The Iguana Den




Choosing an Iguana

Before you get an iguana (or any other pet!) the first thing you should do is research! Read as much as you can about the care requirements and behavior before you bring your new ig home. Sites like this one, Melissa Kaplan's site, and the Basking Spot are all great sources of information online. Melissa Kaplan also wrote the great resource book, Iguanas For Dummies. James Hatfield's Green Iguana, the Ultimate Owners Manual is another 'must have' book.

Make sure you have your enclosure set up and running beforehand. Having it running for a few days gives you time to adjust temperatures and humidity so it is perfect for your new friend.

When you are ready to bring home your new iguana, the first thing you need to decide is where it will come from. While we all know how adorable the baby igs in the pet stores are, we urge all prospective owners to consider adoption as an alternative. Pet store babies come from huge iguana farms in South America. The babies are packed into boxes and shipped to pet stores in the US. The babies that arrive are stressed, often parasite ridden, and have probable never seen a human before being captured and packed up for shipping! It is also impossible to tell the gender of a baby ig, no matter what the pet store may tell you. Igs cannot be reliably sexed until they are at least a year old, and often not until much later. With adoption, you have the benefit of (usually) knowing the gender of the iguana you are getting. You also get an idea of the iguana's personality and behavior. The rescue will often work with you to help match you to the iguana that is best for you. Many people worry about rescue iguanas being unhealthy - the rescuers put in many long hours rehabbing and caring for their charges. Iguanas are not adopted out unless they have a clean bill of health, or in the case of some special needs iguanas any health issues would be described up front before the adopter makes their decision. Best of all, by adopting you will be saving the life of one of the hundreds of iguanas in need of a new home.

Whether you decide to adopt or purchase from a pet store, there are some things to look for when you consider an iguana. The ig should be alert and, in the case of babies, active. A baby ig that sits calmly in your hand is a SICK baby. Healthy young iguanas are bundles of energy and do not like to sit still for anyone.

Look around the vent area at the base of the tail. It should be clean and have no crusty deposits or protrusions.

Check the scales closely for little moving dots. You do not want to have to deal with mites!

The mouth should be clean and clear of any mucousy substances. Igs remove salt from their system by sneezing it out, so you may see some white crusty substance around their nostrils. This is normal. If they have mucous coming from their nose or if you can hear them wheezing as they breathe, they probably have a respiratory infection.

Look for any blackened toes or tail tips. This may be a sign of dry gangrene. (We're not talking about the black scales and patterns that some igs show naturally).

Watch the iguana move about. They should be confident on their feet, not wobbling or off balance.

Once you select your new iguana, give him or her a few days to settle into their new home. Iguanas do not like change, and you may find that your ig may not eat or poop for the first few days. After they have had a few days to settle in, it is time to schedule your baby's first vet visit. Be sure to take a fecal sample with you to have the vet test for parasites. It is also a good idea to have bloodwork done on your new ig. There is much more information on veterinary visits and health in the Health section.



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