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Look Up Their Skirt

Ok, so they donít really wear skirts, I know that. But the meaning is the same. Just how do you tell if your Iguana is a boy or a girl? Well if their SVL is less than 8 inches, itís going to be pretty hard to tell by just looking at them. That means they are about 1-2 years of age. I strongly suggest waiting to see what the physical traits show you. The inside of the thighs on males will develop large scales called Femoral Pores. However on females those scales will just look like pinpricks. The sub-tympanic membrane (the large disk-like scale just below the eardrum) will often be double if not triple the size of the eardrum on males, and in females it will only be slightly larger. Males will also get large fatty pockets underneath the sub-tympanic membrane, or jowls. Females will have a more streamlined face. As I said before, it is better to wait and let time tell you the sex of your Iguana. There are a few ways to tell, but they are uncomfortable as well as being sometimes inconclusive. There is probing, which is pushing a probe up their anal vent and by finding out how far it goes in, the sex can be determined. However, there is a chance of tearing due to inexperience or error. And really, would you like that done to you? Another way is inverting the hemipenes but that does not always work and can be terribly uncomfortable. These two methods should only be performed by a veterinarian or experienced herpetologist. Unless you are planning on breeding (more on that later in the chapter) the sex is not really an issue. I have heard no stories of male Iguanas named Lucy going on shooting sprees in a local mall either, so name the Iguana whatever you wish. There are however gender specific care issues that you will need to be familiar with, so determining the sex will be important at some point.


Male Iguanas

Femoral Pores

These pores are located on the bottom part of the thigh going down the leg from the vent to the knee joint. Males will have larger scale like pores, where as females will have small almost unnoticeable ones. Males will develop waxy plugs in their pores. This is common during breeding season and you do not need to worry about them.

Seminal Plugs

This is caused by a build up of seminal fluid in male Iguanas and is fairly common. Seminal Plugs look almost like incisor teeth, but are just inside their anal vent. Inverted Seminal Plugs however, can cause a blockage in their vent. This may be a possibility if you notice that your male, who is in breeding season, is having difficulty pooping. When you look at the base of the tail you should be able to see the Plugs. Try soaking them in warm water and gently rub the plug lumps with a soft cloth or napkin. If you do not have success, check with your vet. Some vets may not be experienced in this area.

Hemipenes

This is the male sex organ. Male Iguanas actually have 2 penises or hemi-pene. This enables them to mate with a female no matter how they have her pinned down.

The Luv-sock

A member on the IML a few years ago made a luv-sock for male Iguanas. Males will masturbate when in season and may often attack things such as clothes, shoes, and even their owners. One way to prevent or reduce the chances of this happening is to offer an alternative. Below is the pattern for the luv-sock.

The Making of a Luv-Sock by Jamie Wong

What you will need: Two large menís socks (dark green seems to be preferred.) Uncooked Rice Thread/needle/sewing machine Microwave

Instructions Place one sock inside the other sock, so that they are double layer thickness. Fill the sock with rice. Donít fill it all the way full, but leave enough room so that it is pliable, squishy and has some give to it. Sew the opening several times with strong thread, so that it wonít rip easily or come unraveled. Place in microwave just long enough so that the rice is slightly warm to the touch.

WARNING Use caution when heating as microwaves can get things too warm and can lead to thermal burns. If you make it so that it is comfortably warm to the touch and no warmer, that is just fine. Also, keep an eye on your Iguana while he uses the Luv-Sock, as sometimes males get a little over-enthusiastic and may rip the sock. Uncooked rice, if swallowed, may lead to gut impactions. Iíve never had any trouble with the microwaving or the rice, but it definitely pays to be cautious. It seems the heat is what holds most of the appeal for the Iguanas, because my boys move on when it cools off.

Males and Their Female Owners

Males, when entering breeding season (and possibly every month) can often sense a female ownerís cycles. Some may have no reaction where others have extreme reaction. Be sure to keep track of the changing behaviors, as the male becomes sexually mature. Many males have been known to try to mate with their owners during the ownerís natural cycle. Take precautions if you are a female owner or have females in you home during their breeding season and her cycle days.


Females

Female Iguanas are often more desired as a pet because they have far less sexual aggression. It is however not as sweet a deal as it may seem. Female Iguanas have far more gender related health problems.

Gravidity and Layboxes

To understand these next few sections you will need to properly understand what the term ďGravidĒ means. Iguanas that become gravid are females that have reached sexual maturity and have begun to produce eggs during their breeding season. One thing that pet stores never told me and most of the books on the market when I adopted my first adult female was that they would become gravid with out ever being mated. This is just part of their natural breeding cycle, which is not unlike that of a birdís.

Once a female has become sexually mature they are physically able to become gravid. There is no telling if and when they will start exactly. One thing I have noticed in my years of stories is that it often coincides with the start of an actual season. If you notice that out of the blue your femaleís appetite has increased severely and she seems frantic with lots of digging activities, chances are good she is gravid. At this time schedule a vet appointment for about two to three weeks down the road. Be sure to offer more food than usual because females will binge to store fat for the time that the eggs are shelling and filling her midsection. Once the eggs become visible to you, she probably just entering the fasting period. This will last about 2-3 weeks. She will eat very little, however she may drink a lot more. She will also not be as active. If the eggs do not come in three weeks time contact your vet to see what he feels is best. See the section on egg binding for a little more explanation.

So she is ready to burst. Where is she going to put the eggs? Well, after your first vet appointment you should have set up a laybox for her. I think the covered or domes kitty litter pans work the best. They offer a deep enough base for you to offer her a place to dig and bury the eggs and they are covered so that they offer her much needed privacy. The base needs something for her to dig in. You will need to set it up with damp soil. Be sure to use what is called ĎVirgin Soilí which means that there is nothing added like chemicals, plant food or pellets. Put the soil in the bottom of the laybox. Try to provide at least four inches in depth. You need to make the soil damp enough that it is firm enough to stay in place, but still be able to dig through. Start with 1 gallon of water and a bag of soil. Add the water one cup at a time and mix well. You donít want mud, just slightly damp soil. Set it up in the cage and be sure to check regularly to see that it is still slightly damp.

There is a chance that your female will not lay her eggs and will lost all the egg weight and return basically back to normal. Egg Absorption is actually reasonably common in non-mated females, however it is best to consult your vet rather than make the call yourself. It could be deadly to your Iguana.

After laying the eggs, your Iguana will look very sickly. She has not eaten well in the past few weeks. All of her food water and stored fat has gone tot he eggs that she laid. She will be weak and tired. Offer her some high calcium Ďtreatí food along with the salad for the first week. You may also want to avoid handling her for a little while as well. Also when bathing her, watch more carefully. She may be dirty the first few times she is bathed, so change the water frequently to provide her fresh drinking water. She should start perking up and returning to normal in a few weeks to a month. If she isnít, consult your vet.

Egg Binding

Egg Binding or Dystocia is where the eggs become trapped due to an obstruction, badly formed eggs, weakened shells or low calcium in the Iguana. You need to get the eggs out. If your Iguana wonít pass them, it is up to you and you vet. If after an approximate 8-9 week period has passed from the beginning of the gravid cycle and you have not seen any eggs, get into your vet. He can assist the female in many ways from massage, medications to induce, or in a worst case scenario, surgery. However scary as it may seem it is better to get her in sooner rather than later. My vet shared a story when I was going through my first season with my female of someone who didnít get in right away. Eventually over two months after the set lay date, the man brought her in. The vet had to perform emergency surgery only to find that the eggs were still inside of her. Some had burst causing a condition called Egg Peritonitis, while others had begun to rot inside of her body. Despite all efforts to save her, she did die due to a full body infection that was cause by one small oversight. Had she gotten to the vet in a timely manor, she would have survived

Proper Egg Disposal

I will not go into incubation in this booklet simply because I do not feel that breeding is the best idea. To properly insure that your eggs are not going to incubate in some trash heap, I suggest freezing them before throwing them into the trash or into your garden. Another option is that if you have children in school or give talks yourself on Iguana care is to boil the eggs before freezing them. That way you can use them as a tool and have removed traces of salmonella.


To Breed or not To Breed

This is always a touchy discussion topic. I personally do not explain anything on breeding unless specifically questioned. There are simply too many Iguanas available now that people do not want in their homes for breeding to be a good idea. The current mortality rate of hatchling and juvenile Iguanas is severe. They are possibly the most disposable reptile pet in the trade today. The basic facts are that they will not turn a profit for you when you are trying to compete against the farm/captive Iguanas on the market for $10.00-$20.00. They are very high maintenance pets. What exactly will you do with the ones that you can not sell or place or even give away? Are you prepared to supply a good, healthy, and proper home for 10-20 hatchling Iguanas that will grow into giant lizards? These are the basic reasons I am against and do not teach about breeding. There are many outlets available to find the information, so if you are interested in breeding yourself, check out the reference section of the booklet.


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
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