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09 Symptoms of a Dying Iguana: Can You Save a Dying Iguana?

If you’re just starting out with the iguana species of lizards, symptoms of a dying iguana is one of the topics you’ll need to read before bringing the lizard home. Iguana is among the best reptiles that you can keep as a pet even as a beginner hobbyist.

Although they are easy to care for, it may be quite difficult to read its moods. As a responsible Iguana owner, you need to understand how to determine when your lizard is sick and what is the appropriate treatment that you can give them.

Iguanas are hardy creatures and it can take a long time before they can get sick but also takes a long time before they get well.

In the wild, sick and weak animals have to hide their illness or injury. Any sign of weakness will attract a predator and this is why it is hard to detect when it is sick until it is too late.

In this article, we will break down everything you need to know about the various Iguana dying signs, how to treat your Iguana at home, and also how to take proper care of your lizard.

This article has been reviewed by Dr. Dilber. Read more about our knowledge control process here.

Iguana Dying Signs

Iguana Dying Signs
Iguana Dying Signs

Firstly, Iguanas are hardy reptiles and rarely have health issues if you properly care for them. However, they can also get sick and even die if you do not give them the right attention and care.

Some of the signs that you can be on the lookout for to determine if your Iguana is dying are stated below.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping during the day
  • Discharge from the mouth, nose, or vent
  • Slight or dramatic limping
  • Hard breathing
  • Swollen limbs or trunk
  • Stool changes
  • Muscle weakness, paralysis, or tremors
  • Runny stool
  • dull or closed eyes

The most effective way to detect when your iguana has a health problem is to pay attention to anything that you feel is different from the normal activity of your Iguana.

Furthermore, you should always ensure you are feeding them with the correct diet and check their substrate regularly.

In the sections below, we will take a more in-depth look into how you can detect that your iguana is dying and how you can treat and prevent illnesses.

How to Tell If Your Iguana Is Sick?

symptoms of a dying iguana
How To Tell If Your Iguana Is Sick?

Iguanas are hardy creatures and it will take a long time before you can detect that they are sick.

The best way that you can use to detect whether your iguana is sick is by spending time with it to help determine what is their normal behavior. This will then help to quickly notice when there are changes in the behavior of your Iguana.

Once you notice any changes in your Iguana like weight, breathing, activity, eating habits, etc., then you can take it to the vet.

Signs of a Sick Iguana

Appetite Loss

Appetite loss is a sign that can indicate that something is wrong with your Iguana. You can easily detect that something is wrong because iguanas are healthy eaters.

Some instances when Iguana refuses food is when the temperature is too cold for him, it is breeding, or when it is about to shed.

However, your iguana may be sick if it is not eating and none of these instances apply to it.

Lack of Energy

Lack of Energy Is A Sick Sign From Iguana
Lack of Energy Is A Sick Sign From Iguana

A healthy iguana is usually alert and even feisty. However, when you notice that your iguana seems uninterested in everything, looks weak, and/or lethargic, then he could be sick.

You can keep an eye on it and if it does not bounce right back within a day or two, you can contact your vet.


Iguanas don’t usually twitch and if you find your lizard twitching then something may be wrong with it.

Loss of Balance

Something may be going on with your iguana if it seems to be struggling to get on or off its perch or if it falls off.

Iguanas usually do this when the temperature in their enclosure gets too cold, so you need to ensure that their enclosure is at optimal temperature.


A healthy iguana rarely vomits and once you find your iguana vomiting, then it is a sign that it is sick.

One post from Henry Imma in the Iguana Care Group said that his iguana was vomiting after digesting a small piece of house plant (crassula ovata — a type of succulent). Clearly that iguanas should not eat crassula because multiple toxins are present in the plant.

Sometimes, if you don’t keep an eye on your iguana pet, they could eat some toxic houseplants, and that will cause serious health problems for your pet. You can check what houseplants are toxic to your iguana and remove them from your pet’s eyes.

Runny Stools

You can also use your iguana droppings to detect whether it is sick or not. There are times when temperature changes can make your iguana stools to be more liquid than normal. However, if this situation persists, you will need to consult an exotic vet.

You can also keep an eye on your iguana’s stool to check whether there is any change in color or volume.

Difficulty When Breathing

Healthy iguanas usually breathe with their mouth closed. However, once you discover that your iguana is breathing with its mouth open, then it may be suffering from a respiratory disease. You can check their nostrils for mucus.

Sunken Eyes

Healthy lizards usually have bright and full eyes while their gums and tongues should be moist. There is a high chance that your lizard is dehydrated if it has sunken eyes, retained shedding, or sticky saliva.

Some of the things that can cause dehydration in iguana are when there is not enough moisture in their food or the climate in their enclosure is dry which makes them lose moisture.

Loss of Weight

It is quite difficult to use weight loss to determine whether your lizard is sick because it can go for months without eating.

Furthermore, before you can even determine that iguana is losing weight it may be too late and the illness is already at an advanced stage which can be hard to cure.

However, if you are lucky to quickly detect signs of weight loss like thinning of the tails, prominent skull, or showing rib cages, then you should rush your iguana to the vet immediately.

Change In Body Color

Note also that iguanas can change body color for several reasons. They can change color from yellow to brown and even orange. These changes in color can be normal or abnormal.

Some reasons your pet iguana would change color include shedding, a sign of sickness, poor habitation, a sign that it’s ready to mate, age, low temperatures, stress, infections, and more.

As a good keeper, it’s important that you know why your iguana changes color. If the reason is related to its habitat, you need to adequately evaluate your husbandry and eradicate every factor that can cause stress or give room for infections.

Can You Treat A Sick Iguana?

Yes, you can treat a sick iguana if the ailment has not progressed to the stage where it is not reversible.

However, you should know that prevention is better than cure. This is why you need to ensure that the living conditions in your iguana enclosure are ideal. You need to ensure their tank is clean and the temperature and humidity are at an optimal level.

The most important thing to keep Iguanas healthy is providing a stress-free environment. Besides providing all necessary habitat requirements, the location of the Iguana tank also matters. Stress makes Iguanas susceptible to diseases and infections by suppressing the immune system.

Furthermore, you should also remove old food matter, dirty bedding, and fecal waste daily while you clean the whole enclosure with a disinfectant every week.

You also need to provide your iguana with access to clean and fresh water. This is because dehydration is a major cause of illness with reptiles and you may easily reverse an ailing condition in iguana by rehydrating it.

Ensure that you get your iguana checked regularly by a vet. You can opt for a vet that specializes in reptiles also known as a herp vet. They can then help to perform checks on your iguana to detect the exact cause of the illness.

The Ill Symptoms That You Can Treat At Home

Although there are some ill symptoms in iguana that you can treat at home, it is best if you consult with a herp vet for help.

They will then advise you whether you should treat your lizard at home or you can bring them for a checkup. Some of the ill symptoms that you can treat at home are stated below.

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)

MBD is a common disease in Iguana and is also very devastating to your pet. This disease is a nutritional disease and it usually occurs due to the lack of calcium in your iguana.

Once your iguana contracts this disease, its bones will begin to warp and break down because of a lack of calcium.

Some of the symptoms of metabolic bone disease in iguanas are:

  • Swelling of the hind legs
  • Rubber jaw
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures and muscle twitching
  • Loss of appetite
  • The limbs will become swollen and less mobile.

due to the inappropriate calcium-phosphorus ratio in the food. Besides that, lighting in the Iguana’s tank is necessary to produce vitamin D3 in the iguana’s skin.

Once you notice that your iguana develops MBD, you need to provide them with a calcium supplement with safe levels of vitamin D3 to help your lizard absorb calcium.

However, a fatal MBD condition will need immediate treatment with injectable or oral calcium supplement or treatment with specific medication to aid the absorption of calcium in your lizard. Your lizard may even be admitted by the vet to help keep them stable in a warm environment.

You will also need to ensure that your iguana is getting enough lighting and heat once you bring them back home.


Most reptile owners usually install lights inside their iguana enclosure. However, your iguana may come in contact or try to crawl on them, if you do not install the light properly. When your iguana comes in contact with hot light, it can cause burns which can lead to serious infection.

This is why you should put the light in a safe place away from your iguana. You can then treat minor burns with povidone-iodine. However, it can be hard for an inexperienced owner to estimate the burn degree. You can then take your iguana with burns to a vet.

Bacterial Infection

Numerous bacterial infections can affect your iguana. When iguanas are constantly exposed to a moist and dirty environment, it may lead to blisters on their skin. Furthermore, keeping your iguana in a dirty environment can lead to gangrene in their toes and nails.

The area that is affected by the infection will then become dark grey or black and even start to crack. However, an infection can also attack the mouth of the iguana. You can prevent this disease by always removing food leftovers from your iguana’s enclosure.

External Parasites

Parasites are among the common causes of iguana’s death. External parasites like mites and ticks are the most common external parasites that affect iguana. You can find them in iguana’s eyelids, vent, and mouth and it usually occurs because of the dirty environment.

Bacterial infections can be dermal, respiratory, eyes, or digestive. However, the proliferation of bacteria into an injured or damaged tissue on the body of Iguana.

You can detect the external parasite in iguana if your pet scratches excessively, has damaged skin, or it has visible parasites on it. You can get rid of external parasites by lubricating the attacked areas with petroleum jelly or baby oil and also clean the enclosure thoroughly.

Respiratory Disease

Iguanas can be inflicted by different types of respiratory diseases. Respiratory diseases in iguana are caused by bacteria or some type of fungal infection. The causes of respiratory diseases usually range from poor environments like keeping your iguana in a dirty enclosure to poor diets.

High humidity and low temperature cause respiratory infections in Iguanas. Because it provides a suitable environment for bacteria and fungi, and inflames the mucous membrane.

Some of the symptoms of respiratory diseases are difficulty in breathing, wheezing, or anything that looks abnormal in the breathing area. Your iguana may even stop eating or stop consuming water.

You can prevent respiratory disease in iguana by ensuring you keep your Iguana in a clean enclosure. You also need to disinfect their enclosure regularly. However, you can treat respiratory disease by contacting your vet for advice on how to deal with it.

Your vet is likely to prescribe some antibiotics that can be given orally or through injection.

When do You Need A VET?

Most of the health problems that affect iguanas are usually caused by poor living conditions. Once you notice any changes in your iguana like becoming lethargic, loss of weight, loss of appetite, physical signs, forced breathing, etc., you can take your iguana to the vet.

Note: it is not all vets that treat reptiles and you should try to research thoroughly for the best herp vet around you. A herp vet can make the proper diagnosis while finding out what is actually wrong with your iguana.

Although you can treat your iguana at home, you should always consult with your vet before you do so. This is because what you think is a mild ailment can actually be a major underlying issue. You should only treat your iguana at home when your vet gives you permission.

How To Help Prevent Sickness In Iguana

  • Keep the enclosure clean
  • Provide your iguana with proper nutrition
  • Ensure that you buy your pet food from a trusted source
  • Provide proper humidity and shedding care
  • Cultivate a proper hygiene routine when handling or petting your iguana
  • Quarantine unhealthy iguanas to prevent the spread of disease

Fully understanding your iguana will help you better take care of them. As a suggestion, we would recommend you to get a good iguana book. Not to become an expert on iguana care but will help you avoid the common mistake in new pet iguana owners.

Last update on 2022-12-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Wrapping Up

A healthy iguana usually has a clear eye, clear skin, and a healthy-looking pink nose. Once you notice any strange behavior from your iguana then it may be suffering from an underlying issue.

2 thoughts on “09 Symptoms of a Dying Iguana: Can You Save a Dying Iguana?”

  1. I’ve treated my iguana from what the vet said calcium deficiency waiting on blood test water her keep her wet been doing that she’s not getting better she’s getting worse I don’t know what to do they don’t even know what’s wrong with her started with open mouth very thirsty lethargic not her normal self little bit of twitching they ruled out the bone disease she was fine and then all of a sudden she just started breathing holding her mouth open drinking a lot of water and now she’s all but dying $500 later and I’m still watching my I want to die

  2. I don’t u stand why my male iguana about a year old I was cutting of food the other day and he was sitting there eating the food and healthy and then two days later he turned a yellow brick color and then died


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