath.
The vent area and the tail are often the last part of the skin to dry and shed off, so the licking may be a way to aid in this process. If you notice licking right after shedding, this is totally normal. It is just your gecko’s way of trying to get the shedding process over with.
Keep in mind the vent area is very sensitive, so the gecko will especially want to remove the dead skin from this area.
To ease discomfort after laying eggs
Female geckos may lick the vent area to ease any discomfort caused by laying eggs. This may occur before or after the eggs are laid. This is totally normal. Keep in mind that, like chickens, female geckos lay eggs whether they have mated or not.
To ease discomfort from constipation or impaction
Yes, geckos get constipated just like other animals. Licking the vent may help ease any discomfort associated with this process, and may help move things along. Licking may stimulate the digestive system and lubricate the vent to allow feces to pass more easily.
Important! If you cannot figure out any other reason your gecko is licking its vent, and it has not pooped in a while, you need to keep an eye on whether your gecko is constipated or impacted.
It may help if you give your gecko a bowl of warm water to soak in. If you think your gecko is simply constipated, some vets recommend giving them a belly rub to try to get the poop out. However, if something is stuck in the digestive system and causing irritation, you may not want to make it worse by rubbing.
If the problem persists and your gecko is very uncomfortable and doesn’t poop, it’s probably a good idea to take them to a vet.
If your gecko’s diet has changed, you may notice constipation. Constipation can be a common problem in elderly geckos.
To treat and prevent infection
This is another time when you will have to discern whether your gecko is acting naturally or whether further attention and care might be needed.
Geckos keep clean to prevent infection, which can enter the body through the vent area. Make sure you keep your gecko’s tank clean to prevent any type of infection.
Often infections go away, but if your gecko shows any signs of illness, such as lethargy, rash, swelling, or irritation, it may have an infection, and your gecko may be licking its vent in order to ease discomfort or treat the infection. In this case, you will need to get your gecko veterinary treatment right away.
To treat and prevent parasites
Similar to infection, geckos are sometimes affected by parasites due to the fact that they eat a variety of insects. With a parasitic infection, you will notice gastric or internal distress rather than an external skin infection.
If you don’t see any other signs of infection, but your gecko does have diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting, regurgitation, weight loss, or loss of tail fat, these might be signs of a parasitic infection.
As with any infection in an animal, you will need to get it checked out by a vet as soon as possible. The vet will probably ask for a stool sample.
To masturbate or clear plugged semen
Many animals masturbate, and this is totally normal, even for geckos. You may also see males lick their vents to clear out any semen that has dried and plugged up the semen ducts. This is fairly common, and licking is a good way to resolve this issue.
If semen plugs are present, it may be difficult for your gecko to poop. You may think this is constipation. Try giving your gecko a warm water bath, or rubbing its belly and around its vent to remove the semen plug. If that doesn’t work, give your vet a call.
Why Does My Leopard Gecko Lick His Vent After Eating?
Some gecko owners notice that their geckos are turning around and licking during or after eating. Generally geckos lick their vents for reasons unrelated to eating (see above) so it may be that you are observing your gecko more while eating.
The gecko may be licking to avoid discomfort of some kind, and oftentimes this is normal.
Try to note other times the gecko is licking his vent to determine the cause. If you think it is due to an infection or impaction, it is time to call the vet.
Leopard geckos lick their vents for all sorts of reasons, and most of them are totally normal and no cause for alarm.
However, excessive licking might indicate that something is wrong with your gecko. Make sure you keep an eye on your pet and note when the licking is occurring.
Normal reasons for vent licking include cleaning, shedding, or mating. However, abnormal reasons can include infection and impaction–which need to be checked out right away.