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Green Iguana

Very docile (for a reptile!)

Green Iguana
origin:Central and South America
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History [ edit ]

The Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) is a large, diurnal, semi-arboreal to arboreal lizard that belongs to the Iguana Genus and is native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America, extending from Southern Mexico to the Caribbean Islands, Paraguay and Brazil. They prefer the rainforests, although some can also be found in the vicinity of rivers and streams and at a maximum altitude of about 1000 metres (3,000 feet) from sea, where temperatures are warm enough to support their life style. The colonies that are today found in some regions of Florida, Hawaii and California originated in specimens that escaped captivity or were released by their owners into de wild and managed to adapt to not so good environmental conditions. Iguanas are, in all likelihood, the most popular lizard pet, but prospective owners should realize that caring for a Green Iguana is costly, time consuming and challenging. Their needs in terms of feeding, housing and taming are demanding:  they are exclusively herbivorous and need a wide variety of certain fresh vegetables and fruits, while some other types of food, like animal protein will be detrimental to the Iguana’s health; They need quite a lot of space, both horizontal and vertical for contrary to what is generally believed, Green Iguanas do not grow just according to their confinement area; when reared in good conditions, they keep growing through their entire life and a male adult may reach 1,8 to 2 meters and weigh 4-5 Kg. As juveniles their growth is processed rapidly, and as they become of age, the growing process decelerates, but still goes on; on the other hand, carers should not forget that Iguanas are arboreal and should be given both free roaming space and climbing structures like branches and shelves on which they can climb and bask; taming is also a not so easy process. Iguana may be docile animals, but as they become adults, some are aggressive especially during the mating season. Those fanciers who have the resources, and feel they are fully prepared for the responsibilities of caring for this beautiful animal, will discover that the Green Iguana can make a wonderful addition to their family.
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Appearance [ edit ]

The Green Iguana is a large, strong, lizard (the largest of the American Continent) with a long tail compared to the head and body and short, powerful limbs equipped with strong, sharp claws. A Green Iguana with 1,3 m (4,5 feet) will have a head and body with a mere 36 cm (1,2 feet); with 1,8 m (6 feet) the head and body will measure about 45 cm (1,47 feet). The average length of an adult Green Iguana is about 1,5 m (5 feet), weighing 4-5 Kg (8,8-11 pounds) but they can grow up to 1,8m-2,1m (6-7 feet) and weight 13.5kg (30 pounds) when adequately housed and fed. Males tend to be larger tham females. They have medium sized, overlapping scales covering their entire skin and, as a distinctive feature, a dewlap that hangs from the throat and helps regulate body temperature. Green Iguanas store fat under jaws and in necks for when food is scarce. The tail and the claws help the animal climbing the trees and are also self-defense instruments. The tail can break off (if necessary to escape from a predator) and regenerate itself. Another self-defense mechanism is a prominent crest of soft spines (longer in males) on the back, beginning at the base of the skull, which makes it more difficult for the Green Iguana to be devoured by predators. Green Iguanas are generally green, the colour ranging from brilliant green to a pale blue-gray, ringed with faint black bands around the body and tail and getting a somewhat brownish colour when they grow older. The males have a somewhat brighter coloration than females especially during the breeding season some developing an orange to orange-red colouring as breeding season approaches, the happening with dominant females. The orange colour may persist in dominant males and females after the breeding season when there are other iguanas present or even people or animals over which the iguana feels dominant. Their colour also changes in response to temperature, the animals looking darker when they are cold. Some weeks before shedding the skin turns gray or yellowish-gray with white patches where the skin loosens (Green Iguanas do not shed all their skin at one time).
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Behaviour [ edit ]

Green Iguanas are arboreal, diurnal, lizards that spend most of their adult life immobile resting, frequently over water. They are social animals and may bask and forage in group normally in a selected area. They have acute vision, hearing and sense of smell and in their natural habitats they are quite wary and flee at any sign of danger or use their camouflage patterning to hide from predators. When camouflage or fleeing does not work, they defend themselves by biting and clawing and lashing with the tail, which can be very painful. Although looking clumsy, they are very good tree climbers and accomplished swimmers, swishing their powerful tails to move in water. Further, this amazing animal can stay under water up to 30 minutes and fall 12-15m (40-50 ft) to ground without getting injured. Unfortunately, they are much more difficult to care for than one might believe. In captivity, and although they tend to become attached to their owners, the juveniles may be docile but adults are given to aggressiveness, especially during the breeding season. When mated, they can be gentle creatures, but mating a Green Iguana is a process that requires patience, plenty of time and proper care. It may take months to gain their trust, depending on their background and experience. Those animals who have been neglected and mistreated will take much more time to mate. The rearing conditions are also important. A stressed animal, without plenty of space to roam and bask and appropriate feeding and lighting, is more aggressive than one which has been properly cared for right from the start. They need routines, and must be gently and firmly handled on a daily basis. Especially dominant iguanas they need to be showed who is the boss, without being pushed to hard for a frightened or angry Green Iguana can cause serious wounds and scratches with their sharp teeth and claws and they are amazingly quick at it. The pain inflicted by their strong tails is also something their owners will not forget easily. Therefore, prospective owners who are not prepared to make the effort should consider purchasing another family pet.
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Handling [ edit ]

The Green Iguana needs to be tamed right from the start, one or two weeks after the animal’s arrival to his new home, a period of time normally required for the animal to settle down. Handling, feeding and cleaning should be carried out as daily routines. Start by feeding and cleaning while talking gently to the animal and allowing him to observe what you are doing without feeling menaced. After a few days, depending on the lizard reactions, try to pet and stroke him from the side (from above will be understood by the Iguana as a threat), to get him used to you. If the Iguana shows aggressiveness like tail twitching or dewlap bobbing and extending, back off a bit, slowly, while talking gently and try again. The movements must be very slow. Never stop your attempts to touch the Iguana as soon as he shows aggressiveness, for he may start feeling dominant over you and if he thinks that aggressiveness will get him what he wants, he will never let you approach him again.  When the Iguana is used to being touched by you, try to pick it up scooping it up under the belly, if it is a small iguana or supporting both under the belly and the pelvic area when handling larger animals. Put it down when he has stopped struggling and seems calm. If the iguana manages to escape from you, do not run to chase him. Approach it slowly and talking very gently. Remember iguanas should never be grabbed by the tail which would detach itself as self-defence. Pay attention to the iguana’s body language, remember that a scared iguana may hurt you, but always show him you are the master.
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Reproduction [ edit ]

The Green Iguana reaches sexual maturity at about 18 months of age. Mating occurs in January or February, but this period may change depending on the region. Some iguanas will go into season twice in a year as a result of climate alterations. One male can mate 15 to 18 females. In the wild males are in season or about 30 days, and females for 7 to 1o days only.  Females lay clutches of 12-30 eggs in burrows (3 to 6 ft long and 2 ft deep) dug in moist sand or soil. Sometimes females dig faked burrows to confuse egg predators. Incubation takes 8 to 10 weeks after which the hatchlings emerge and are left to survive without any parental care. Generally only 3 to 10 hatchlings make it to adulthood. Green Iguanas held in captivity as pets should not be allowed to reproduce.
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Housing [ edit ]

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Diet [ edit ]

An iguana's diet should be 80% calcium rich vegetables and the other 20% should be fruit and flowers. Without enough calcium, they can become ill or develop serious bone deformations. Because they see in colors of red, orange, yellow and green, those colored foods appeal to them the most. Some calcium rich foods that are good for them are collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, mulberry leaves, fresh peas, parsley, squash, snow peas, carrots, pumpkin, & zucchini. They can also eat thawed frozen mixed vegetables. The leafy foods are usually better for them. Some of the fruits that are good for them are strawberries, mangos, papayas, kiwis, melons, apples, prickly pear cactus flowers, hibiscus, and dandelion flowers. If any of the flowers or leaves is collected from outdoors, make sure that you wash them before feeding so that you get off all of the fertilizers and chemicals. Or if you visit your pet store, there are usually special foods just for iguanas that contain pretty much everything that they need. Even though it is good for them, they should also still be offered fresh fruits and vegetables.

There are many things that should be avoided while feeding an iguana. Those foods include broccoli, kale, bok choy, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower because they depress thyroid function and sometimes can even cause extreme bone deformations, severe muscle and joint pain, and sometimes even death. Also, rhubarb is toxic and spinach contains high levels of oxalic acid which form spiky crystals in the iguana's kidneys. Also, avoiding protein in an adult iguana's diet is important. They should only have about 2% at most of protein in their diet. If they have too much protein, then they can grow really quickly and too large and it can sometimes reduce their life span to half of what it should be. Tofu is also too oily for iguanas and cheese has too much sodium and fat.
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Health [ edit ]

Constipation - Constipation is usually caused by low temperatures. You can help the iguana out by bathing it in warm water and rubbing its stomach. If your iguana does not go to the bathroom within 24 hours then it may have parasites or a blockage. You should bring it to the vet.

Respiratory Infection - The temperatures not being right usually cause this. If your iguana starts gasping for air, breathing with its mouth open, wheezing, or its body is swelling, you need to take it to the vet. It is usually caused by parasites like pin and hook worm. You should bring a stool sample to the vet to get a diagnosis.

Worms/internal parasites - Iguanas can get a lot of different internal parasites. Some of these parasites include round worms, pinworms, flatworms, and tapeworms. They will rob the nutrients from your iguana. The symptoms and signs to look for are poor appetite, weight loss in an animal that is eating good, diarrhea, smelly stools, lethargy and mucus or worms in the feces. If you think that your iguana has parasites you will need to bring a fresh stool sample to the vet and if your iguana has parasites, then it will be put on antibiotics to kill the parasite. You will also need to thoroughly clean out the cage to kill any other parasites or eggs. Also, it is a good idea to bring the iguana back to the vet to make sure that the antibiotics worked.

Abscesses - Abscesses are hard lumps that contain a yellow/white puss. They are localized infections that usually occur in conjunction with another systematic infection. They need to be treated by a vet. Sometimes antibiotics do not work, so a surgical procedure will need to be held to remove the puss or fluid.

Burns - Burns are commonly caused from heating rocks and heat lights. Soaking your iguana in providone iodine and applying burn ointment (silver sulfadiazine) can treat minor burns but serious burns need to be seen by a vet. If minor burns become infected, then they also need to be seen by a vet.

Stress - If an iguana is stressed a lot, it can lead to a weak immune system and can affect digestion. It can leave the iguana vulnerable to illnesses and infections. The signs of stress are loss of appetite, lethargic, choosing cold places to stay, digging or banging the snout, breaking potty training and darkening of the skin color. Stress is caused by not having the right light, space, heating and changes in daily routine. If you find that your iguana is under stress, figure out why, and try to resolve it.

Mouth Rot - Mouth rot is a bacterial infection caused by primary systemic infection. Signs that you should look for are excessive salivation, thickened saliva, loss of appetite, and patches of white, yellow, or green. The only way to treat it is by antibiotics given by a vet.

Hypothyroidism - This is when the thyroid gland swells because of inadequate amounts of iodine are in the iguana's body. They get too much iodine in their body when too much goitrogens are in their diet. Foods that include goitrogens are broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbages, cauliflower, bok choy, grapes, mangos, peas, and soybean. So try to avoid feeding those foods to your pet iguana. They can be fed every once and a while, but not too much. The symptoms are slow growth, sluggish, lethargic and chubbiness.

Gout - Gout is inflammation and stiffening in the joints. It has no cure, but your iguana can be put on medication. It is caused by too much protein in their diet and the signs are swollen or painful joints and tissue, lethargy and inactivity. You need to see a vet if you see any of these symptoms in your iguana.

Kidney Failure - Kidney failure can be caused by feeding you iguana too much animal protein, just dry commercial diets, and not enough water. The signs are sometimes pretty easy to miss and in some cases when you notice it, it may be too late and the iguana can die very soon after. So what should you be looking for? Weight loss (even if the iguana is eating), anorexia, swollen stomach, drinking a lot or very little to no water, swollen neck, swollen dewlap, loss of muscle tone, swelling or drooping eyes, and the urine may be thick, yellow and crystals may be seen. If you see any of these symptoms in your iguana, then you could save him or her if you catch it early and bring your iguana to the vet.

Metabolic bone disease (MBD) - MBD is one of the most common diseases that iguanas can develop. It is caused by a lack of calcium in the diet, not enough exposure to UVB light, and/or improper temperatures. Pretty much what happens is that the bones become really weak and they become deformed and it is painful for the iguana and can eventually cause death. Signs to look for are bumps or swelling on the back and tail, knobs on the legs, swelling of the jaw, jerking when walking, tremors and twitches, broken bones, and in really bad cases, not being able to walk.
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