Sick Iguana

Discussion in 'Iguanas' started by jjessen, Feb 6, 2004.

  1. jjessen

    jjessen Embryo

    I am writing this because I feel bad and don't know what else to do. I know this is rather long, but please stick with my story. My boyfriend got an iguana from one of his friends approximately 4 years ago. He built a cage for her and she was doing good. He left the cage door open and she always had free roam of the house. At the time, he was employed and was taking care of getting the basking light, etc. I had never had any type of reptile before this, didn't know a whole lot, and never pretended to. Me and the iguana kind of had an understanding...I would stay out of her way and she would stay out of mine. The only time she ever broke that rule is when I was sick and had a temperature of 104 and she thought I looked like a good heat source.

    Anyway, we moved about 3 years ago. The place is much smaller. So he cut the cage in half and mounted it up on a wall with a way for her to get in an out, she still had free roam. Every winter that we have had her, she always seems to really slow down on her eating. Always changes right before spring. This year it was different. My boyfriend was now unemployed and I have been supporting him, my daughter, dog, cat, iguana, birds, etc. He would tell me periodically that the iguana needed a bulb for her cage. I started complaining about the money it was costing and that maybe he should go out and get a job and support his own animals. He just figured that as long as he was keeping it warm in cage and we were feeding her the proper food that she would be alright.

    Fall came and he noticed a small bump that appeared on the right side of her jaw. He told me that I should call the vet and ask them about it and see what it could be. My feeling was that he was sitting home all day, HE could call the vet (my boyfriend has SEVERE anxiety). Winter came, she started eating less and spending more time in her cage. My boyfriend told me he was worried about her not eating. My reply was..."she always slows down her eating in the winter time, it's probably her form of a hibernation" (we live in Minnesota).

    This past Monday, he called me at work and told me that something was really wrong with his iguana. He told me that her muscles were twitching all over. Then he told me that she was probably going to die because he didn't have the money to take her to the vet. I immediately went online to find out what could possibly be wrong with her and from reading, determine that she probably had MBD. I called the vet, set up an appointment for that evening to take her in. The more reading I did on this disease, the worse I felt. I felt partially responsible for her sickness (I would feel completely responsible but it was never told to me, if she doesn't have this certain light, she will die). We took her to the vet. She doesn't have any broken bones, she is not deformed. She received a shot of calcium, we were given some medicine that my boyfriend has to give her twice a day for 1 month. The lump on the side of her face is an abcess which they said isn't that big and they'll deal with that after she gets better from the MBD as to not stess her out anymore. They told us we needed to get the UV light that had UVa and UVb rays. Her cage is too small and not warm enough. The vet told us that we should see a considerable difference in the muscle twitching within a couple days.

    I immediately went out an bought a UV light, ceramic heat emitter, some powder that has D3, etc. So far I have spent $270 including the vet. My boyfriend is going out today to buy the materials to build her a bigger cage. Most of her muscle twitching is gone. We can just see a little bit left in her rear toes. Her color is incredible. Her spikes are standing straight up.

    So, here's the problems. Everytime my boyfriend picks up up to bring her down to give her the medicine some white stuff (urine poop?) comes out of her. Could this be because the muscles are weak etc? I doubt she is constipated as she has not eaten, which brings us to the second problem. We cannot get her to eat anything. We don't want to bring her back outside to the vet if we do not have to right now. It is very cold, snowing and don't think it would be good for her. What can we do to get her to eat? Should she be force fed? If so, what, how often and how much? Anything you can help me with would be greatly appreciated and I am very sad. I have learned more about iguanas in the last couple days than I have known in my life.

    I am trying to BE positive, and my boyfriend is positive she is going to die. He is expecting her to be better already and everything that I've read indicates that it will take time & patience. I think the iguana can sense his tension and worry.

    JEFFREH Administrator

  3. CheriS

    CheriS Is well known here

    It took her awhile to get this way and it will take even longer for her to recover from it, but your off to a good start. The white you are seeing is urates, and this is just a guess, but the bones are thin (dense) and soft right now, and that will also include those along the spinal cord where many nerves are located and those may be being compressed when she is lifted or moved. Then will strengthen with time and treatment.

    Try to allow her to move on her own and don't put any stress on the back at all if you can avoid it, on the lower portion of the back is where the muscles and nerves that control bowel movements are.

    You said you have a UV light, but does it specifically say UVB on the package? what kind did you get her? If it says full spectrum, it does not have UVB, that means full spectrum in the UVA range. Even with the calcium with D3, she will still need UVB as iguanas are noted for not absorbing all the D3 in a diet that they need and they need the UVB to make this themself.... with out it, she can not absorb the calcium.

    Its a delicate balance with the heat, UVB, calcium and diet to provide them good nutrition, take one away and they can not do it no matter how good the diet. Was a fecal for parasites done on her at the vets? This is the other problem that surfaces with lack of UVB and heat...... the food spoils in the digestive track and creates parasitic blooms and bacteria, which makes them stop eating. It is winter and they do lslow down, but she can not afford to right now.

    Best greens to feed for calcium is collards, mustard greens and dandelions, a bit of kale and bok coy is okay too(romaine is an empty green and they get little from them) best veggies are fresh green beans, snow peas, peas, squashs and raw, shaved sweet pototae (this is a good one especially right now as it is high in antioxidents that will help her)

    Good luck with her, we took in one that was in bad shape a few years ago and she recovered amazingly well

    JEFFREH Administrator

  5. biochic

    biochic Embryo

    We received a rescue last year that was underweight and weak. He perked up a lot after we started feeding him properly but we had no idea that he had MBD and that it was progressing. The problem with MBD is that the iguana will usually show no signs of the disease until paralysis sets in. This is what we found out with our little guy. What looked like weak muscles from being in a cage that was too small, in three days turned into paralysis in all limbs and seixure-like tremors in his neck muscles. It was terrifying to see him like that. So I know what you're going through.
    My biggest suggestion, if he's not eating yet, would be to get some greens (like Cheri suggested) and blend them in a food processor/blender and feed the ig with a oral syringe. You'll have to do this for relatively short intervals a few times a day, but you don't want him to become undernourished any more than necessary. Plus if you dilute the greens a little, then the ig will be getting water too.
    One thing with the processed greens. Sometimes they can cause a build up of gas. Since iguanas don't have a diaphragm below their lungs, like humans (their lungs run down along their sides), excess gas will push up between the lungs and press on them, making it hard for them to breathe. If you notice that your iggy is bloated and/or trying to breath through his mouth, just gently massage the belly down along the sides to help him work the gas off. It sounds crazy, but it happened with our little guy after we gave him the powdered food supplement our vet gave us to use (you water it down and feed it through a syringe). It probably won't happen with fresh greens, it never did with our first baby that insisted on "baby iguana food" (oh yeah, I'm a professional with greens and a blender!), but I thought I'd warn you just in case.
    Good luck and don't feel bad. You had know idea what she needed and MBD can sneak up on even the most experienced herper.

    JEFFREH Administrator

  7. zendogg

    zendogg Embryo

    Be careful with the D3. The UVB exposure is what enables her body to make its own. Given as a supplement D3 is fat soluable and excess will be stored in her body. This excess can accumulate to toxic levels.

    I live in Montana, and one of my iguanas has a reduced appetite during winter also. He has had the reptile UVB 5.0 since he was a bitty runt. He has had no problems with MBD and I examine him regularly for signs of illness. Come spring and lengthening daylight he becomes almost ravenous again.

    One of the greatest tonics you can give her is pure, unfiltered sunshine, as much as possible on the warm days. On hot days she can become over heated so close supervision is required. I use a secure harness and lead to keep my iguanas secure. I will be building an outside 'play pen' for my iguanas to use in the summer. I will use it only when am home to supervise! If you have the space this is something to consider.

    I look forward to spring because the dandylions come out. If you haven't been doing so, collect dandylion leaves and flowers from sites that you KNOW have not been treated with herbicides or pesticides and that aren't alongside a highway or well traveled road. Wash them and feed them to the iguana along with the usual greens. They are wonderful medicine. Also, if you know what pig weed/aka lambs quarters is, pinch the tops from known clean sites and feed them also. Don't guess, KNOW how to identify the weeds. Another excellent tonic is 'chickweed' a common plant in lawns and gardens. You can probably find pictures of these weeds at a garden supply or nursery. Lawn care businesses should be able to identify them for you also. Not only do they offer superior nutrition than store bought greens, they are free!

    I collect more than I can use, wash and dry them and store them in the freezer for winter to garnish the store bought greens with. When you feed the greens get them wet first. this happens from washing them. Just don't shake out all the water. If you can get your hands on some green chop/fresh alfalfa feed it also. You want leaves and flowers not stems. The dry leaves from horse quality hay are good too. sprinkle them like a garnish. One other green option is endive aka chicory. Even in Montana I can find it much of the year in the produce section. This is the big straggly heads of lacy greens, not the pale colored, close budded, expensive gourmet endive.

    Because I like to garden I cultivate some of these weeds/plants so I have a known clean supply for summer and excess to dry for winter. It isn't hard to grow weeds. You could try it. They grow well in containers, and can be brought in before the first frost to harvest a little longer into the fall.

    If you are interested in some calcium and supplement options check for them at under supplements or food/other. Also for superior supplements try,, (they often advertise in the reptibid classifieds) and

    For excellent information on iguana husbandry check out

    Good luck. I too nursed a badly affected young iguana back to health. He did have some permanent deformities but they never slowed him down. He grew into a well behaved, potty trained adult.

    JEFFREH Administrator

  9. cd

    cd Member

    I never had an experience of mbd with my iguana, so all that I can offer you is my best wishes that she will be ok.
    Lots of luck,

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