Iguanas are difficult, frustrating, complicated, complex and potentially dangerous. Before purchasing an iguana, a very thorough investigation of the care of iguanas should be undertaken. All too often, reptiles like this are taken in by rescue centres because owners can no longer cope.

About Iguanas

Iguanas grow very rapidly until about 2 or 3 years of age. Growth rate varies depending on the individual and also on diet. Iguanas over 4 years old should generally be 4.5 feet (1.37 metres) and 6 feet (1.83 metres) in length.

Handling iguanas is relatively simple. You should use both hands, each one supporting the underside of the iguana in different places.

An Iguana will shed its skin throughout its entire life. It comes off in many small pieces. You should not assist your iguana with it’s shedding because you might accidentally pull off some skin that was not yet ready to shed.

Iguanas may exhibit a head bobbing display. This generally begins happening after the iguana is 1 or 1/2 years old. It can be a territorial display or could be a mating ritual.

Iguanas also sneeze quite often. This is normal behaviour. Iguanas do not sweat like humans so they do not excrete salt through their skin. Instead, they do it by sneezing.

Housing Iguanas

A large vivarium is required. Young iguanas may seem small but they rapidly grow and outgrow the commercially available vivaria. This means that careful DIY construction may be needed! Their housing requirements are specific. They need a “hotspot” where they can bask under a ceramic heatlamp at temperatures up to 90° F and a background temperature of 70° – 85°F varying with the season and time of day. They will require UV- rich fluorescent tube lighting to prevent metabolic bone disease and vitamin and mineral supplementation. The temperature will have to be controlled by thermostat. Such specialist equipment is available from reptile shops.

Iguana diet

Iguanas eat and require a large variety of plant matter for nutritional balance.

Iguana general healthcare

Neutering is recommended for health benefits. Iguanas are equipped with 20 sharp claws. It is a good idea to keep them trimmed as if they are too long, they can injure themselves. If you think they need trimming, get this checked with your veterinary surgeon.

Two common medical problems with Iguanas

Brittle Bones - Metabolic bone disease in iguanas is caused by too little calcium in bone, which is caused by inadequate Calcium or Vitamin D in the diet and/or inadequate exposure to UV light. Symptoms of the disease are dullness, lethargy, low body carriage and possibly, spontaneous fractures. To prevent this, iguanas should have a wide and varied vegetarian diet together with nutritional supplements every few days. They should also have a high UVB light (eg “iguana light”) within 18 inches of their favourite basking position. If an iguana shows signs of any of these symptoms he needs to be seen by a veterinary surgeon who may consider giving him a calcium injection.

Respiratory Infections - Iguanas can contract respiratory infections. This can happen when the iguana is not breathing clean air and when it is kept in cool conditions. If the iguana breathes loudly, possibly with its mouth open, it might have a respiratory ailment and should be taken to a veterinary surgeon for examination. Bubbles or liquid outside the nose and mouth can also be signs of a respiratory infection. If you ever have any concerns about your iguana’s health, always get it checked by a veterinary surgeon.

Article courtesy of Pet Doctors Veterinary Clinics.