Common Green Iguana Diseases & Health Issues

Rostral Abrasion (Nose Rub)

Caused by an agitated green iguana constantly rubbing his nose on screen mesh, branches and rough bedding. The cause is ALWAYS a result of inadequate housing/maintenance. Check with your vet to see if your cage is too small or poorly designed. Is your vivarium too cold or too hot, too bright, too dark? The only treatment is to find out why your iguana is unhappy. Fix the problem by experimenting with safe changes in your cage or maintenance. Early stages will only show a small abrasion on the snout. Extreme cases leave scarring or the whole front of the snout may be rubbed off down to the bone. Catch and confront this problem immediately!

External Parasites

This is rare in captive-bred green iguanas. However, the majority of imported iguanas do show some signs of external parasites. Always incubate and isolate your iguana before introducing him to other members of your iguana family. External parasites can harbor ticks, which imbed themselves in the skin. They can be removed by dabbing rubbing alcohol over the tick, then gently removing it with tweezers. Treat this infection with a tickicide or spray/powder containing pyrethins or carbaryl. Avoid the eyes, ears and vent.

Mites may be seen crawling on the surface of your hands after handling an infected animal. Untreated, mites will cause scale rot and lesions. An iguana infected may rub his eyes against the side of the cage or other objects. Treat this infection by placing a 1″ x 1″ piece of No Pest strip the cage for 12 hours 2 days in a row. Repeat in 9 days. Remember to place the No Pest strip in a small, enclosed container to prevent direct contact with the iguana. A small pill bottle with large holes bored into the sides works well! Gently rubbing vegetable oil over the green iguana’s body, legs and tail will help to suffocate the remaining parasites and preventing reinfestation. Do not cover the iguana’s eyes or snout with oil. Use common sense.

Internal Parasites

Imported iguanas almost always harbor heavy loads of internal parasites, including roundworms and pinworms. It’s usually best to provide your veterinarian with a stool sample from your iguana to check for internal parasites. Although some people can provide the proper worming treatment at home, we suggest you let your veterinarian handle this type of procedure. If your green iguana shows any signs such as loss of appetite, dehydration, weight loss, diarrhea or bloody poop, call your vet right away.

Metabolic Bone Disease

Now known as Secondary Hyperparathyroidism, this common disease is caused by lack of calcium. Causes may be improper diet and/or improper lighting. Signs include: soft lower jay, swollen jaw and back limbs, back deformities and broken limbs. THIS IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN CAPTIVE GREEN IGUANAS! Do not neglect their dietary needs! Treatment includes adjustments in diet and maintenance, as well as veterinarian intervention. If caught early, with proper treatment and care you may be able to stop the damage. However, any damage sustained is irreversible. This disease is most often fatal in the end.

Vitamin B Deficiency

Caused by a deficiency of Vitamin B-1. Signs include swelling of the limbs and skeletal deformities followed by paralysis of the hind legs and tail. You can cure this disease by administering B vitamins orally and adding brewer’s yeast to the diet. Injections of Vitamin B will quicken the healing process. Left untreated, your green iguana will suffer a painful death.

Respiratory Infections

Usually caused by improper temperature control in the vivarium. Signs include: Sluggishness, strained breathing, bubbly mucous around the nose and mouth, and a decrease in appetite. At this stage, your green iguana needs to be maintained at a temperature of 85-95° F to help fight off the illness. If symptoms persist, a trip to the vet for antibiotic injections is a must. Do not be alarmed by obvious white mucous sprays on the vivarium walls. Your iguana naturally discharges a salty liquid from his snout.

Lost Tail

This is less of a medical situation and more of a cosmetic annoyance to both the iguana and its caretaker. The main PREVENTION: Do not pick up or hold an iguana by the tail. In defense, he will let loose of his tail to get away. Allow your tame iguana to crawl onto you or pick him up with an upper body hold. An untamed green iguana should be held with one hand above the neck/shoulder area and one hand on the base of the tail closes to the body. Although the tail will eventually grow back, it’ll look little like a tail and more like a thin brown stick.

Veterinary Visits

Animals for Awareness cannot provide all the necessary information you need to keep and maintain a healthy iguana. We only briefly covered the more typical medical situations. To ensure your pet receives the best of care, take your green iguana to the vet for yearly examinations. If you are considering purchasing an iguana for a pet, ask your vet about what signs to look for in a healthy and unhealthy iguana. Reduce your risk of illness by avoiding “imported” iguanas (taken from the wild), and take your pet to the vet as soon as possible after you bring him home. Also, avoid tiny “hatchling” iguanas. These babies are very fragile and are difficult to keep healthy and alive. For a first pet, consider buying an older (6-10 inches) iguana from a private party. An iguana of this size is well established and may be easier to maintain if it’s healthy at the time of purchase.

Only your vet can determine the true health of your pet through blood tests, palpations and observations. Please do not trust your untrained eye when it comes to the health of your iguana. You may, however, trust your instincts when your reptile acts just a little differently than you are used to. This may be a sign for you to get him or her into the vet soon. Only you will know the true personality and behavior patterns of your pet. A reputable vet will trust your judgment and perform necessary tests even if your iguana seems “normal” to him on the examining table.

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