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Green Iguana Care

By: Dr. Jenni Bass

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The Healthy Iguana

Once your pet has grown accustomed to his new home, over several days or weeks, begin gentle, quiet, daily handling. Follow a routine with respect to cleaning, feeding and handling, as iguanas are creatures of habit. Do not allow your iguana free run of the house. If the iguana carries the bacteria Salmonella, it will spread throughout the house and control over the temperature, humidity and lighting of his environment will be lost and his health will suffer. Unsupervised access to a home carries many innate dangers. Many iguanas will happily eat small shiny objects, and they are frequently injured by falls or by other pets.

Iguanas should be bathed daily, whether in a tub or misted. For hygiene reasons, it is not advisable to use sinks or bathtubs used by people.

As wild animals, iguanas are very susceptible to stress. Any change in appetite or behavior likely warrants a visit to your reptile veterinarian. Subtle changes are often the only ones seen before a reptile is seriously ill.

Common Diseases and Disorders

  • Malnutrition. This is the most common reason iguanas are seen by reptile veterinarians. Signs include a swollen or shortened lower jaw, swollen or lumpy limbs, muscle tremors, paralysis, seizures, lameness or inappetence.

  • Trauma. Broken tails, bite and scratch wounds, which can lead rapidly to septicemia (blood poisoning) and broken legs. Cat bites can be especially dangerous. Do not underestimate the level of aggression that may exist between lizards. Iguanas should not be housed together.

  • Pre- or post-ovulatory stasis or egg binding. Female iguanas, even though housed alone, can develop eggs. Should your iguana lose her appetite, spend time digging and develop a swollen abdomen, she may have enlarged ovaries or be egg bound. See your reptile veterinarian, as few iguanas will lay eggs with no trouble.

  • Parasites. Internal and external parasites are a common and unnecessary burden on your pet. Your veterinarian can advise you as to the best course of treatment.

    It is recommended that your iguana be seen by a veterinarian familiar with reptiles, shortly after purchase. A six month visit is advised to evaluate the lizard's progress, to review husbandry and to catch any problems early in their development. Thereafter, annual visits are suggested, both to examine the lizard and to inform you of any new information in the field of iguana care and nutrition.

    Biological Data

  • Incubation Period for Eggs: 73 to 93 days
  • Possible Life span: 13 to 29 years
  • Size: males can reach six feet in length from snout to tail tip
  • Sexing: can be difficult in the case of juveniles, but with experience, mature iguanas can be sexed visually. Males are generally larger, and often turn slightly orange with age. They have taller dorsal spines (those on the back of the neck), larger femoral pores on the inner thigh that excrete a waxy substance, and a larger dewlap and opercular scale, which is the big single scale at the angle of the jaw. The pores, dorsal spines and opercular scales are relatively smaller in females, and they generally appear more feminine and delicate.

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