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The Iguana Den





IMPORTANT: These pages on health are meant to be general guides, not hard and fast rules. They were not written by vets and are NO SUBSTITUTE for veterinary care. If you suspect something is wrong with your iguana, PLEASE see a qualified veterinarian!

Rehab Basics

Too many times, people become new iguana owners when a sickly ig is dumped on them. These people end up having to learn very quickly how to care for an ig that is often malnourished and/or suffering from nutritional deficiencies such as MBD or stunted growth. Nursing these igs back to health can be a long, painstaking process. The following is a guideline for rehabbing sick iguanas. It should ONLY be used in conjunction with veterinary care. It is NOT a substitute for taking your iguana to the vet. Many times igs in rehab need specific medications or supplements only a vet can provide. These guidelines are meant as supportive care IN ADDITION TO veterinary care.

1. Hydration - many rescued igs suffer from dehydration, especially if they have been fed commercial iguana diets. It's important to get the ig rehydrated. Depending on the extent of the dehydration, your vet may need to administer subcutaneous fluids. At home, you can help increase hydration in several ways. Soaks in the tub have the benefit of both helping to hydrate your ig, and loosening any old retained shed. Frequent misting can also help. While most igs won't drink from standing water, many, especially babies, will lick water droplets off of cage furniture. You can also offer foods high in water. While in general fruits should only be a small part of the diet, they can be useful in helping combat dehydration. Grapes and melons in particular are tasty to igs and high in water content. You can also inject grapes with extra water! Some of the new fruit flavored waters can be used in small amounts to entice igs to drink. These should not be offered on a regular basis, but may be useful in helping to rehydrate a sick ig.

2. Diet - Often, the cause of poor health in rescue igs is their diet. Many are fed inappropriate foods such as lettuce, commercial iguana foods, or animal products. It can be difficult getting an iguana to switch over to a healthy diet. For igs being stubborn, your best bet is to gradually wean them off the bad foods and onto the good. Begin by feeding about 90% of what they are used to, and 10% of the good foods you want them to eat. Over time, gradually increase the good and decrease the bad until they are eating only good.

You may also need to force feed sick iguanas. The slurry recipe can be used for most iguanas. You may also be able to purchase a commercial slurry called Oxbow Critical Care from your vet. When force feeding, it's important to be slow and patient to prevent aspiration (inhaling) of any of the slurry. Again, force feeding should only be done at the recommendation of a vet. In many cases it is more important to get the iguana rehydrated first before beginning force feedings. High sugar items given to a dehydrated iguana can form gasses in the stomach and cause bloating.

3. UVB - It is especially important for igs in rehab to get high amounts of UVB. When we rehab igs, we use a combination of UVB lights. Over the main basking area we use a mercury vapor UVB light such as the PowerSun or the Capture the Sun bulb. Over the length of the cage, we use 2 Zoomed ReptiSun 5.0 tubes or Iguanalight 5.0 tubes. When possible, natural sunlight is excellent for iguanas! Be sure to get the longest tube possible. It does no good to have an 18 inch UVB light for a four foot iguana!

4. Cage arrangement - depending on how sick your ig is, you may need to rearrange the cage to make it safe for them. Igs suffering from advanced MBD can suffer broken bones from even a small fall. You may need to rearrange branches and basking/UVB lights so that the ig cannot climb very high.

5. Vet Care - I can't emphasize enough how important good vet care is during the rehab process. Bloodwork can tell if there are any hidden problems such as poor calcium:phosphorus ratios, or kidney/liver problems. Fecal exams can let you know if you need to be treating parasites. They can also tell you if your ig needs to have its gut bacteria replenished. Benebac, nutribac, and acidophilus work well for this and your vet can probably provide them for you. It's also important to have your vet prescribe the correct dosages of any supplements or medications your ig may need during the rehab process.



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