Vitamin D requirements of Leopard Geckos
Vitamin D is essential for the growth and general health of many animals. In lizards a vitamin D deficiency leads to a variety of disease symptoms like deformities, vibrant toes and the development of inflammation which all have a major impact in these animal’s welfare. A few years ago research showed that developing bearded dragons, if exposed to UV radiation, are able to produce enough vitamin D to prevent those symptoms. The same research showed that orally administered vitamin D was ineffective for this purpose. Amongst others, this research has led to better advice regarding the use of UV lights with bearded dragons, leading to a reduction in vitamin D deficiency related problems.
For many other species, including the leopard gecko, it is unknown through which routes they are able to meet their vitamin D needs. In contrast to bearded dragons, leopard geckos are nocturnal and therefore generally not exposed to a lot of UV radiation in nature, which has implications for their vitamin D production. It could mean they produce either more, or less vitamin D in response to UV radiation. Additionally, it is not known if oral administration of vitamin D is effective in leopard geckos. Therefore, the University of Wageningen started a research to clarify this issue.
Within this research the effectiveness of oral vitamin D administration, as well as UV radiation exposure in preventing disease symptoms caused by vitamin D deficiency is determined. Researchers involved work on a voluntary basis, animals were made available by a breeder and the UV lights were donated by their manufacturer, which covers a large part of the project’s costs. The Herpetofauna Foundation assisted in covering the additional costs including terrarium set up and the purchase of vitamin supplements and thermometers. The assistance of the Herpetofauna foundation helps to further our understanding of the correct care of these species in captivity which helps to increase the wellbeing of these fantastic lizard species.