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Iguana as a Pet: What You Should Know

Iguana as a Pet: What You Should Know

Are you thinking of getting a green or blue iguana as a pet? That's great as long as you're prepared and have all the necessary resources to become a responsible reptile parent. Our veterinarians in Jackson provide insights on what you need to know before adopting an Iguana lizard.

If you're considering getting an iguana as a pet, it's important to keep in mind that they require a significant amount of time and care. While they are a popular choice for pet lizards, they have very specific feeding and housing needs and can grow quite large and strong. It's also important to handle them regularly in order to keep them tame and prevent them from becoming hostile. Here are some key things to keep in mind if you do decide to bring an iguana into your home.

Behavior and Temperament

To build trust and make your pet iguana comfortable in its surroundings, holding and interacting with it regularly is important. However, iguanas may find human interaction strange and sometimes resist it, so it's important to approach them with care and kindness. If your pet iguana enjoys climbing on you, it's advisable to wear protective clothing as their tail can be strong enough to break a human bone. Additionally, when handling your iguana, be alert to any signs of struggle or hostility, particularly if there are children or other pets around.

Common Health Problems

When keeping a pet iguana, it's important to be aware of the potential health risks. Like many reptiles, iguanas carry salmonella in their digestive tracts, so always wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your pet and avoid touching your face. This is especially important if you have young children, seniors, pregnant women, or immunocompromised individuals in your household.

While iguanas can be tamed with proper care, they have a strong self-defense instinct and may bite, scratch, or whip their tails if they feel threatened. Kidney disease is a common health issue for iguanas and is often caused by dehydration. If your iguana is lethargic, has swelling on its body, and is drinking or urinating excessively, it's important to take it to a veterinarian right away for treatment.


To maintain your iguana's health, it is important to provide them with fresh food and avoid giving them a high-protein diet that may cause kidney failure. In the wild, iguanas only consume plant-based foods and avoid animal protein, including insects.

Aside from a high-quality commercial meal, it's recommended to supplement their diet with fruit and calcium. Additionally, make sure your iguana has access to fresh water at all times. It's important to follow your veterinarian's advice on feeding your pet to ensure they maintain a healthy weight based on their size.

Since iguanas consume their food whole without chewing, it's crucial to dice or shred their food into small pieces before serving.

Housing the Iguana

It's surprising to learn that iguanas can grow up to 7 feet long, including their tail, and weigh around 20 pounds. This means that keeping them in an aquarium or small enclosure is only a short-term solution for baby iguanas. Many people are shocked by how big their pet iguanas can get. 

Most commercially available cages are not suitable for this tree-dwelling species. A single iguana requires an enclosure that 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 to make them feel more at home. Some people even transform a full room or a large closet into an iguana's habitat.

To digest its food, an iguana needs a temperature of approximately 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat lamps are usually placed less than a foot away from basking ledges to achieve this ideal temperature. The iguana likes to bask at 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and its habitat should not be colder than 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

To provide adequate light exposure, use UVB reptile lights for 10 to 12 hours every day. For larger enclosures or rooms, mercury vapor bulbs are appropriate. Thanks to the large branches and shelves in the enclosure, your iguana will be able to bask in these lights.

Iguanas thrive in environments with at least 70% humidity. You can increase the humidity in your iguana's habitat by adding a pool of water or using a mister. To maintain healthy skin, misting your iguana twice a day is generally recommended.

The Pros and Cons of Keeping an Iguana

Here, we'll list some of the pros and cons you should consider before keeping an Iguana as a pet.

Pro: Lifespan

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: Expensive To Accommodate

To ensure a long and healthy life for iguanas, providing them with precise living conditions is essential. This includes a spacious terrarium that can accommodate their final size and appropriate lighting, humidity, and temperature levels. Additionally, regular visits to a veterinarian who specializes in exotic animals can be quite costly. If you are uncertain about your ability to care for an iguana for the next two decades, it may be wise to consider a different pet.

Pro: Relatively Easy to Meet Their Diet

In their natural habitat, iguanas consume leaves, fruits, flowers, and vegetables, and it's crucial to replicate this herbivorous diet in captivity. As iguanas obtain sufficient hydration from the greens they consume and the humidity of their environment, they don't require much water intake. If you own a pet iguana, consulting with your veterinarian for a personalized nutrition plan is highly recommended.

Con: Difficult to Train

Taming an iguana that is highly resistant can be a time-consuming process, taking years to accomplish. If you lack the necessary patience, there are other more docile lizard species to consider. One possibility to help build trust is to offer them food by hand, which can help them understand that you pose no threat to them.

Pro: They are Diurnal

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: They Aren't for Children

Iguanas possess strong jaws and may resort to biting when they feel endangered. Their sensitivity towards sudden or swift movements can startle them, and toddlers tend to be restless. In case an iguana senses danger and decides to attack, its robust tail can cause severe injuries. Therefore, if you have toddlers around, it might be wise to avoid getting an iguana as a pet for the time being.

Want to learn more about keeping an iguana as a pet? Contact North Madison Animal Hospital today for more information.

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