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Dealing With Injuries

First of all, please note that it is very important to have a reptile veterinarian lined up for your iguana before anything happens to him. If you do this, you'll never be caught scrambling around with the Yellow Pages looking for a reptile vet while your iguana is bleeding or broken. Having a vet that you are comfortable and familiar with will potentially save you a great deal of heartache. Ask your vet ahead of time if she or he does emergencies. If she or he does not, ask to whom she or he refers her reptile patients to for emergency care.

Cuts, scrapes and flesh wounds

If your iguana becomes injured in some way, first and foremost, do not panic! Many injuries can be made worse if you are panicked and fumble-fingered. Second, assess the situation. If the injury involves cuts, scrapes or flesh wounds, check the immediate area that the blood is coming from, and assess the wound. If the wound is spurting or gushing blood, there is no time to waste in getting your iguana to a vet immediately. If the wound is only trickling or lightly oozing blood, and it appears to be clotting, there is more time to spare. If it's an obviously non-fatal flesh wound of some kind, soak the wound in a water and Betadine™ mix (just enough to taint the water's color), or spray or soak the wound in diluted Nolvasan™ (chlorhexidine diacetate) and bandage loosely in sterile gauze to keep clean. Depending on the wound size and location, a visit to the vet should be considered. Most minor wounds can be cared for at home by a diligent and vigilant keeper.

An extra clean environment is a must for healing. Daily soaking in Betadine™ or Nolvasan™ diluted mixtures, as well as a light coating of triple antibiotic cream or ointment aids the healing process. The wounds should not be bandaged after the blood stops flowing and has clotted, because bandaging inhibits healing. The only exception is when the wound is in a place that is easily contaminated, such as the bottoms of feet or bellies.

Important Note: If you chose to care for a small wound at home without seeing a vet, it is of utmost importance that you keep a very close eye on the wound while it is healing. Watch closely for swelling, redness, tenderness (painful to the touch), sloughing of surrounding scales, and small lumps forming in place of the wound. Any of these things alone, or together, indicated infection and/or abscesses caused by infection. Infections and abscesses need to be taken care of by a vet, without delay. Major wounds that precipitate major blood loss problems need to be treated by a vet. If your iguana suffers a major wound, handle him as little as possible and call your vet immediately. (Hopefully you already have one, because if not you'll have to hunt around and find one when time is of the essence. Finding a qualified herp vet is never easy. I cannot stress enough the importance of establishing a relationship with a vet before you need one.) If you feel comfortable doing so, very, very gently clean and loosely bandage the wound before taking the iguana to the vet. The bandaging will greatly help to keep the wound clean during transportation. Most reptiles with large wounds will be lightly anaesthetized and given stitches, as well as started on an antibiotic program to 'boost' the immune system.

Broken limbs and digits

If you think that your iguana has a broken limb, it's very important that you move him as little as possible to avoid complicating breaks and causing pain. Do not try to cast or splint a broken limb yourself! The animal needs to be seen by a reptile vet immediately or sooner. For transportation, you need to keep your iguana as immobile as possible. Gently (very, very gently!), and with as little movement as possible, move your injured iguana onto a flat, stable surface to transport him on. Drape a towel over his head to keep him as calm and quiet as possible. Move slowly with an injured animal and speak quietly. To determine what is broken and therefore how it will need to be set, a radiograph (x-ray) will be taken. The vet will probably anaesthetize him very lightly in order to set the bone and cast the limb. All ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals heal significantly slower than mammals. Expect a slow recovery with restricted climbing and little strenuous activity.

Pain and pain relief in iguanas is still poorly understood, and most herp vets (even the good ones), don't practice it regularly yet. But remember, reptiles do feel pain! Speak with your vet about pain relievers and effects on iguanas. She or he should be happy to look it up and find a pain reliever and its proper dosage for your iguana.

Tail Loss

For information on dealing with tail loss or breakage, see our Tail Loss article.

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