Preventative iguana care and lack of disease often goes together. Take an iguana to a veterinarian at the first signs of disease and do not wait. Iguanas can quickly die from diseases such as metabolic bone disease, liver disease, blister disease or a liver disease such as cirrhosis. Be sure to take a fecal sampleto the vet, too, if possible.
Signs of Disease
The main signs of diseases in iguanas are color changes, coordination problems in the hind limbs, appetite changes and changes in defecation. Ideally, an iguana keeper should spend time observing his or her iguana every day in order to determine that iguana’s normal appetite and defecation habits. Bacterial disease can settle in the mouth, causing redness inside, difficulty eating and pus.
Appetite changes can only be noticed over time. Claws and Paws Veterinary Hospital of Pearland, Texas notes that by keeping a journal of each iguana’s appetite and defecation rates can make identifying any of these changes much easier.
But the most prominent sign of disease is color change to either the entire body or to just part of the body, such as the scales around the mouth. Holly Nash, DVM notes that iguanas normally take on vibrant coloration as part of their sexual displays. But color changes due to disease are much different.
Iguanas that turn yellow, brown or black may have parasitic infestations, obstructions in their gut or a disease. Iguanas with liver disease tend to turn yellow, even in their gums and eyes. They need to be examined by a vet right away. Iguanas with dark, raised scales in patches may have a fungal infection or a burn from an over-active heater. Iguanas that begin turning black all over may have blister disease or scale rot. This is a type of bacterial infection caused by a dirty cage and poor living conditions.
Poor iguana care and diseases are closely related. For example, the most common iguana disease, metabolic bone deficiency, can be prevented by feeding a proper diet with Vitamin D and calcium supplements, sometimes called D3 calcium supplements. Vitamin B1 deficiency causes another iguana disease that paralyzes the lizard’s hind legs.
In order for an iguana’s body to properly absorb Vitamin D, they need access to proper temperature and lighting. In the wild, iguanas could get this from sunlight. Pet iguanas need UVA or UVB bulbs in order to simulate sunlight. Iguana’s ideal body temperature is 89 to 95 degrees F. In this range, an iguana is most disease-resistant, according to “The Iguana Handbook” (Barron’s; 2009.)
Iguanas enjoy eating meat, but are not able to stay healthy if meat makes up more than 10 percent of their diet. Eating too much protein or even phosphorous can cause kidney failure and many liver diseases. Although feeding a mostly vegetable diet can prevent kidney failure and some kidney diseases, it may not prevent all iguana kidney diseases. But if detected early through a yearly blood exam, iguanas have a good chance of surviving liver disease, according to “The Iguana’s Den: Care and Keeping of Giant Green Iguanas” (2005.)
“The Iguana Handbook.” Patricia Bartlett & Richard D. Bartlett. Barron’s; 2009.
“The Iguana’s Den: Care and Keeping of Giant Green Iguanas.” Meredith Martin, et al. Lulu.com; 2005.
Claws & Paws Veterinary Hospital. “Care of Green Iguanas.” http://www.cpvh.com/Articles/70.html
Pet Education. “Causes of Iguana Color Changes.” Holly Nash, DVM. http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=17+1796&aid=2741