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Disclaimer: The following page lists the symptoms, causes and treatments of some of the commonly seen problems in iguanas. This page is by no means meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care! The Green Iguana Society recommends routine vet check-ups and visits whenever problems are seen or suspected.

Kidney Disease/Failure
Stomatitis (mouthrot)

Gout - Inflammation and stiffening of the joints.

    Symptoms -
    • Swollen and painful joints
    • Other swollen tissues, such as the eyes
    • Lethargy, inactivity
    • Unhealthy looking skin or scales

    Causes -
    • Too much protein in the diet, which leads to a build-up of uric acid (a product of protein digestion) in the blood. Uric acid crystals lodge in the tissue of the joints, lungs, kidney and liver.
    • Chronic dehydration/kidney damage

    Treatment - Veterinary treatment is necessary. A combination of medication, husbandry changes, and even surgery may be needed. There is no cure for gout. This disorder causes permanent pain and disability, and severe cases can lead to death. As with so many other disorders in iguanas, prevention is the key.

Hypothyroidism/Goiter - A condition that occurs when inadequate amounts of iodine are available in the body. The thyroid gland, which produces hormones that regulate metabolism, energy levels, growth, temperament and shedding, needs iodine to function properly. If not enough iodine is available, the thyroid gland will swell (resulting in a swollen neck, and known as goiter) and will produce levels of hormones that are too low (hypothyroidism = low thyroid).

    Symptoms -
    • Lethargy, inactivity
    • Having a chubbiness to the body
    • Slow growth
    • Sweet, easy-going temperament, even without a lot of handling or taming

    Causes - Too many goitrogens in the diet. Goitrogens are chemicals that interfere with the body’s ability to utilize iodine. These chemicals are found in foods like brocolli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy and brussel sprouts.

    Prevention/Treatment - Feed goitrogen-containing foods infrequently and in small amounts. If hypothyroidism occurs or is already present, further reduce or eliminate these foods altogether. Iodine supplementation is not necessary - all that is needed is a balanced diet with a lot of variety.
For more information on hypothyroidism, see Melissa Kaplan's Hypothyroidism in Green Iguanas.

Kidney Disease/Failure - When the kidneys have been damaged and are no longer functioning properly, causing a build-up of toxins in the blood and an imbalance of various substances in the body, such as calcium and phosphorus.

    Symptoms -
    • Lethargy, lack of responsiveness
    • Weakness
    • Loss of the use of limbs
    • Loss of appetite and weight
    • Increased thirst
    • Reduced urate output with frequent urination
    • Thickened, yellowed urates
    • Dehydration
    • Constipation
    • Swelling of the throat or abdomen

    Causes -
    • Poor diet (often too much protein)
    • Chronic dehydration
    • Long-term antibiotic use
    • Sometimes the cause is not known.

    Prevention -
    • Proper, vegetarian-only diet
    • Access to plenty of fresh drinking water
    • Frequent misting and bathing
    • Maintenance of proper humidity levels in the iguana’s environment
    • Avoidance of antibiotic overuse

    Treatments - Immediate veterinary treatment is necessary! Death can occur in as little as a day or two after the first onset of symptoms! Common treatments the vet will prescribe:
    • Administer fluids (orally and/or via injections)
    • Reduce blood phosphate levels with phosphate binders
    • Increase blood calcium levels with calcium therapy
    • Potential administration of anabolic steroids

    If treated immediately upon the onset of symptoms, iguanas with kidney disease can be stabilized and the blood imbalances can be fixed. However, the damage to the kidneys is irreversible, and later episodes of kidney failure can be expected. Long-term treatment is usually necessary.
For more information on kidney disease, see Kidney/Renal Failure by Tricia Power, Kidney Failure in Green Iguanas by Melissa Kaplan, and Clinician’s Approach to Renal Disease in Lizards by Stephen Divers.

Stomatitis (mouthrot) - A secondary bacterial infection of the tissues of the mouth.

    Symptoms -
    • Early onset: Reluctance to feed and increased, thickened saliva
    • Advanced stages: Yellowish-white, cheesy looking pus on or in the mouth, disintegration of mouth tissue, loose teeth

    Causes - Mouth rot is a secondary infection; that is, it is present in iguanas that are sick with other infections, and/or are severely stressed.

    Treatment - Veterinary care is necessary! Your vet will show you the proper way to clean the mouth, remove debris, pus, and dead tissue, apply topical ointments, deal with bleeding, etc. Some of the treatments that may be prescribed are:
    • Flushing the mouth with Betadine or Nolvasan solution.
    • Removing pockets of pus and/or dead tissue with a cotton swab, tweezers, or other tool.
    • Treatment with systemic antibiotics, depending upon what other infections are present. This step is especially important, because if other infections aren’t treated, the mouthrot will return.
    • Your husbandry will be checked and any pertinent changes recommended.
For more information on mouth rot, visit Ulcerative Stomatitis (Mouthrot) in Reptiles by Melissa Kaplan and Ulcerative Stomatitis (Mouthrot) in Reptiles by Tricia Power.

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