Green Iguana Society logo © 1999-2001, D. Baze

This page contains quick help, tips and answers to commonly asked questions about iguanas and iguana care. Many of these symptoms and problems may be signs that there is a serious problem that may need immediate veterinary care. These tips are in no way intended to be a replacement for quality veterinarian care!

If you are new to iguanas and iguana care, please visit our Tips for New Iguana Owners page, which is designed especially to help you get started caring for your iguana and to help you deal with many of the more common problems that new iguana owners experience.





Bitten By Your Iguana
Broken/Bleeding Claws
Burns
Flesh Wounds
Tail Injuries
Prolapse


Black Spots on Skin
Breathing Problems
Color Changes
Constipation/no pooping
Dehydration
Diarrhea
Egg-Laying
Paralysis
Parasites
Shedding Problems
Urate Problems
Vomiting


Appetite Loss
Biting, Tail-Whipping & Aggressiveness
Digging
Gaping Mouth
Hiding
Lost Iguanas
Nose Rubbing
Scared Iguana
Sleeping Pattern Changes
Sneezing
Taming Problems
Unresponsiveness or Lethargy




Bitten By Your Iguana - Most importantly, you need to remain calm. First of all, if your iguana is still latched on to you, you must get your iguana to let go. You can do this several ways, but any way you can get it to release as quickly and as smoothly as possible is best. Their teeth can cause more damage by attempting to pull or tear the iguana off. Turn the iguana upside down; this awkwardness will sometimes cause the iguana to release. You can also try to use a cloth with some strong drinking alcohol on it and put near your iguana's nose and mouth. The smell will sometimes cause the iguana to release. Special care should be taken so that it doesn't get in the iguana's eyes, nose or mouth. You may also try to just pet your iguana and try and get it to relax. If the bite is a severe one where you are bleeding profusely, you may even consider going to the hospital with the iguana attached (and hopefully it will release before you get there).

Hopefully, the iguana has released you. Make sure you put your iguana in its habitat or another room and try not to get too mad at it. Assess the situation. If the bite is severe and you're bleeding profusely, you'll need to quickly stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the wound. Assess the situation again. You'll need to decide if the bite is severe enough for a trip to the hospital emergency room. Iguanas are very capable of delivering that serious of a bite.

Once you get the bleeding to stop, it is now time to clean your wound. Wash the wound with soap and water, flush it with sterile saline, apply some Betadine™ and some antibiotic ointment, and then properly bandage the wound. You should have all you need in your iguana's first aid kit.

If you have experienced a deep and/or severe bite and you have to go to the doctor, it's important that you tell your doctor that iguanas carry Gram negative bacteria. This will help your doctor prescribe the right kind of antibiotics.

There is much more you should learn about properly treating a bite from an iguana, but hopefully this will help you for now. Melissa Kaplan has a very good article, Dealing With Iguana And Other Reptile Bites that will inform you of a lot more information than we have here. The best way to deal with being bitten by your iguana is to not get bitten. For more on how to protect yourself from being bitten, visit our Your Health & Safety page.


Broken/Bleeding Claws - When cutting an iguana's claws, you should only trim the the very end, where it is sharp. (Please see our Claw Trimming page for more details.) If you do clip too much, here's what you can do: Gently wash the bleeding nail with warm soapy water and/or iodine (Betadine™). Blot dry gently. To stop bleeding, press a cotton ball, stypic pencil, styptic powder or plain household cornstarch against the bleeding end of the nail. Put gentle pressure on it, but not enough pressure to cause pain. Usually 30 seconds to one minute will do it, but sometimes it takes longer. Be sure that your iguana's habitat is especially clean at this time. Dragging the injured claw through feces and old food can, and probably will, cause infection.

Treatment for a claw that has been ripped out or broken is similar to the described treatment for claws clipped too far back, but you'll want to omit the styptic powder, stypic pencil, or cornstarch, because they will cause pain to actual flesh injuries. Instead, gently press a cotton ball or clean cloth against the toe until blood flow has stopped or at least slowed substantially. Keep a close eye on the injured toe until the healing is completed, because toe infections are very common. Watch for swelling and/or blackening or the toe, and/or scales sloughing off. This indicates infection and the toe will have to be treated and possibly amputated by a practiced herp vet before the infection can spread any further.


Burns - Iguanas get burned fairly easily, despite liking warm temperatures. They do not judge heat very well when it isn't directly overhead, and they can get burned severely before they realize that they are too hot.

To treat a burn for the first time, take your iguana to the vet. It is important to know if the burn is minor or severe to determine if you can treat it yourself. A minor burn (first degree) can be cleaned with a solution of Nolvasan™ or Betadine™, patted dry, then covered with a thin layer of antibiotic ointment like Neosporin.

If the burn is deep or not treated right away, secondary bacterial infections can occur. Serious burns need intensive treatment (burn ointments, antibiotics, debridement cream might be used, among other things), as do the secondary bacterial infections. If you have any smidgeon of doubt, take your ig to the vet.

Note: Most burns are the fault of the owners. A heating unit was used improperly, wasn't secured correctly, the iguana was left unsupervised near a radiator, etc. Make sure that you've changed your setup or habits to prevent further burns.


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™ 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. After the cut, scrape or flesh wound has been initially taken care of, the healing process must begin. For more on proper healing, please visit our Injuries page.


Tail Injuries - As with any bleeding injury, the first thing that needs to be done is stop the blood flow. Use the styptic powder from your first aid kit. Dampen a cotton swab, dip it in the powder, and touch it to the tail tip. Be generous in your application, as more will get the bleeding stopped sooner. If you are out, cornstarch or flour can be used in a pinch, but the styptic powder works better.

Once the bleeding has stopped, you then need to clean the tail tip. Rinse it well with Betadine™, making sure that the powder is completely gone. Use a sterile gauze pad to help wipe the powder away. Let it dry, and apply a heavy coat of antibiotic ointment. You will need to clean it daily until it heals. Twice daily application of the ointment is ideal, because the wound will heal better.

Make sure the humidity is at least 70%, as iguanas heal better when they are not dehydrated. Try to avoid bathtub soaks during the initial healing period. You donít want to introduce bacteria to an open wound, which can happen with the tub soaks particularly if your iguana poops while soaking. If that is the only way to get your ig to poop, putting enough Betadine™ in the water to make it tea colored will help. After the tail has gotten past its initial healing, you can resume lengthy soaks.

Warning signs: if at any time the tail turns black and soggy, or black and flaky, you need veterinary care. These signs are of two types of gangrene (wet and dry). Donít confuse a scabbed tail (dark but not wet nor dry) with an infected tail. As always, if you donít know what these signs are, you need to see a veterinarian.

For more information on tail loss, see our Tail Loss article.

Prolapse - A prolapse is when a piece of tissue that is normally inside the body protrudes through an opening. In iguanas, prolapses occur when the hemipenes (in males), cloacal tissue or intestinal tissue protrude from the vent just in front of the tail. A prolapse is a very serious condition and needs immediate veterinary attention! If left outside the body for long, the exposed tissue will dry up and die. It may also become exposed to bacteria and cause infection. For more on how to try to return prolapsed tissue to its appropriate place and how to safely transport an iguana with a prolapse to the veterinarian, visit the section on prolapse in our Miscellaneous Conditions page. Please note that even if the tissue retracts on its own or with your help, an iguana that has suffered a prolapse still needs to see a vet right away.



Black Spots on Skin - Your iguana can have two types of black spots on its skin. One is normal, the other is a sign of infection. The "normal" black spot is simply skin pigmentation. Other than color, it looks exactly like the green or brown scales do.

The dangerous black spots are sometimes a fungal infection called black fungus disease or black spot disease. The spots are black and differ in texture than a normal scale. They are dry, black, and crusty. It can spread and it can be contagious to another iguana, and it can make the iguana's skin die and rot or flake off if it isn't stopped. It is usually caused by improper habitat. If the iguana is in a dirty, wet, or moldy cage, or if it can't get off of a dirty substance and climb to a warm and dry area, it can lead to this disease.

Some people have treated it with an antibiotic ointment spread thinly on the affected area, but because it might be a fungus, you may need an antifungal ointment from the veterinarian. This isn't something that can be treated without veterinary care unless you already know what is happening. Not all black spots can be this; your iguana can get dry or wet gangrene from a bacterial infection that causes spots to turn black and die. This would also need veterinary treatment since it can also spread if it isn't taken care of properly (sometimes you need to have the dead part of a tail or toe or spike amputated to prevent the infection from spreading). Dry gangrene makes areas turn dark/black, and it is dry and flaky. Sometimes bits break off when affected by dry gangrene. Wet gangrene is also black, but the infection makes it mushy and damp instead of dry and flaky.


Breathing Problems - Your iguana should always breathe without trouble. "Snalting" is not a breathing or respiratory problem. If your iguana has rapid or labored breathing, keeps its mouth open for a long time, has excessive mucus in the mouth, a foamy liquid discharge from the nose (don't confuse it with snalting), or is wheezing, it could have a respiratory problem. They are usually accompanied by a decreased appetite and a lack of normal activity.

The cause of breathing problems is usually do to a respiratory infection and the causes of the infection can be varied. If the habitat is too cold, the iguana can't fight off bacteria or viruses very well. If it is too humid with too little ventilation, bacteria and viruses can breed and your iguana can't fight them off. If it is too dry, the mucus in your iguana's respiratory tract can dry out and make it prone to infection.

The treatment for this is to get into the vet IMMEDIATELY so he or she can culture the infection to decide appropriate treatment. Respiratory infections can go from "not too bad" to death in a very short time. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, but viral infections don't have much in the way of treatment. Often a viral infection is followed by a bacterial infection, so antibiotics might be necessary with a viral infection. Both conditions might be helped by changes in habitat; some changes might be temporary (such as an increase in temperatures for a short time) and others may be permanent (more humidity, for instance).


Color Changes - To a certain extent iguanas do change colors. It doesn't happen dramatically as with chameleons, and in most cases it is not something to worry about. The colors are changed in response to changes in stress, health, mood, or temperature. They do not change in response to what they are resting on.

If the color change is temporary, then it is not something you need to worry about. Stress can make an iguana become lighter or darker (a vet visit, a person they don't like bothering them, etc. can cause a stress response).

A cold iguana will be darker in order to absorb more heat, and a hot iguana will be lighter to absorb less heat (think of a black t-shirt and a white t-shirt on a hot summer day). An iguana should never be cold in its habitat, so an adjustment in heat is necessary.

Breeding colors are also a form of temporary change. During breeding season, iguanas colors will become much more bright, especially in males. They usually gain a lot of orange coloration that can be very vivid. It can look like they were dipped in orange paint, and it is predominantly on the arms, legs, and spines. This color change is a long temporary, as it can last as long as breeding season does, which can be three months or more.

When the color is NOT temporary, then you need to worry. A sick iguana can become dark, muddy, or brownish in hue and the color does not revert back to normal. You need to take your iguana to the vet as soon as possible when this happens. For more information, please visit our Color Changes page.


Constipation/no pooping - Constipation is when your iguana is not pooping regularly. If your iguana eats daily, it will most likely poop daily. When it doesn't poop on a regular schedule, it is a sign that something needs to be fixed.

Constipation can happen because of internal parasites, stress, temperature, food or blockage (when your iguana eats something it shouldn't, like plastic wrappers on the floor, gravel, particulate substrates, etc).

To help ease constipation, try increasing the habitat temperature if it is too low, give warm baths (soaking can stimulate pooping), test for parasites, expose to natural sunlight if it is warm outside, or try a laxative (mineral oil in small amounts, petroleum jelly or cat hairball remedy are options). If your iguana hasn't pooped for a couple of days despite fixing the habitat or giving warm baths, then call the vet. Your iguana needs to be checked for parasites or an obstruction that could need surgical removal.

For more information on constipation with iguanas, please visit our Miscellaneous Conditions page.


Dehydration - Dehydration is a common problem with iguanas in captivity. If they lose too much fluid from their bodies, organs start to fail and death can occur.

If you think your iguana is dehydrated, gently pinch some skin together. The arms and legs are good spots to do this on. The skin should immediately return to its original position; if it stays up for a few seconds your iguana needs more fluids.

Always give your iguana a bowl of clean fresh water, even if you don't see it drinking it. Many iguanas do drink from bowls or from tubs while soaking. Some need to be taught to drink from standing water, which you can learn about on our Food & Feeding section. Stop feeding commercial iguana food if you already do as a main part of the diet. It is too dry for most iguanas. They get moisture from the food they eat (their primary way of getting it). Misting the food they eat can also help increase the fluids they get, and keeping the tank properly humid will help prevent water loss. Mist the tank/cage as iguanas will often lick the droplets that form on the leaves/limbs/walls. Make sure temperatures are not excessively high. If these solutions don't make a difference in a day or two, call your vet. Fluid injections might be necessary.

For more information on dehydration, please visit our Miscellaneous Conditions page.


Diarrhea - Diarrhea is the opposite of constipation. When your iguana poops very runny stools more often than usual, it has diarrhea.

In most cases it isn't something to excessively worry about. It is usually caused by eating too much food with a high water content, such as too much fruit. Stop feeding as much, and the diarrhea caused by this will go away.

If the diarrhea isn't caused by diet (and if you haven't fed anything with a high water content over the last few days, it probably isn't caused by that), it is usually the result of an infection by bacteria, viruses, or other organisms. You would need to take a stool sample to the vet for examination to get medication for treatment.

Other than these two causes, temperatures in the extremes (too high or to low) can cause it as can stress or disease, or a dramatic change in diet. If you don't find any possible cause in your care of the iguana, it should see the vet as soon as you can get it in.

For more information on diarrhea in iguanas, please visit our Miscellaneous Conditions page.


Egg-Laying - If your iguana starts laying eggs, you need more information than a couple paragraphs of a quick help can give you. Remember that panicking won't help much. To read more detailed information on egg-laying visit our Breeding Season Issues and Breeding Iguanas in Captivity pages.

In the meantime, you can expect between 6 to 70 eggs, with the average number being around 40. Larger iguanas will lay more eggs than smaller ones. The egg-laying process can take several hours.

It is best, of course, that you read up on the entire process before your iguana is old enough to lay her first clutch. It happens yearly in healthy females, regardless of exposure to males.


Paralysis - If your iguana seems to be paralyzed, it needs vet care IMMEDIATELY. Paralyzation generally happens for two reasons. One is an injury that breaks bones, like a back or a pelvis. The actual break can prevent your iguana from being able to move, or there can be injuries to the nerves which prevent your iguana from moving.

The other reason is from Metabolic Bone Disease. When the iguana isn't getting enough calcium or isn't able to metabolize it, it softens the bones and causes muscular and neurological abnormalities. Sometimes paralysis from MBD is accompanied by twitching in the arms and legs.

Both of these conditions are serious and should be looked at immediately. It isn't a bad idea to slip something under the iguana like a stiff piece of cardboard and transfer the iguana to a board that is light enough for you to carry yet strong enough to support the iguana. Use the self-stick medical bandage from your first aid kit to gently secure the iguana to the board in a position as close to a normal sleeping/resting position as possible (wrap it so its head and body are kept straight, as is the tail). This way you can help prevent further injuries to the iguana from thrashing around or trying to move until you can get it to the vet for X-rays.


Parasites - Parasites are a common problem in reptiles and shouldn't cause undue worry. There are two kinds, internal and external. Internal includes a variety of worms (roundworms, pinworms, hookworms), as well as protozoans (small one celled organisms) and bacteria like giardia. If your iguana poops out worms, it's a good sign that it has internal parasites. Other symptoms can be diarrhea or constipation, so watch for changes in your iguana's pooping habits.

External parasites in reptiles tend to be ticks and mites. For more information on diagnosis and treatment, click here. General symptoms of infestation can be changes in behavior (listlessness), scratching, damaged scales, as well as actually seeing spots moving on your iguana, particularly in the folds and under the edges of scales.

To a certain extent you can treat ticks and mites at home. Do not simply yank off a tick, as that can leave the head imbedded in your iguana and cause infection. Instead, take tweezers or use fingers to grab the tick as close to the iguana's body as possible. Gently and SLOWLY apply pressure and pull on the tick. It should feel the pressure and "let go" if you do it slowly enough. Once out, clean the area with Nolvasan™ or Betadine™ and put an antibiotic ointment on it. If the tick is in a hard to reach area (like a nostril) you'll need a vet to take care of it.

Thoroughly clean the habitat to kill any tick eggs or young ones that might be living in it. This is a true nightmare. You need to do it often (such as twice a week) for several weeks to make sure the populations are gone. Use a safe disinfectant, such as a weak bleach solution, and rinse thoroughly when you are done scrubbing.

Mites are harder to eradicate. Generally, the methods are to try to drown or suffocate the mites through baths or applications of mineral oil, or kill them with topical insecticides that you get from the vet that are safe for your iguana. Mites can cause anemia (low iron) in iguanas, which is why it is so important to get rid of them. Scrub the habitat several times a week and replace the substrate daily. You have entered a nightmare with these mites, as they are one of the more annoying parasites to get rid of.

If you know you have a parasite problem, it's a very good idea to ask your vet for as much information and advice that he or she can give you on how to eliminate the problem. Please visit our Parasites page for more detailed information and links to other sites that have far more information on parasites and how to eradicate them.


Shedding Problems - The major cause of shedding problems for iguanas in captivity is a lack of humidity. You want to give the iguana a minimum of 60% humidity, and it would be better to have it as 70%. However, sometimes even then your iguana might still have shedding problems. First you want to troubleshoot your habitat setup to see if you can change things to make shedding easier.

Make sure there are a variety of surfaces that the iguana has access too. A tree limb with rough bark that is secured so it cantí be knocked over, or a rough brick on the bottom of the cage will give a place for your iguana to rub its body against.

Make sure that you give your iguana ample soaking time. Fill a tub with lukewarm water, no deeper than your iguanaís shoulders, and have it soak for a half an hour (slowly build up to that time if needed). The soaking softens the shed, and makes it easier to rub (NOT pull) off. After a soak, use an old towel to rub gently (or use your fingers) and the shed will fall off.

Misting often can also help encourage a shed. Mist the iguana several times a day. Make sure the tank is warm enough and that there isnít a draft. A cold wet iguana is not a good thing to have.

If soaking methods donít help with a particularly stubborn shed, you can use something like mineral oil or a water based lubricant (generic glycerine, KY jelly, etc.) to slather on the stubborn area. Rub and massage the area well, a few times a day, until the stubborn area releases. NEVER force a stubborn shed off, because you could damage the new skin underneath.

For more specifics on shedding, please visit our page on Shedding.



Urate Problems - First, what are urates? When you look at your iguanaís waste, youíll see that it has 3 parts. One is the greenish-brown feces, one is a clear liquid, and the third is a white or off-white semi-solid part. It looks pretty similar to the white ďstuffĒ that you see in bird waste.

Generally, urate problems are a sign that something is wrong with the iguanaís diet or habitat. There is a certain amount of variation in urates that is normal. The urates can be more solid or more water, they can be more white or more pink.



Vomiting - Iguanas donít normally vomit. If your iguana is vomiting, something is wrong. Lizards donít vomit easily, so if yours does, then it is something that needs to be taken care of right away.

The more frightening possibility is that your iguana has eaten something toxic. If you canít identify what was eating and then regurgitated, call your vet at once.

The other possible causes for vomiting are rough handling after eating, low habitat temperatures, tumor, abscesses, eating foreign (not necessarily poisonous) material, or an infection (bacterial or parasitic). However, because of its rarity, you should at least call your vet if your iguana vomits. An exam will probably be necessary.






Appetite Loss - So, your iguana isnít eating as much as it normally does. This is a problem that may or may not be a sign of something serious. You can let a couple days pass before calling the veterinarian if your iguana stops eating. There are two exceptions to this. If your iguana is obviously sick or injured, you should see the veterinarian right away. The second exception is during breeding season. If you visit our Breeding Season Issues page, you can read more on why appetite may decline during breeding season.

The other reasons that an iguana can stop eating are varied, and some have quick fixes. The habitat temperature can bee too cool, the iguana doesnít like the look, flavor, or texture of the food, or it could be stressed. The amount of light in the habitat can be too low (iguanas need to see their food) or it could be an overcast day. Internal parasites can lower appetite, as can a recent change in its habitat. Some iguanas, particularly new ones, can be shy about eating in front of an audience. Shedding can make your iguana uncomfortable and less likely to eat. A new person feeding your iguana (such as when someone is pet sitting) can mean that the iguana wonít eat much.

So, what do you do? Make sure the habitat is correctly set up and is not too small. If you are unsure of how well your habitat is set up, please visit our Habitat, Enclosures & Cages section for more information. If other changes were made, you might just have to wait for the appetite to return, although some vets will give an injection of calcium and/or vitamins to stimulate appetite if it goes on too long. If it is stressed, find out what is causing the stress and try to fix it. Try leaving the room and see if your iguana will eat more. Make changes in the food, and pay attention to the size of the food (sometimes pieces that are too big discourage the iguana from eating) and vary the way the food is cut up. For more details about food, feeding and food preparation, please visit our Food & Feeding section.

If the troubleshooting doesnít work, a warm bath can sometimes stimulate a low appetite, as does exposure to direct sunlight if the weather allows it, for about a half hour to an hour. If these methods donít work, you might have to force feed, but do this only under the supervision and recommendation of a veterinarian.



Biting, Tail-Whipping & Aggressiveness - One minute, you have a calm, nicely behaved iguana. The next, the iguana is biting, tail whipping, and being generally mean. The behavior can change like the flick of a light switch. Knowing why this happens can help you to deal with your iguana better.

Many iguanas bite when they want to threaten you. They might do this when they want to be left alone, while being picked up when they donít want it, or if they are just generally annoyed. For the most part it is a bad habit that they have gotten into and that is your responsibility to get them out of. What often works is to have a piece of food or a treat in your hand, and when they stop to tongue-flick or examine the food, then go about what you were doing (picking them up, feeding them, etc). The distraction works well for most iguanas, so continue doing it until they feel comfortable with your actions and donít bite as much. If the iguana is an adult in breeding season, or if it is biting in extreme aggression, use caution when using a treat to distract its biting behavior.

If your iguana is scared, its first defense is to run away. If that isnít possible or doesnít work, your iguana will most likely tail whip. With a hatchling, tail whipping isnít very painful. Donít jerk away, and just ignore the whipping. If the iguana thinks that the whipping will work, it will continually try to use it. If you have a big iguana, keep in mind that tail whipping only works from a distance. Stay as close to your iguana as possible, pick it up, and hold it close to your body. There is no room for the tail to whip when the iguana is held this way and is close to you. Repeatedly doing this will discourage a big iguana from tail whipping. Although holding or standing close to your iguana will prevent tail whipping, an extremely aggressive iguana may bite, so use caution with an extremely aggressive iguana. For more information on preventing injuries from an aggressive iguana, please visit our Your Health and Safety page.

Aggressiveness itself can come from many things. Aggression can simply be the way an iguana acts when it is not acclimated to its surroundings. If the iguana is fearful, it can respond aggressively. If it is in breeding season, it can respond with aggression. If it is sick or in pain, it can respond with aggression. It is best to try to understand what is causing the aggression. For more information on acclimating your iguana, visit our Taming & Training page. For more information on breeding season, visit our Breeding Season Issues page. If the aggression persists without an understanding as to why it's acting that way, it may very well mean that your iguana needs to be examined by a quality veterinarian.



Digging - Sometimes iguanas dig. Many dig just because there is something to dig in (a towel, potted plant, etc). Some iguanas dig to get out of an enclosure. Most digging is nothing to worry about. However, a gravid female iguana that is close to egg laying will dig to build a nest for the eggs. The digging can last for days, and can last all day. Your iguana might choose ďunsuitableĒ places to dig the nest, like a bathtub. If your iguana is gravid, you need to provide a choice of nest boxes with a variety of materials to dig in. The suitability of a nesting site plays a factor in the ease of egg laying. If the female cannot find a suitable site, then she may not lay the eggs until she does. Egg-binding (dystocia) can result, which is a serious condition. For more information on gravid females and egg laying, please visit our Breeding Season Issues page.



Gaping Mouth - An iguana that is gaping its mouth open is most likely overheated. This can be a very serious problem if not taken care of immediately. The best solution is to immediately take your iguana to a cooler location and make sure it is drinking plenty of water. Overheating often leads to dehydration, so supplying plenty of fresh water to drink and soak in is very important. It also a good time to make sure you have plenty of thermometers and proper and safe temperatures, and that any lighting or heating devices are properly set and working. Also make sure your iguana has a cooler place to retreat to if it becomes overheated again. If the gaping mouth behavior continues well after you have cooled the iguana down, a visit to a qualified herp vet is recommended. Please read more information on overheating on our Miscellaneous Conditions page.



Hiding - So, your iguana is hiding. There are two kinds of hiding. One is temporary, and is a natural response for an iguana if it has just been moved to a new home or a new cage. This sort of hiding will pass as the iguana adjusts to the new things in its life.

The second type of hiding is excessive, and it is a clear sign that something is wrong with the iguana or its habitat. If the iguana is sick or injured, it may hide, and needs veterinary care. If it is intimidated by a cagemate, then they should be separated for their own safety and psychological health. If the habitat is too small, then building a larger one will help the iguana not feel so stressed that it needs to hide. Luckily, excessive hiding generally has a cause, and once you fix the problem it will get better over time.



Lost Iguanas - Iguanas are notorious escape artists and even the most attentive iguana owners have had experience with losing their iguana. First of all, don't panic and then visit our Lost and Loose Iguanas page for more information on lost iguanas.



Nose Rubbing - If your iguana is rubbing its nose on its enclosure or cage, chances are there is a very good reason for it. Some of the most typical reasons for nose rubbing are improper temperatures or humidity, living in an enclosure that is too small, lack of quality UV lighting, too many hours of light exposure everyday, and lack of regular handling or freedom. If the cause of the behavior is not remedied, it will usually continue. This can lead to serious and even irreversable damage to your iguana's nose. Please visit our Miscellaneous Conditions page for more information on nose rubbing.



Scared Iguana - It can happen at any time: your iguana, which only seconds ago was comfortably and calmly basking away, suddenly becomes scared and agitated by something in its environment - people, kids, other pets, or something else that you may not be able to immediately identify. You find yourself surprised by any combination of behaviors - panicked running, tail whipping, biting attempts, crocodile rolling, hatchet mode body positions....Now what?

Well, first of all, it is important that you learn to translate your iguana's body language, so that you recognize the subtle and not-so-subtle clues that your iguana is scared and/or upset. To learn more about how iguanas communicate with their body language, visit our Body Language page.

Once you recognize the signs, how do you take care of the problem? Well, the solution to your iguana's fright, of course, depends upon what exactly is the cause of its fear. Here are some examples of common fear triggers, and how you can take care of or reduce the problem.
    - People: Many iguanas are initially afraid of people, particularly young iguanas that are not fully tame yet. The key to dealing with this problem is to patiently spend a lot of time working with your iguana, until it loses its fear of you and its other caretakers. For more information on taming iguanas, visit our Taming and Training page. Once your iguana is comfortable around you, you can begin working with it in the presence of people it doesn't know as well. Iguanas that are exposed to new people and situations on a regular basis and in a positive way, will usually become acclimated to such situations over time.

    - Other pets: Many iguanas will initially (or permanently) fear other household pets. There are many issues related to keeping iguanas and other pets in the same home. For detailed information on how to deal with these issues, visit our Iguanas and Other Pets page.

    - New surroundings: It is not uncommon for iguanas that are introduced to new enclosures or surroundings to initially react with fear. The key to dealing with this problem is to try to eliminate other stressors in your iguanas environment, stick to your normal care routine, and give your iguana plenty of quiet time to get used to its new home. In time, it will overcome its fear.

    - Other: Sometimes iguanas will react negatively to the strangest, most innocuous things. For examples, many iguanas react with fear or aggression when their owners wear certain types or patterns of clothing. The trigger differs from iguana to iguana, and include such things as plaids, patterns with other animals and/or animals eyes on them, and certain colors. One iguana I know of hates any object that has a white or light background with blue flowers or anything resembling blue flowers on it. He becomes upset and aggressive at the sight of a certain skirt, turtle neck shirt, and ironing board cover - all of which share this pattern. Iguanas often react negatively to changes in their owners' appearances, as well. For example, wearing a towel on your head after your shower, wearing glasses when you normally don't, or getting a new hairdo may all trigger fear or aggression in your iguana. The key is to identify exactly what is causing the problem, and then doing what you can to avoid exposing your iguana to these objects in the future.
General courses of action that may help calm a frightened iguana include dimming or turning off the lights, or covering your iguana with a towel or blanket or otherwise blocking its view of the offending object. These may help you and your iguana deal with the initial fear, but you may have to slowly desensitize your iguana to the source of its fear over a long period of time, to permanently take care of the problem. Whatever the case, the key is to be able to read your iguana's body language, identify the problem, and use patience and common sense to solve it.



Sleeping Pattern Changes - Pet iguanas sleep like babies; they fall asleep where they are and they sleep deeply. They will fall into a routine and expect to go to sleep at a certain time if you are consistent with turning their lights off at night. In the wild, iguanas have about 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness every day, all year around. In captivity, it is best if they are provided with something very close to this. It is very important that you establish and then stick to a daily routine when it comes to turning lights on and off. Timers are easy to use and make it possible to provide your iguana with a 12:12 or 13:11 day/night cycle even when you are not around to manually turn lights on and off. It is also important to provide your iguana with a dark, quiet sleeping area, away from lights and activity. You should avoid placing your iguana's enclosure in an area where there is a television, stereo or a lot of activity at night.

Normally, iguanas wake up in the morning and remain awake throughout the day. It is not normal for iguanas to nap a lot during the day, the way dogs and cats do. They usually stick to a strict "wide awake in the day, sound asleep at night" routine. A change in this normal pattern can mean illness, or it can be a response to changing seasons. If your iguana goes to sleep earlier and wakes up later as summer ends and winter starts, that is normal. You will notice slight shifts in sleeping patterns with the seasons. However, if your iguana is sleeping excessively, it might be ill and need veterinary care. Any other unusual or sudden change in sleeping patterns may be a sign of trouble, and probably warrant a vet visit.



Sneezing - Iguanas do not sweat like we do, but they have to expell salt somehow and that's how...they sneeze it out. There may be white crusty stuff around his nose and all over the cage which are salt crystals that it expelled when it sneezed. This is normal and nothing to worrry about. However, if your iguana sneezes excessively, i.e. more than just a few times a day, it may be getting too much sodium in its diet. Also, if sneezing is accompanied by wheezing, coughing or gaping of the mouth, this is indicative of a respiratory disorder and needs the attention of a herp vet.


Taming Problems - Taming, training and acclimating an iguana to new surroundings can take a lot of time and a lot of patience. If you've tried to tame your iguana with little or no success, chances are that you may be rushing the whole taming process. Once again, it can take a long time to tame an iguana.

The first thing you need to do is slow down. Take your time and don't try to tame your iguana quickly. Many people expect their iguana to become tame quickly, but it can take several months to accomplish. The trick is to slowly let your iguana become accustomed to being a pet iguana instead of a wild iguana. This includes starting out with little or no contact, a gradual increase in the amount of time you spend with your iguana, and moving slowly when you do spend time with it. Although we've listed taming problems as quick help, there really isn't anything quick about it. For more information on taming, please read our Taming & Training page.



Unresponsiveness or Lethargy- Sure, iguanas lay around most of the day. But they also are alert, and watch everything that goes around them. If your iguana is laying around and not taking an interest in anything that is happening, then it is lethargic instead of resting or being sleepy. This is usually a sign of illness or injury, and means that you should take your iguana to the vet to find out what is wrong.






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