Are You Accidentally Killing Your Pet Iguana?

green iguana as petWhen you purchase an animal as a pet, you take on the responsibility of giving it the best possible care. No one wants to do anything to a pet that may harm it, make it sick, or even accidentally cause its death. But there are a lot of misconceptions about green iguanas that can cause otherwise loving owners to do exactly that.

Even if your pet manages to survive, you could be facing extreme veterinary bills if your exotic pet becomes ill. It only makes sense that you’d want to do whatever you can to keep it healthy. To that end, here are three major mistakes to avoid when caring for a green iguana.

1) Never use sand or other particulates as a substrate (floor cover) in a green iguana cage. If you spend much time watching your iguana, you’ll see that – much like snakes – it tests everything around it with its tongue. Grains of sand or other small particles (pebbles, wood chips) can stick to the tongue and then be swallowed by your lizard. This kind of foreign matter can block the digestive system leading to some expensive veterinary bills – or even to the death of your pet in a very short time.

You’re best off sticking with vinyl tiles or indoor-outdoor carpeting as a substrate for your iguana’s habitat.

2) Never feed your iguana animal proteins like insects or cat food. Green iguanas are herbivorous animals, meaning that they survive by eating plants in the wild. While it’s not uncommon for an iguana to munch on a bug or worm that happened to be making its way across a leaf or flower petal, it’s not something they do on purpose. They’re bodies aren’t designed to process protein from animal source.

Not following this rule can lead to big problems. First of all, the high levels of protein can cause problems with their renal system, causing its kidneys to fail, making your iguana very ill. Also, when you’re feeding proteins, your iguana isn’t getting the nutrition it needs – so while you think he’s getting plenty of food, he’s actually starving.  Needless to say, kidney failure and starving to death are both slow and painful ways to die. Don’t make your pet suffer – feed your iguana the proper diet consisting of lots of fresh, colorful vegetables.


Iguanas enjoying a healthy meal of greens and veggies!

3) Don’t keep your iguana in a cage that’s too small for it. There’s this crazy myth that iguanas won’t grow too big if they’re kept in a small cage. It’s just not true – a healthy iguana that’s getting plenty of food will continue to grow no matter how small the cage is. He’ll just be miserably unhappy as he gets bigger and bigger.

So, how small is too small? An iguana cage should be twice as wide as your iguana is long.  It should be deep enough for the iguana to turn around comfortably. The height of the cage should be 1.5 time the length of your iguana, minimum.  So, a two-foot long iguana would need a cage that is at minimum 4 feet wide x1.5 feet deep x3 feet tall. One of the biggest misunderstandings about green iguanas is just how big a cage they need to live com. And remember – they grow very quickly the first few years, and can easily reach a length of four to six feet in that time!

If you make sure to keep these three rules in mind, you’ll have eliminated many of the problems that many iguana owners face. Of course, you’ll also need to keep your iguana warm and properly hydrated as well as provide it with the necessary UV rays for it’s health, but by following the rules listed above, you’ll be able to solve or avoid the most common problems found in pet iguanas.

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