When you are considering an exotic pet such as an iguana it is important to know what to expect in order to make an informed decision. Our Alpharetta vets share some important information about caring for an iguana as well as the pros and cons of having one as a pet.
Caring For a Pet Iguana
The iguana is one of the most commonly chosen exotic pets. One of the downsides that many people do not realize until they have one is the required level of care and commitment. They have severe feeding and housing requirements and can grow to be fairly large and are extremely powerful. Iguanas also need consistent handling and are not easily trainable pets which should be kept in mind. Thus, here are some things you should be aware of if you decide to get an Iguana as a pet.
The Temperment of Iguanas
Just like many other types of pets, an iguana will need to be frequently handled in order to help establish trust between you. The difficulty with this is that iguanas are not as receptive as other pets are to the attention that humans provide. As a result, you must handle your iguana with caution and compassion.
Iguanas are known to climb on their humans and if your new pet enjoys this then you should look into wearing protective clothing when you will be handling your exotic pet. 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, much like other reptiles, carry salmonella which can be detrimental to the health of humans. 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.
If you own a pet iguana then you will need to ensure an adequate intake of water in order to avoid kidney issues. If your iguana is lethargic, has to swell on its body, and is drinking or urinating regularly, take it to a veterinarian right away.
Nutritional Needs of Iguanas
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.
All pet iguanas require a calcium supplement in addition to their regular food. As mentioned above, you will also need to provide your iguana with access to fresh water at all times. Follow your veterinarian's feeding recommendations to keep your pet at a healthy weight for his or her size.
Iguanas do not chew their food which makes it very important that you shred or cut up their food prior to feeding them.
Housing Your New Pet 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, an aquarium or a tiny reptile enclosure is a very short-term residence for a baby iguana. This can be shocking when someone begins with a tiny baby iguana.
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° 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° Fahrenheit, and its habitat should not be colder than 75° 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.
Iguanas require at least 70% humidity in their surroundings. In order to increase the humidity you can keep a bowl of water in their enclosure as well as set up a misting device. Misting your iguana twice daily is generally recommended to enhance humidity and preserve healthy skin.
What are the pros and cons of having an iguana as a pet?
Here are some of the pros and cons of having a pet iguana:
Pro: The Lifespan of an Iguana
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: They Need a Costly Environment
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: Iguanas Need a Simple 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: They Are Notoriously 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: Your Pet Iguana Will Sleep at Night
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: These Do Not Make Good Pets 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. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.