Just like other reptiles, iguanas are not immune to diseases. Iguanas can become sick and require treatment to recover the health. There are few common diseases of iguana that could deteriorate their health significantly.
Some diseases can threaten the life of the iguana and require further treatment by a veterinarian.
Here are some of the most common diseases of iguana:
1. Fibrous Osteodystrophy or Metabolic Bone Disease
This disease arises from poor nutrition and food. Have in mind that wild iguanas do not suffer from MBD – this disease is only hits iguanas in captivity. If it’s your first time keeping an iguana, it’s recommended to get advice from the seller about the foods suitable for iguanas (or check out our iguana diet guide). Also, lack of UV light for iguana can cause this disease.
Symptoms of this disease include:
- the face and lower jaw that appear soft,
- swollen in the lower jaw,
- leg swelling
- difficulty to eat.
Some foods, such as lettuce, do not contain many nutrients. So it’s important to combine different types of food to feed the iguana.
Never limit your iguana food choice to only 3-4 species of vegetables (or even worse – some junk food).
This condition will be aggravated when the iguana does not get enough vitamin D3 intake causing the body not producing enough calcium.
If iguana already developed MBD, it needs to have calcium supplement together with safe levels of D3 (for example, this one) which helps reptile to absorb calcium.
2. Rear Leg Paralysis
Rear Leg Paralysis is one of the most common diseases of an iguana. This disease is caused by vitamin B1 deficiency. To cure this condition, the veterinarian will usually inject vitamins and minerals as well as recommend changes in iguana feeding.
3. Nose blisters
When not feeling comfortable in its new environment, iguanas will try to escape from the enclosure causing scratches and blisters on the nose and face.
When looking for a way to escape they usually rub the nose on the cage causing blisters. If the blisters are not treated, bacterial infections or ulcers may occur.
Some owners may install lights inside the iguana enclosure. Improper installation may cause iguana to come in contact or trying crawl on them. Contact with a hot light has the potential to cause burns which could lead to serious infection. So make sure put the lights in a safe place away from the iguana and never use heating rocks in iguana’s enclosure.
Minor burns can be treated with povidone-iodine, although it’s hard, for an inexperienced owner, to estimate the burn degree (they could be deeper than they look). Generally, iguana with burns should see a vet.
5. Bacterial Infection
There are several types of bacterial infections that can harm the iguana. If the iguana is constantly exposed to a moist and dirty environment, this may trigger blisters on the skin.
Lack of cleanliness of the cage can cause gangrene in the toes and nails. The area affected by the infection then becomes dark gray or black and starts to crack. Infection can also attack the mouth of the iguana. The disease is usually characterized by inflammation and pus in the mouth.
Always remove food leftovers from the cage!
Parasites are a common cause of iguana’s death. There are two groups of them – external (hooked on the skin surface) and internal (which circulate in the blood of iguana or are in the digestive tract.)
External parasites (mites and ticks are most common) usually find shelter in iguana’s vent, eyelids and mouth and are result of iguana’s dirty residence. You can suspect on them if your pet scratches excessively, has damaged skin on some areas or simply – has visible parasites. Often, iguana gets them in the pet store, that’s why it’s important to carefully observe you future pet before the purchase. Getting rid of external parasites involves lubrication of attacked areas with petroleum jelly or baby oil (parasites won’t be able to breathe and will suffocate) and thoroughly cleaning the enclosure afterwards.
You can also use reptile mite spray which can be sprayed on reptile, but can also be used as a cage cleaner. Don’t spray on iguana’s eyes of facial area – for that, spray the cotton q-tip and carefully apply it on iguana’s facial area (I made a detailed article about iguana mites treatment, check it out)
Internal parasites (worms and protozoans) can be suspected if you iguana has bad appetite, loses weight despite good appetite, or has exceptionally smelling stools (worms can also be observed in feces)
Parasites, just like any other disease, should be treated immediately and the best way is to consult the vet. Refrain from using any sprays or pesticide before talking to a reptile specialist.
7. Virus Infections
There is no certainty about the causes and ways of treating iguana diseases caused by viruses. But the viral infections have the potential to bring adverse effects on the iguana that could even lead to death.
8. Organ Failure
This disease usually occurs due to old age or as a result of bacterial infection. Symptoms that appear include loss of appetite, bloating, weight loss, lethargy, and can even cause sudden death.
9. Bladder Stone
This disease causes the stomach to become large causing discomfort and pain in the iguana. Blood in urine is also one manifestation. Sometimes they reach huge dimensions and the only cure is – surgery (this page shows an example. Warning: graphical surgery images)
Again, the main reason for the bladder stone occurrence is – poor nutrition. Avoid excessive proteins in iguana’s diet, don’t overgo with high-oxalate food (consult our iguana food chart).
10. Sticky Eggs
This disease occurs in female iguanas. When laying eggs, iguanas have difficulty removing eggs so need help from their owner. Most of problems with laying eggs, as with the Metabolic Bone Disease, comes from calcium deficiency (as you could already conclude – the proper nutrition is vital for iguana).
11. Fungal disease
This disease often affects the iguana if the cage condition is dirty. Fungi can settle throughout the body of the iguana and can damage the spike. When the spike become dry, iguana’s skin will be cracked, so it can cause the buildup of dead skin during shedding. Treatment of fungal disease is relatively long (2-4 weeks, depending of the phase), and includes applying antifungals (for example, Zylafen) but also changes in environment (cleaning, lowering humidity, adjusting temperature). The problem is that fungal lesions in reptiles are often hard to distinguish from bacterial infections.