If you're thinking of getting a pet but would like something more exotic than a dog or a hamster, an iguana is a good choice of reptile for a beginner. While exotic pet care is not available at our hospital, our Riverbank vets list what you should know about having an iguana as a pet.
The iguana is a very popular reptile of choice when it comes to pets. However, they require a significant time investment and a high level of care.
Iguanas have very particular feeding and housing requirements and can grow to be fairly large and are extremely powerful. They can also be tough to tame and may grow hostile if not handled regularly. Thus, here are some things you should be aware of if you decide to get an Iguana as a pet.
Behavior & Temperament
Pet iguanas must be picked up and held regularly for them to learn to trust you and feel at ease in their surroundings. This can be difficult because they frequently find human interaction odd and may oppose it. As a result, you must handle your iguana with caution and compassion.
Some iguanas prefer to climb on their humans, so if your pet iguana enjoys this pastime, wear protective gear. The tail of an adult iguana is strong enough to break a human bone. When handling them, pay alert to any struggling or hostility, especially if youngsters or other pets are present.
Common Health Problems
Iguanas, like most pet reptiles, carry salmonella, which can be found in the iguana's digestive tract. Before and after spending time with your pet, wash your hands well and avoid touching your face. Take particular measures if you have young children, seniors, pregnant women, or immunocompromised persons in your house.
Iguanas can be tamed with adequate daily care, but they have a strong self-defense drive and will bite, scratch, and whip their tails if challenged.
Kidney disease, which is commonly caused by dehydration, is a common health issue for iguanas. If your iguana is lethargic, has to swell on its body, and is drinking or urinating regularly, take it to a veterinarian right away.
Fresh food is essential for an iguana's health, and a high-protein diet can lead to health problems such as kidney failure. Iguanas in the wild are strict herbivores who avoid ingesting animal protein, even insects.
In addition to a high-quality pelleted commercial meal, give your iguana some fruit and a calcium supplement. Furthermore, iguanas require constant access to fresh water. Follow your veterinarian's feeding recommendations to keep your pet at a healthy weight for his or her size.
Because iguanas ingest their food whole without chewing, everything you serve must be diced or shredded into tiny pieces.
Housing the Iguana
Iguanas can grow to be up to 7 feet long when their tail is included, and they typically weigh around 20 pounds. As a result, you should explore very sizeable terrariums for them. Small enclosures would be a very temporary habitat for them.
Most commercially available cages are inadequate for this tree-dwelling species. A suitable enclosure for a single iguana measures around 12 feet in length, 6 feet wide, and 8 feet tall. Many iguana owners prefer custom-built enclosures with ramps, shelves, and climbable branches. Many people may even transform a full room or a large closet into an iguana's habitat.
To digest its meal, the iguana requires a temperature of roughly 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat lamps normally placed less than a foot away from basking ledges, can be used to achieve an ideal temperature. The iguana likes to bask at 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and its habitat should not be colder than 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use UVB reptile lights to offer adequate light exposure for 10 to 12 hours every day. Mercury vapor bulbs are appropriate for big enclosures or rooms. Your iguana will be able to bask in these lights thanks to the large branches and shelves in the enclosure.
The Pros and Cons of Keeping an Iguana
Here, we'll list some of the pros and cons you should consider before keeping an Iguana as a pet.
If cared for properly, Iguanas can easily live for more than 20 years. With commitment, there is no reason your iguana cannot live this long.
Con: Expensive to Accommodate
Iguanas require exact living conditions to live a long and healthy life. They will require a terrarium that is large enough to accommodate their final size, as well as appropriate lighting, humidity, and temperature conditions. Not to mention the costly appointments with a vet who specializes in exotic animals. If you believe you will struggle to keep an iguana for the next 20 years, you should consider a different pet.
Pro: Relatively Easy to Meet Their Diet
Iguanas eat leaves, fruits, flowers, and vegetables in the wild, and this entirely herbivorous diet must be mimicked in captivity. Iguanas do not drink much water in the wild because the greens they eat and the humidity in their surroundings keep them hydrated. We recommend consulting with your veterinarian for a more specific nutrition regimen for your pet iguana.
Con: Difficult to Train
If your iguana is exceptionally resistant, taming it can take YEARS. If you don't have the patience to wait so long, there are many more docile lizards available. Giving them food with your hand is also a possibility; this way, they will understand that you mean no harm.
Pro: They Are Diurnal
If you enjoy observing iguanas, it's preferable if they're awake at the same time as you. Iguanas are diurnal species, meaning they wake up with the sun. In the wild, they can be found basking in the sun on a tree branch.
Con: They Aren't for Children
Iguanas have powerful jaws and will bite if they feel threatened. Rapid or unexpected movements can shock an iguana, and toddlers can be fidgety. If an iguana feels threatened and decides to strike, its powerful tail can cause significant harm. So, if you have especially young children, you might want to hold off on the iguana for now.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets and River Oak Veterinary Hospital does not provide exotic pet care.