are one of the most popular reptiles purchased from pet shops today.
This animal can grow anywhere from 4-6 feet in length, reaching a
maximum weight of 10-15 pounds. On average, they live 12-15 years in
captivity, however they can live up to 20 years if taken care of
properly. Iguanas come from a hot and humid environment, therefore,
they are more active during daylight hours. They can become territorial
and will not hesitate to use their strong and powerful jaws, nails, or
juvenile iguana can reside in a 30-50 gallon aquarium, however, their
rapid growth will cause them to outgrow this enclosure within a few
months. Enclosures come in many different sizes, shapes, and styles and
are made out of wood, glass, or plexiglass. The substrate should be
easy to clean to help you out. Newspaper works well and is most cost
efficient, however, artificial grass, indoor-outdoor carpeting, or
linoleum are excellent choices as well. Avoid sand, soil, and bark, as
these substrates can lead to obstruction or impaction if your pet
ingests them. Shallow food and water dishes should be provided, and
thoroughly cleaned and disinfected at least twice a week. It is also
important to provide your iguana with climbing materials such as
branches, pieces of bark, rocks, broad limbs, or drift wood.
need water to survive and should have it readily available. Iguanas
obtain most of their water intake through the plant matter they
consume, however, some iguanas enjoy drinking out of water dishes, or
lapping water off leaves or wood in the cage. Misting your iguana and
it’s environment daily will help keep it hydrated and provide it water
droplets to drink. Some iguanas who are provided water dishes may train
themselves to eliminate in their water. Their dishes need to be
regularly and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to prevent internal
Bathing your iguana is another good way for
your friend to obtain water, and is a good habit to get your lizard
used to. Bathing should be offered in shallow, lukewarm water, 2-3
times weekly. Always supervise your iguana to prevent any accidents.
Remember, not all iguanas enjoy bath time. Some will swim around and
enjoy it, others will panic.
need to be provided with exposure to natural sunlight for at least 5-10
hours per week. When possible, iguanas should spend daylight hours
outside in a sunny location. When choosing an outdoor cage for your
pet, a couple of things should be kept in mind. No wild animals, or
cats or dogs, should be able to break into the cage, and your pet
should not be able to escape. A wire mesh cage with a sturdy frame
works well. Glass should be avoided at all costs as the glass can
develop lethal temperatures even on cool days. Of course, don’t forget
to provide food and water to your little friend in it’s outdoor
need frequent and regular handling to help tame them. Iguanas can learn
to show affection to those who own them and handle them frequently.
Juveniles should be held at least 2-3 times daily for approximately
fifteen minutes. Stroke the back and neck while holding, and get your
iguana accustomed to picking them up and handling them. IGUANAS CAN BE
TERRITORIAL AND AGGRESSIVE BY NATURE. ALWAYS USE EXTREME CAUTION WHEN
HANDLING ANY IGUANA.
are herbivores and should only be offered a variety of fruits and
vegetables. There is ample information available that states iguanas
should be fed protein, however, protein in the diet can lead to kidney
failure, metabolic bone disease, and eventually death if fed over the
years. The bulk of the diet should be compromised of dark, leafy green
vegetables, such as, collard greens, mustard greens, parsley, dandelion
greens, escarole, spinach, and kale. Iceberg lettuce should be avoided
as it offers no nutritional value and iguanas can become hooked on it,
refusing to eat other foods. Other vegetables that are good to offer
include green beans, green peppers, frozen mixed vegetables, squash,
and fruits, such as, bananas, apples, mangos, papaya. Iguanas should be
fed on a daily basis, after their lights have been turned on and the
iguana has had a chance to warm up.
plays an important role to your iguana’s long term and overall health.
Iguanas are cold blooded and do not possess the ability to regulate
internal temperatures, so they rely on their environment. Iguanas
regulate their body temperature by basking in temperatures above 85
degrees, sometimes as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Daytime
temperatures should range between 85-95 degrees with a basking point of
110-115 degrees. Nighttime temperatures should not drop below 70-75
degrees. Iguanas should be provided fourteen hours of daylight, and ten
hours of night light.
So how do I achieve these heat requirements?
There are many products on the market today. The simplest is a basking
light. A 60-100 watt incandescent bulb is a radiant source of heat, and
is adequate since they are basking animals. An Ultraviolet light, such
as Vita-Lite or Duro-Test, available at your local pet store, helps
provide heat and aids in the conversion of vitamin D. A UVB fluorescent
tube light can also be provided. Heat pads, hot rocks, and heating tape
are sold at most pet shops, however, observe extreme caution when using
these products. These products have potential to malfunction, causing
extreme burns to your iguana, that can potentially prove fatal. Also,
these products don’t provide the adequate heat necessary for the
required temperature for your iguana.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)
bone disease describes most disorders that cause a weakening of the
bones or impaired functioning of the body’s organs. It is caused by an
imbalance of calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D3. Proper diet and
temperature ranges will help prevent MBD. Symptoms of this disease
include swelling of the lower jaw, curvature in the tail or back (‘S’
shaped), the lower jaw may be smaller than the upper jaw, and
radiographs will show thin, brittle, curved bone structure. Metabolic
bone disease is best avoided with proper diet and correct temperature
ranges in the iguanas environment.
disease is common in captive iguanas due to poor diet and lack of water
or humidity. External signs are anorexia, weight loss, swollen abdomen,
dehydration, loss of muscle tone, and eventually lack of elimination.
However, your iguana may not show any signs, and act healthy even two
weeks before kidney disease turns fatal. Your veterinarian can check
blood levels of the phosphorous and calcium in your iguana to try to
prevent kidney failure. If caught early enough, treatment would consist
of diet and environment improvements. Fed properly on a plant-based
diet, access to water and frequent misting helps prevent kidney failure.
are susceptible to both internal and external parasites. A parasite is
an organism that lives in or on another organism.
Internal parasites are more difficult to diagnose. They produce
microscopic eggs which pass through your iguanas feces. Fecal exams
should be performed routinely for newly acquired reptiles. The specimen
provided should be fresh, within 24 hours, and needs to be refrigerated
to prevent fecal matter from drying out. A negative finding on a fecal
exam means, NO PARASITES DETECTED IN THE SAMPLE SUBMITTED. It does not
necessarily mean your reptile is free of parasites. It is a good idea
to test a few times with negative results in order to ensure your
iguana is without parasites.
Mites are blood sucking organisms that may be bright red, black or
dried blood in color. Generally they can be found roaming the body,
tucked under the edges of scale around the eyes, ears, or tympanic
membrane. Mites are microscopically small in most cases and can be
difficult to get rid of. Mite treatments sold at pet shops are
generally ineffective. There is no easy way to rid your reptile and its
environment of mites. The environment and reptile both must be
thoroughly treated. Remove all substrate and treat all items in the
enclosure. Boil rocks, bake wood, and bleach bowls and the cage. The
reptile must be soaked in warm water with mild soap. Any further
problems should be reported to your veterinarian.
Please call the Merrick Veterinary Group at 516-379-6200 to schedule your iguana for an examination with Dr. Marder or Dr. May today.