So the last few sheds my gecko had some skin stuck on his toes, and he HATES it if I touch his feet in any way. I've tried giving him a sauna and trying gently rubbing it off but he won't let me touch his toes. Tips?
Unfortunately, he’ll have to get used to it if he wants to keep his toes!
You can try a small soak. It’s basically a wetter version of a sauna. Instead of lining a container with damp paper towels, you put warm water in it. It shouldn’t be a lot of water—-leos tend to panic in deep water. It just needs to be enough to cover the toes. There will probably be flailing involved, but at least it’ll get the skin somewhat softer and ideally looser. If the following steps don’t work, then just keep soaking him every day (or every other day) for 2-5 minutes until his next shed cycle. You might have better luck loosening the shed at the next cycle.
A q-tip dipped in a food-grade oil (olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil, mineral oil… just anything that’s safe to consume) is an invaluable tool against stuck shed. But, yeah, it still requires touching the gecko toes.
this is a part of reptile-keeping I strongly dislike, but sometimes manhandling a gecko is necessary for their own health. So here’s how you gently restrain a lizard: get their head between your pointer and middle fingers and curl your hand around the body, their back in your palm. This keeps the head steady so the reptile can’t bite you and ALSO avoids gripping their tail. It also keeps their front legs stable, so they can’t wriggle too much.
Here’s a visual of what I mean. It’s a video of Diablo the leachie gecko being handled for weighing, measuring, and having some shed tugged off his claws.
This is HIGHLY STRESSFUL for a lizard since it closely mimics how a bird-of-prey would grab them, so this is really a last-resort kind of handling. I’ve also used it to give medication, so it’s a useful technique to learn.
Another method I use with very small lizards who I don’t feel comfortable grasping is to just tire them out: just keep touching their toes until they essentially give up. You’ve got a lot more patience than they have energy. Again, it’s stressful, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time building up trust with this animal.
A note for new followers who might not keep reptiles: I normally don’t endorse handling an animal against their will. But leopard geckos can lose their toes from stuck shed.
a final note on the topic: it’s not the end of the world if a gecko loses a toe. They have more trouble climbing, but you can adjust their enclosures to their new needs. The biggest risk is infection.