16 Common Iguana Diseases and Disorders

Just like us humans, iguanas can also get under the weather. Understanding the signs and symptoms of common illnesses can make a world of difference in ensuring the well-being of your scaly friend.

That’s why I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of 16 common diseases and disorders that your iguana might face in their lifetime. This includes ailments like Metabolic bone disease, Intestinal impaction, Egg retention, and even Kidney disease, among others.

(Note: All information provided in this article is based on expert opinions and reliable sources. However, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian if you suspect your iguana might have any of the below diseases.)

1. Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic Bone Disease is a common disorder in iguanas and other reptiles, often resulting from a dietary imbalance. It’s a bit like osteoporosis in humans – it causes weakening of the bones due to a lack of essential nutrients, specifically calcium, phosphorous, and Vitamin D3. Now, I’m not a vet, but I’ve learned from the best in the business that our iguana pals need these nutrients for strong, healthy bones.


MBD in iguanas primarily occurs when their diet is low in calcium or they’re not getting enough exposure to UVB light, which helps them produce Vitamin D3 – a nutrient crucial for calcium absorption.

If you’re like me and love feeding your iguana friend some spinach or kale, remember that these foods, despite being healthy, have high levels of oxalates that can bind with calcium and make it harder for your iguana to absorb it.


It’s important to catch the signs of MBD early. Look for symptoms like:

  • Soft or misshapen bones
  • A swollen lower jaw (giving a “frog-like” appearance)
  • Poor growth
  • Lethargy, and even trouble moving.


Here comes the silver lining! MBD is preventable and treatable if caught early. Once you notice these symptoms, your vet might recommend calcium supplements or a change in diet to increase calcium intake. Also, ensure that your iguana gets plenty of UVB light, either naturally or through special reptile lamps. It’s not just for basking – it helps them stay healthy!

2. Intestinal Impaction

Simply put, Intestinal Impaction occurs when your iguana’s digestive tract gets blocked. This can happen due to a variety of reasons and can cause discomfort or even severe health issues if left untreated. It’s similar to constipation in humans but with some unique iguana-specific factors at play.


  1. Improper Diet: Iguanas require a diet rich in fiber for optimal digestion. If your iguana’s diet lacks enough fiber or if it is consuming too many hard-to-digest foods, it may be at risk for impaction.
  2. Dehydration: Proper hydration plays a crucial role in digestion. Dehydrated iguanas may have a harder time passing waste, leading to impaction.
  3. Ingestion of Foreign Objects: Iguanas are curious creatures. If your pet swallows substrates, toys, or other non-digestible items, it can lead to a blockage.


It’s essential to stay vigilant for any signs of distress in your iguana. Here are a few symptoms of Intestinal Impaction:

  1. Lack of Appetite: If your normally voracious eater is suddenly turning up its nose at food, it could be a sign of impaction.
  2. Difficulty or Inability to Defecate: Struggling to pass waste is a clear indicator something’s not right.
  3. Lethargy: An impacted iguana may seem less energetic than usual.
  4. Physical Discomfort: You may notice your iguana writhing or showing signs of discomfort.


The good news is that Intestinal Impaction can often be resolved with the right care. If you suspect your iguana is impacted, it’s crucial to consult with a reptile-savvy vet as soon as possible. They may recommend treatments like fluid therapy or even surgery in severe cases.

To prevent impaction, ensure your iguana has a balanced diet high in fiber and stays well-hydrated. Regularly monitor their habitat for any non-digestible items they could ingest and keep an eye on their overall behavior and bathroom habits.

3. Dysecdysis

Hello fellow iguana enthusiasts! Today, let’s shine some light on an issue that many of our green friends face, but it often goes unnoticed or misunderstood – Dysecdysis. Dysecdysis, in simpler terms, is abnormal or difficult shedding in reptiles. Just like our wardrobe needs a seasonal refresh, our iguana friends periodically shed their skin as they grow. However, sometimes they hit a bit of a roadblock, which we term as Dysecdysis.


As an experienced iguana parent myself, I have noticed that the primary causes of Dysecdysis are usually related to environmental factors. You see, iguanas need a certain level of humidity to ensure that their skin can shed easily. In environments that are too dry, their skin can get stuck, causing this condition.

In addition, inadequate lighting and imbalanced nutrition can also contribute to Dysecdysis. Our iguana pals need a balanced diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals to keep their skin healthy. Lighting is important, too. UVB light helps them synthesize vitamin D3, which contributes to overall skin health.


Identifying Dysecdysis early is crucial for the well-being of our iguana companions. Look out for patches of skin that seem to cling to your iguana long after the rest of the shed has been completed. These stubborn patches are most commonly found around the eyes, on the tail, or the ends of their toes.

Dysecdysis may also make your iguana’s skin appear dull or discolored. In severe cases, retained skin can constrict blood flow, leading to discomfort and potentially more serious complications.


Now for the part you’ve been waiting for – how can we help our iguanas through this? The best approach, I’ve found, is prevention. Maintaining a proper environment with the right humidity, diet, and lighting can prevent Dysecdysis.

If your iguana is already showing symptoms, don’t panic! Increase humidity levels and provide lukewarm soaks to help soften the retained skin. Please, please don’t try to forcibly remove the skin; it can cause injuries. In case the condition persists or worsens, seek veterinary care immediately.

4. Egg Retention (Dystocia)

Egg Retention is a condition in female iguanas where they have difficulty laying eggs or, in some cases, can’t lay them at all. It’s a serious health issue that requires immediate veterinary attention to prevent life-threatening complications.


Egg retention in iguanas can be caused by a variety of factors. Sometimes, it could be due to inadequate environmental conditions like insufficient humidity or lack of an appropriate nesting site. Other times, it might be the result of a poor diet leading to low calcium levels, causing the iguana to struggle with muscle contractions necessary for laying eggs.


Our iguana friends can’t tell us when they’re feeling unwell, so it’s up to us to keep a watchful eye on them. If your iguana is experiencing Egg Retention, she might exhibit symptoms like loss of appetite, restlessness, or repeated digging behavior. If she’s straining or seems to be having difficulty laying eggs, it’s time to call the vet.


Treatment for Egg Retention usually involves providing appropriate nesting conditions for your iguana, adjusting her diet, or administering calcium supplements to help with egg laying. In severe cases, your vet might recommend surgery to remove the eggs. Remember, early intervention is the key to prevent serious complications.

5. Abscesses

In iguanas, abscesses are essentially pockets of pus that form in response to bacterial infections, often appearing as hard lumps under their skin. Unlike those annoying pimples we’ve all battled with, abscesses in iguanas are more than just a cosmetic concern—they are a sign of infection that requires treatment.


Abscesses typically occur when harmful bacteria get into a wound or break in the iguana’s skin. This can happen in a variety of ways, such as through a cut or scrape, a bite from another iguana or pet, or a poke from a sharp object in their enclosure. A dirty environment can also increase the risk, as it provides a playground for bacteria to multiply. And trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way after finding an abscess on my iguana, Iggy’s, tail!


Iguana abscesses can sometimes be a bit tricky to spot, especially in the early stages. They often start as small, firm lumps under the skin, which can be easy to miss if you’re not regularly handling your pet. As the abscess grows, it may become more noticeable and even change the color of the iguana’s scales over the lump. In severe cases, the iguana might show signs of pain or discomfort, or the abscess may even rupture, leading to an open, weeping wound. So, keep a close eye on your scaly friend, their health is in your hands!


The first thing to know about abscesses in iguanas is that they’re not something to try treating at home. If you spot a lump on your iguana that you suspect could be an abscess, it’s crucial to book a vet appointment as soon as possible. Treating an abscess usually involves a vet draining the pus and then flushing the cavity to get rid of any remaining bacteria.

Your vet might also prescribe antibiotics to help your iguana fight off the infection. At home, you can support your iguana’s recovery by keeping their enclosure clean, ensuring they’re well hydrated, and offering a nutritious diet to boost their immune system.

6. Urinary Problems in Iguanas

Urinary problems in iguanas typically manifest in two forms: urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder stones. UTIs, while less common, are a pesky issue that can cause discomfort for your iguana. They’re usually the result of bacteria entering and infecting the urinary tract. On the other hand, bladder stones, or uroliths, are hardened mineral deposits that form in the bladder due to metabolic imbalances. Both these conditions can cause a great deal of discomfort and distress to your iguana, and if left untreated, could lead to severe health complications.


So, what triggers these urinary problems? Several factors can contribute to their onset. Inadequate hydration and a diet low in calcium and high in phosphorous and vitamin D3 can lead to bladder stones. Poor enclosure hygiene can make the urinary tract more prone to bacterial infection, potentially leading to UTIs.


Now, as loving iguana keepers, we must keep a keen eye out for signs of trouble. If your iguana has a urinary problem, you might notice that it has a decreased appetite or is lethargic. It may also experience difficulties in urination or defecation, often straining without much success. In the case of UTIs, there may be blood in the urine, which is certainly a red flag. With bladder stones, you may notice hard palpable lumps in your iguana’s lower abdomen.


Seeking professional help is crucial if you suspect your iguana has urinary issues. Vets can accurately diagnose the problem through various tests such as X-rays or urinalysis.

Treatment options typically involve dietary modifications and adequate hydration for managing bladder stones. In some severe cases, surgical removal of the stones might be necessary. UTIs, on the other hand, are usually treated with a course of antibiotics to wipe out the infection.

7. Fungal Infections

When we say “fungal infections,” it might sound a bit terrifying, especially if you’re new to the iguana parent club. But in reality, they are quite common and, more importantly, manageable with proper care and attention. Fungal infections in iguanas can occur both on the skin (dermatomycosis) and internally, affecting the respiratory system, digestive tract, or other body systems.


Why do our adorable green pals get fungal infections? Well, it often comes down to their living conditions. Fungi thrive in warm, damp environments, and an improperly cleaned or overly humid terrarium can become a breeding ground for fungal spores. Sometimes, an iguana’s weakened immune system due to stress, malnutrition, or another underlying disease can make it more susceptible to these infections.


“But how do I know if my iguana has a fungal infection?” I hear you ask. There are several signs you can look out for. If your iguana has a skin fungal infection, you might notice changes in the color or texture of their scales, often appearing as white, flaky patches. They may also seem itchy or uncomfortable.

For internal infections, symptoms can be a bit trickier to spot and may include lack of appetite, lethargy, abnormal feces, or respiratory distress. Remember, you know your pet best! If something seems off, it’s always a good idea to reach out to your vet.


The good news? Fungal infections in iguanas are generally treatable! For skin infections, antifungal creams or medicated shampoos can do the trick. In the case of internal infections, your vet may prescribe oral antifungal medication.

In addition, reviewing your iguana’s habitat is essential. Ensuring the enclosure is cleaned regularly and well-ventilated can help prevent future infections. Also, a balanced diet is key to keeping your iguana’s immune system fighting fit!

8. Kidney Disease

Kidney disease, or renal failure, is a condition that, unfortunately, is rather common among iguanas, especially the older ones. You see, the kidneys are kind of like the unsung heroes of the body, filtering out waste from the bloodstream. When they stop doing their job correctly, it can lead to a build-up of harmful substances in your iguana’s body, which is as unhealthy as it sounds.


Iguana kidneys work overtime if their diet isn’t quite right. They’re particularly sensitive to high protein diets. Yes, we all love a bit of a cheat day, but too much protein in an iguana’s diet can stress their kidneys, leading to potential problems. Poor hydration is another factor – think of water as the oil that keeps the kidney engine running smoothly.


Now that we know what causes kidney disease, what signs should we look for? Well, one of the first things you might notice is that your iguana is drinking a lot more water than usual and urinating frequently. They might also lose their appetite, and their general behavior may change – they could become less active or appear depressed. In advanced cases, swelling in the lower body may also be visible due to fluid accumulation.


If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to visit the vet. They will likely recommend a series of blood tests and X-rays to diagnose kidney disease. Treatment often involves dietary changes, increased hydration, and sometimes medication to help manage symptoms.

9. Internal Parasites (Endoparasites)

Much as the name suggests, internal parasites are unwelcome guests that take up residence inside our iguanas. As pet owners, we might not even know they’re there until symptoms start to appear. Internal parasites can include a variety of organisms such as worms (nematodes), protozoa (like coccidia), and even certain types of fungi and bacteria.


As much as we’d love to keep our pets in a perfect, parasite-free bubble, endoparasites can enter their system in a number of ways. Contaminated food or water is a common culprit. If the greens you’re feeding your iguana aren’t properly washed, or if its water comes from a questionable source, parasites might find their way in. Furthermore, parasites can be present in the environment or can come from other infected reptiles.


Spotting the signs of an internal parasitic infestation early can be tricky. Common symptoms may include a lack of appetite, lethargy, weight loss, or changes in stool consistency or frequency. You might also notice your iguana becoming unusually irritable. Trust me, if you were hosting a parasite party in your gut, you’d be grumpy, too!


As with any health issue, your first port of call should always be a reptile-savvy veterinarian. They can conduct a fecal examination to identify the exact type of parasite, as each one may require a different treatment plan.

The most common treatment for internal parasites is antiparasitic medication. Administering the medication might involve a bit of a wrestling match with your iguana, but it’s all in the name of health. Some medications are mixed with food or water, while others might need to be given by injection.

In addition to medication, improving sanitation practices is key to breaking the parasitic life cycle and preventing future infestations. Be sure to regularly clean and disinfect your iguana’s enclosure, food and water bowls, and any other items it comes into contact with.

Remember, while it might seem a little daunting when you first discover that your iguana is hosting some unwanted guests, internal parasites are a common issue that can be effectively treated with the right care.

10. External Parasites (Ectoparasites)

Now, while the term ‘ectoparasites’ might sound like something straight out of a science fiction novel, they are all too real in the reptile world, even for our dear iguanas. Essentially, ectoparasites are bugs that decide to take up residence on the skin of your iguana, much like how you might find fleas or ticks on a dog. The common culprits include mites and ticks, with mites being particularly irksome as they can multiply quickly and pose serious health threats to your pet.


So, what attracts these tiny invaders to your iguana? Several factors could make your iguana a potential ‘mite motel.’ Poor hygiene is a prime culprit, along with inadequate cage sanitation. If your iguana has been around other infested reptiles or in contaminated environments, the likelihood of a mite infestation increases.


How do you know if your iguana is hosting some unwanted guests? Well, the first tell-tale sign is your iguana’s behavior. You might notice your iguana scratching or rubbing against the cage more than usual. On closer inspection, you might see small, dark spots moving on your iguana’s skin, primarily around the eyes, nostrils, and under the scales. In severe cases, your iguana might lose its appetite and seem generally unwell due to the stress and blood loss caused by these pesky parasites.


Now that we’ve covered the slightly scary stuff let’s move on to what really matters: getting rid of these invaders. First, I recommend seeking help from a vet who specializes in reptiles. They can provide a diagnosis and suggest the best course of treatment.

Typically, the treatment involves thoroughly cleaning the enclosure with a reptile-safe disinfectant, removing any mites from your iguana using a specialized spray or soak, and maintaining strict hygiene practices to prevent future infestations.

Remember, even though your iguana might have picked up a few unwanted hitchhikers, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to the best of us! The important thing is to take action quickly, get your iguana back to feeling comfortable, and prevent any future ectoparasite invasions.

11. Paralysis of the Hind Limbs

Just like us, iguanas can sometimes face health problems that affect their ability to move around freely. One such issue is the paralysis of the hind limbs. This condition can be quite distressing, not just for our little friends but also for us who care about them deeply. It’s important to recognize the signs and understand what’s happening when such a situation arises.


One of the main causes for paralysis in iguanas is a deficiency in vitamin D3 and calcium, often seen in iguanas that don’t receive proper nutrition or exposure to UVB light. Another common cause is injury, either from falls, fights with other animals, or improper handling. There have also been cases related to illnesses such as metabolic bone disease or the presence of parasites affecting the spinal cord. Remember, a healthy diet and a safe environment are key to preventing such issues.


Paralysis of the hind limbs is quite noticeable. You may see your iguana struggling to move its back legs or dragging them around. There could be noticeable weakness or complete inability to use the hind limbs. In severe cases, the paralysis can also affect the tail. It’s heart-wrenching to see, but remember, recognizing the problem is the first step to solving it.


If you suspect your iguana is facing hind limb paralysis, it’s important to get them to a vet specializing in reptiles as soon as possible. The vet will likely conduct a physical examination and may require x-rays to determine the cause of the paralysis. If it’s due to a nutritional deficiency, they may recommend changes to the iguana’s diet, supplementation with calcium and vitamin D3, and ensure they are getting appropriate exposure to UVB light.

If the paralysis is due to an injury, rest and in some cases, surgery, may be required. In case of an infection or parasites, medication will be administered. Regardless of the cause, physical therapy may also be recommended to help your iguana regain strength in their legs.

12. Respiratory Diseases

Respiratory diseases, commonly known as “Iguana Colds”, are an umbrella term for various disorders affecting our iguana’s breathing apparatus. These diseases are often the result of bacterial or fungal infections, and in some cases, they could be due to parasites or viral diseases.


Keeping our iguanas healthy means keeping an eye on their environment. Inadequate temperature or humidity levels in your iguana’s enclosure can quickly lead to a compromised immune system and give respiratory diseases an open door to walk right in.

Subpar hygiene can also be a culprit. Dirty enclosures can become breeding grounds for harmful bacteria or fungi. Additionally, a poor diet or inadequate vitamin A intake can lower their immunity and increase their susceptibility to these infections.


Spotting a sick iguana can sometimes feel like you’re playing detective. But once you know what to look for, you’ll feel more confident about your iguana’s health. If your iguana shows signs of difficulty breathing, lethargy, decreased appetite, or a runny nose, it’s time to sit up and take note. Listen for unusual sounds, such as wheezing or raspy breaths, which are also indicative of possible respiratory problems.


If your iguana shows any signs of a respiratory disease, it’s time for a trip to a specialized reptile vet. Based on the diagnosis, your vet might prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medication. During this period, keeping your iguana’s enclosure extra clean, warm, and humid can aid in recovery.

13. Hypercalcemia (Metastatic Mineralization Syndrome)

Hypercalcemia, to put it simply, is a condition where there’s too much calcium in your iguana’s blood. This excess calcium can lead to the calcification of tissues and organs, including the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys, which can cause severe health complications. Sounds scary, right? But don’t fret! With our understanding and appropriate care, we can manage this.


The primary cause of hypercalcemia in iguanas is dietary imbalances, particularly over-supplementation with calcium and vitamin D3, or inadequate exposure to UVB light. Remember our iguanas are sun-lovers – they need that UVB to metabolize their calcium correctly!


Identifying hypercalcemia early can significantly improve the outcome for our little friends. The condition may manifest in several ways such as decreased appetite, lethargy, constipation, and weakness. In severe cases, your iguana might exhibit difficulty in walking or an abnormal gait. If your iguana shows any of these symptoms, it’s best to contact a herp vet as soon as possible.


In cases of hypercalcemia, a vet will often start by addressing the underlying causes, such as dietary modifications, adjusting the UVB exposure, and in some cases, they might use medications to decrease blood calcium levels. Regular blood tests might be required to monitor the calcium levels.

14. Burns

Burns in iguanas can be quite serious and require prompt veterinary attention. The severity of burns can range from mild to severe, depending on the duration and intensity of the heat source. Superficial burns may only affect the outer layers of skin, while deeper burns can penetrate into the underlying tissues.


Just like us, iguanas can get burned, but their burns usually come from sources we wouldn’t consider harmful. The most common cause is the use of ‘hot rocks’. An iguana will seek out the warmest thing and sit on it for hours. They do not have the nervous system to tell them that what they are on is too hot.

Another culprit that can burn iguanas is heat lamps. Iguanas are cold-blooded, so they need these lamps for warmth.


Now, how do we know if our iguana friend has been burned? It’s not like they can tell us, right? Look for blisters or areas where the skin looks discolored or different from the rest. The burned area might be redder or darker than the surrounding skin, or it could even appear white and dry.


Start by cooling the burn gently with a cloth soaked in cool water. Don’t use ice or very cold water – just like in humans, it can cause more harm than good. Next, you’ll want to reach out to your vet. They may prescribe a topical cream or ointment for the burn.

Remember, while we can provide some first aid, it’s crucial to get our pet to a professional who can properly assess and treat the burn. In some cases, if the burn is severe, your iguana may require more advanced medical treatment, like skin grafts.

After treatment, be sure to monitor the healing process closely. Keep the burnt area clean, and follow your vet’s instructions carefully. Make sure your pet’s enclosure is kept clean to avoid infection, and reconsider the placement of heating devices to prevent future incidents.

15. Lacerations

Lacerations in iguanas are skin cuts or tears that may result from accidents, fights, or sharp objects in their environment. They can range from superficial scratches to deep wounds that penetrate the muscles. When left untreated, these wounds can become infected and cause a host of other health issues for your beloved pet.


These injuries often result from mishaps in their surroundings. Maybe your iguana has tried to squeeze through a tight space, or perhaps they’ve taken a tumble from their basking spot. Sharp edges in the tank or rough handling can also lead to these skin tears. In some cases, lacerations can be the result of conflicts with other pets, if you happen to have a multi-pet household.


The most obvious symptom is the visible wound or tear on your iguana’s skin. You might notice bleeding or discharge from the wound, and your pet may exhibit signs of discomfort or pain, such as reduced activity levels, loss of appetite, or changes in behavior.


The course of treatment largely depends on the severity of the laceration. For minor wounds, cleaning the area with a reptile-safe antiseptic and keeping the enclosure clean will often do the trick.

However, for deeper wounds or if you notice signs of infection (like pus, swelling, or unusual coloration around the wound), it’s crucial to get professional help. Your vet will be able to assess the wound, clean it properly, and possibly suture it if required. They may also prescribe antibiotics to stave off any potential infections.

16. Understanding Nose Rubbing

Nose rubbing, also known as snout damage or rostral abrasion, is a common problem in captive iguanas. You know how our little green friends like to explore their surroundings? Well, sometimes they might persistently rub their noses against the walls of their enclosure, leading to injuries, sores, and abrasions on their nose or face. It’s just like when we humans keep rubbing a mosquito bite—it hurts, but we can’t help it!


As you know, iguanas are inquisitive creatures who like to explore their environments. In the wild, they roam vast territories, but in captivity, their movement is limited. So, nose rubbing can occur due to stress, boredom, or the attempt to escape an enclosure that’s too small. It can also be triggered by seeing reflections in the glass or other animals, people, or iguanas nearby. It’s just their way of saying, “Hey, I need more space, or hey, I need something to do!”


The signs of nose rubbing are hard to miss. If your iguana has been rubbing its nose, you’ll notice abrasions or raw spots on its snout. If left unchecked, these injuries can become severe, leading to infections or the nose becoming malformed. You might also see frequent rubbing against the enclosure. Think of it like this: if your iguana is pressing its nose against the cage more than a dog waiting for its owner to return home, it’s time to take action!

Treatment and Prevention

So, how do we address nose rubbing? The first step is to treat the wound to prevent infection. Clean the wound gently with a reptile-safe antiseptic and keep the cage extra clean to avoid introducing bacteria. It’s always a good idea to consult with a vet experienced with reptiles to ensure the wound is properly treated and monitored.

Preventing nose rubbing is all about giving your iguana a suitable environment. Make sure your iguana’s enclosure is large enough for them to move, explore, and stretch without touching the sides. Use materials for the cage that won’t reflect like glass, or cover the walls with non-reflective surfaces to reduce the chances of nose rubbing. And remember, just like us, iguanas need mental stimulation. Add climbing branches, hiding places, and interactive toys to help alleviate boredom.

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