Top 4 tips to keep your Iguana pet healthy and happy

Iguanas are the most popular reptiles kept as pets. They are also the most seen by vets for illnesses due to improper care. Like many reptiles, their housing and feeding requirements are strict and most new owners are not given sufficient information by pet stores. While the effects of incorrect housing or improper feeding may not be visible for the first few months, long term consequences can become very devastating for the Iguana.

Iguana pet In general, Iguanas can be pretty difficult to tame if not well handled. This is not to say they can't make good pets, obviously, they are cute, but they need proper care and attention right from the beginning. The new owners should also have the right expectations in mind. Many new iguana owners do not realize how long iguanas live, what kind of housing they need, and what kind of diet is required to keep them healthy.

It is important to mention that iguanas can become very large when mature -some reaching up to 6 feet in length and up to 15 pounds in weight. They can also become challenging to handle and a little more aggressive as they grow. That said, with committed, careful owners, proper handling and care, iguanas can make very good pets.

1. Iguana Housing

You can house your iguana in Perspex, wooden or glass enclosures, provided they are spacious enough. A good starting size is a 20-30 gallon aquarium tank for a young one. But keep in mind that iguanas grow very first and can outgrow the cage in a few months. The interior of the cage needs to be lined with artificial grass, newspapers, carpet, or anything that can provide comfort and is easy to clean. Don't use things like gravel, soil or sand as they could be eaten and cause detrimental intestinal compaction.

Be sure to provide hiding spaces as this makes the iguana feel more secure –preferably, a space large enough for your iguana to enter and turn around in. A simple wood, plastic container or cardboard will suffice. Be sure to maintain humidity in the iguana house by providing a humidity box or misting at least once a day around the area. Additionally, provide fresh water in a bowl daily. Iguanas also appreciate an occasional swim or soak in the sink or bathtub.

If you own more than one iguana, it is important to keep in mind that iguanas are not social animals in captivity, so putting two or more together may result into fatal injuries or even death. They may sometimes manage to coexist in peace but the less dominant and less aggressive animal will suffer in terms of environment and food, and may become sickly and weak.

2. Lighting and temperature requirements

Just like all reptiles, iguanas require an artificial source of heat with certain temperature gradient maintained in their enclosure. Since they are tropical lizards, they naturally like things fairly hot. Do not however include hot rocks as these may cause serious burns and sometimes even death. You can instead provide under-cage heating using heating pads. To avoid direct contact, place the pads under the cage. When designing the cage, be sure to provide a basking spot using a heat source and overhead lighting. Keep the temperature between 90 – 100 degrees F, and this should only be available for roughly 10-14 hours a day.

Artificial UV light may provide necessarily radiation for Vitamin D production and calcium absorption, but does not make a perfect substitute for natural sunlight. So take any chance you can get to allow your iguana to sunbathe, especially during summer months.

3. Iguana Diets

This is one of the areas where most new iguana owners go wrong, leading to vitamin D and calcium deficiency. This consequently leads to broken and softened bones, seizures, muscle tremors, stunted growth and even death. The fact it, young iguanas have very different dietary requirements as compared to the adults.

There is a wide range of commercial iguana foods even though none can be fully depended on as a complete diet. It is always a good idea to supply commercial diet as 75% and the rest as plant materials. For the plant material portion, include green leafy vegetables such as kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, lettuce, endive, carrot tops, and turnip. Be sure to use at least three type of leafy green each day as excessive use of one type may cause nutritional disorders. In addition, the plant materials should also include things like green beans, squash, pea pods, broccoli, tomatoes, Okra and cooked sweet potato. You can also include fruits like melon, mango, berries and banana. Generally, the more variety in each meal the better.

When it comes to feeding frequency, feed young iguanas daily. As for the adult, you may only feed then 2 t 3 times a week. Always remember to chop supplement plant food material into small pieces and make sure to give them small amounts that can be eaten in hours.

4. Hygiene

It is very important to clean your iguana, its habitats and yourself properly on a regular basis. Iguanas are known for spread a bacterial known as Salmonella, and this can be easily avoided through proper hygiene.

Commons problems

* Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)

Metabolic bone disease is a condition associated with the weakening of bones or impaired functioning of certain body organs. It is commonly caused by an imbalance of phosphorus, calcium and Vitamin D3. Proper temperature and diet will usually help prevent MBD. Common symptoms include swelling of the curvature in the back or tail and the lower jaw. The lower jaw may shorten missing alignment with the upper jaw. Radiography may help show low density, thin, curved bones.

* Kidney (Renal) Disease

Kidney renal failure is common in pet iguanas due to poor diet and lack of humidity or water. External signs include weigh loss anorexia, swollen abdomen, loss of muscle tone and dehydration. Some iguanas may however not show any noticeable signs and may act healthy even one week to kidney failure. If noticed early, treatment will usually include diet and environmental adjustments.

* Parasites

Iguanas are susceptible to both internal and external parasites. Most internal parasites produce microscopic eggs that pass through fecal matter. Fecal parasite examination should be done routinely especially for newly acquired iguanas. Common external parasites include mites that are often difficult to eliminate. They suck blood and may appear as black or bright red. You can easily get treatments at the vet or pet store which will often include carbaryl or permethrins.

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