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Health Problems

While I will touch on basic health problems and symptoms, there is really no substitute for a good veterinarian or a good family doctor (for the human parents of course.) These people are hIghly trained and knowledgeable in their fields. I can just basically touch upon topics that are common health problems and what to look for with the problem such as causes and basic treatment of your Iguana (or yourself for that matter). Please do not rely on what you read here, in other books, or on the Internet to diagnose and treat. Leave that to the professionals. They didnít spend all that time in school for nothing!



Salmonella is a common disease passed between animals and humans. One thing that most people do not realize is that all reptiles carry Salmonella in their fecal matter. It is a naturally occurring parasite that aids in food dIgestion. However sometimes those natural levels can become elevated thus causing illness. Your vet can do a fecal test to check for the presence of elevated Salmonella levels. Some strains or levels can be deadly to humans as well; especially children, seniors, and those with compromised immune systems. Salmonella infections can be easily prevents with stringent cleaning methods. Make sure that anytime you come in contact with your Iguana that you wash well afterwards. Be sure to use soap, however it does not need to be an antibacterial soap. Help any children with hand washing as well, since they are more susceptible. When cleaning dishes or cages, be sure to always use rags specifically for that purpose. Keep Iguanas away from the kitchen or any food prep/dining areas. I even go so far as to suggest that when cleaning poop dishes or cages, if you have open cuts or sores, consider using gloves. Keeping the cage, yourself and your Iguana clean can prevent cross infection.


This is aimed at a whole different kind of infection. Look at the arms of long-time Iguana owners and you will see the telltale cris-cross scarring and the occasional moon shaped bite scar. Their claws are a double-edged sword. You want them to have enough claw nail to climb, but not enough to shred your flesh. Even the smallest scratch (one that doesnít break the skin) needs some form of attention. Wash the cut and area around it well with soap and water. Depending on the depth, you may want to use iodine or peroxide to clean a but deeper. Also judging by the cutís you may need to apple bandages and ointment. I have found that a triple antibiotic ointment tends to aid in the healing and some like Neosporin may just reduce scarring a bit. Itís always a good idea to keep these items in your bathroom JUST IN CASE!

A Stitch in Time

How deep can an Iguanaís cut or bite go? From an adult, far enough to require stitches. Watch wound depths very carefully. To prevent or reduce the chances of stitches, a doctor I know of suggested not pulling out of the bite. What this means is, if and when you are so unfortunate to be on the receiving end of an Iguanaís mouth, try to wait out the Iguana. Iguanas have very sharp almost serrated teeth meant for tearing foliage. If you pull away, the wound will often be far more severe then if you wait for the Iguana to release. If you can have someone assist you when the bite occurs, you can often pull down on the dewlap and for the Iguana to release like that. The wound will still be deep and it may bleed a bit longer simply because it has no jagged edges and that means clotting takes longer. The upside however is you probably wont need stitches!


If your Iguana is acting different than normal, please at least call your vet. Only they can properly tell you the problem. Any change in the behavior such as personality changes, eating habits, bathroom habits or activity levels is very important and warrants a visit to the clinic. Reptiles hide their symptoms, so you must realize that once you are able to see the problem, it is already progressed to the point of needing treatment. That is why you must see a vet as soon as possible.

Thermal Burns

Iguanas are often subjected to products such as hot rocks or basking lamps inside of their cages. When they have prolonged physical contact with these items, the end result is a thermal burn. Reptiles do not have heat sensors on their undersides. Treatment of mild burns is fairly easy with some burn ointment, however it is always best to consult your vet. Also do away with the heating products that heat from below. They do not help the Iguanas really and they are more dangerous than good. Also remember that the same goes with humans and the pots I cook on, once an area is burnt it is more susceptible to burning in the future. If the culprit is lIghting, move the lIght to the outside of the cage.


Iguanas will eat anything. Really. I know of an Iguana that passed a thIgh-hi stocking. When she was rescued the rescuer thought that she was gravid, but when she went for a week without pooping, imagine the surprise to find a stocking half in half out of this poor girl. Iguanas taste almost everything as part of their sense of smell. This is the reason loose bedding is not very good for most reptiles, Iguanas included. If you notice your Iguana is not pooping properly, get to the vet. Impactions can be deadly. Blocking the path of dIgested food, it can be stuck and begin to rot in the belly. Sharper objects can cause tears in the dIgestive track. Try to keep the area your Iguana roams in as free of loose debris as possible.



Most internal parasites will be found on newly acquired Iguanas. If you have others in your home, you will want to have a quarantine time for the new arrival. I suggest at least 2 months time. When you have your first vet visit be sure to take a fecal sample so that the vet may check for the presence of parasites and treat them if necessary.


Mites are often found on fresh imports. Once you get mites they are very very hard to get rid of. Mites are easily visible to the naked eye. You need to attack the mites on the Iguana as well as the mites in the enclosure. Just treating one or the other will not do the trick.

To treat the Iguana, soak the Iguana in a warm water bath using a cup to pour water over the back of the Iguana. Drain the water. Now soak the Iguana in a bath with warm water and provodine iodine. Add enough iodine to make the water look like a dark tea. This process may need to be repeated.

The enclosure is a bit more cumbersome to treat. First any bedding, loose plants and things of that nature need to be disposed of. LIghting and heating implements need to be unplugged and washed down. If you have logs, branches or loose wooden pieces, you must bake them (200 degrees for 2-3 hours) or soak them in a bleach solution (1/2 cup of bleach per gallon of water for 10 minutes then transfer to clean water soak, allow to dry completely before placing in enclosure and be sure to check it for mites before placing in the enclosure). Next, completely disinfect the enclosure with the same bleach solution. Then wash all the surfaces with hot soapy water. Be sure to get all the soap residue off. For wooden or porous enclosures you may want to repeat. Another suggestion is to put a pest strip in the cage and seal it off for a while before washing one last time with soapy water and allowing your now hopefully mite-free Iguana back in itís home. Be sure to clean the area outside of the tank well also. Do not leave pest strips in with the Iguana. Get your Iguana in for a check up with the vet to see if he feels there is more that needs to be done to treat your Ig.

Body Drop

Nope this isnít like stage diving. Iguanas can loose body parts for various reasons. Tails or toesí getting caught in cage parts is a common way for this to happen. Another way is that the toes to get carpet fibers wrapped around them, thus cutting off circulation to them and killing the toe causing it to fall off. While this is not necessarily deadly (there is the change of dry gangrene or infections spreading through the Iguana) it can be painful and stressful. A few ways to prevent these problems is first and foremost DO NOT LIFT YOUR IGUANA BY ITíS TAIL EVER! Check toes frequently after roaming time for carpet fibers. Be careful when closing doors. Lastly avoid using sharp fencing for screening in the cage. If they do happen to drop something, get to the vet as soon as possible and treat it as an emergency.

Cuts and Scratches

Treating basic wounds is much the same as with humans. Some povodine Iodine and a triple antibiotic should do the trick for a flesh wound. A vet should see to deeper cuts, lacerations or bites from other Iguanas in case stitches are needed. Watch the wound carefully for sIgns of infection.

Metabolic Bone Disease

MBD is cause by poor care. There is no other cause. Poor diet, lack of UV rays, lack of calcium and poor temperatures are all contributing factors. If caught in the early stages if can usually be treated with little or no side effects. There are many ways to prevent this disease. Following the Melissa Kaplan Diet as well as making sure you have calcium supplements and the proper UV lIghting are the basic preventative measures. Things to look for as sIgns of MBD are swelling and hardening of the limb muscles (often called pop-eye legs), the jaw and mouth area becomes rubbery and deformed, muscle tremors and in worst case scenarios, paralysis. If your Iguana begins to develop any of these symptoms, please visit your vet immediately. He can better judge what treatment is needed. For less severe cases often a change is diet and habitat are what is prescribed, however oral or injectable calcium and vitamins may be added if to the routine if more serious symptoms are present.

Kidney Problems and Failure

Once again poor husbandry and diet more often than not cause this. Feeding your Iguana animal by-products or meat are usually the culprits. Another cause can be lack of humidity. If caught in the early stages this is often treatable. However there is usually remaining damage to the kidneys and possibly the liver and thus will shorten your Iguanas lifespan. Only a vet can properly assess the problem and prescribe a treatment.

Back to Care Main
Chapter 2: Choosing an Iguana
Explains how to choose a healthy iguana and where to go instead of a pet store.
Chapter 3: Getting Started
Covers Supply Shopping, short cuts, and setting up the home
Basic Husbandry
Vet care, Diet, Heat, Humidity and Lighting
Behavior and Taming
Sexuality and Reproduction
Basic concerns dealing with the needs of male and female iguanas
Health concerns
Addresses health concerns for both human and Iguana