Glad you are here. Daughter was given a rock head desert iguana for her birthday about 2 weeks ago. They caught it and

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Customer: Glad you are here. Daughter was given a rock head desert iguana for her birthday about 2 weeks ago. They caught it and said it was still very young. It's only about 4 inches from head to tail. This critter doesn't really want to eat anything so the PetSmart people told me to force it to eat romaine lettuce and seeds. I've done that twice but hate making it eat when it doesn't want to. The other thing is the kink in it's tail. I think it damages it when it tries to jump out of the terrarium every chance it gets. There are days then I see that it bleeds a little and I don't know what to do. We live in t small town and there are only vets for dogs and cats. What can we do??
JA: I'll do all I can to help. What is the dog's name?
Customer: Not a dog, it's a rock head desert iguana named Izzy
JA: Is there anything else important you think the Veterinarian should know about the dog?
Customer: Again, not a dog but a rock head desert iguana. What about it's tail???
Answered by Anna in 9 mins 4 years ago
30+ years of experience

17,022 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary

Hello and welcome. I apologize for the confusion you just experienced with the 'virtual assistant.' My name is ***** ***** I'm a biologist with over 20 years of experience keeping reptiles. I'm sorry to hear that Izzy is having some problems. I'm reviewing your information now, and will be right back.
I don't have a cell phone to text and I am very sorry but I have no pictures of the tail. I just looks like a small kink that sometimes bleeds a very little and gets dirt caked up on it. I'm just concerned about her not wanting to eat and the tail getting infected. What can we do here at home??
OK, some additional information will help me determine the best steps for you to take.What temperatures do you maintain under the basking light and on the cool side of the terrarium?What types of lighting and heating equipment do you have?How big is the wound on Izzy's tail? Is there any redness or flesh that has turned black?Thank you.
Don't worry about texting or a phone call. That was an automated request from JustAnswer. I didn't request it or the picture. Just give me the information I asked for, and we can proceed in this way.
The temp on the cool side stays at around 80 degrees. We have a uvb(?) light and a warming light for both the day and night that the PetSmart people sold up. The warming/basking light stay on 24 hours a day but the uvb(?) light gets turned off after 12 hours. The flesh on the tail looks normal and the wound area is about the size of one of the scales.
Thank you. Can you give me the temp under the warming light. This is important. If you only have one thermometer, perhaps you can move it over there to find out.
I'll go and move it right now. It will take a couple minutes. I'll be right back. Thank you!
Ok. I'll wait.
On the ward side it reads 88 degrees.
Thank you. I'm working on some information for you now, and will post it as soon as I have it typed up. I appreciate your patience.
Any info I can get would be much appreciated. (so sorry about all of my typo's, I've got to clip my nails!)

Don't worry about typos - we all make them.

I suspect you got your information on care from a pet store. Most people do. While we should be able to rely on such information, unfortunately, it is often wrong. They sell people the wrong lighting, advise the wrong foods, and often don't know the correct temperatures for the various reptiles. After months of things not being quite right, the animal becomes ill. Some of what you have been told is wrong, and I suspect that is why Izzy is having so much trouble. Even though you have been trying so hard to keep her healthy, when you didn't have correct information to begin with, things are going wrong. Your instincts about force feeding are good. It is not a good idea unless a vet has advised it and demonstrated how to do it. It's very easy for food to be aspirated into the lungs, which is life threatening. There's a reason she won't eat, and we'll get to that shortly.

Right now, I’ll start with a first aid measure to take as soon as possible.Buy some Pedialyte (yes, the kind for human infants). Prepare a shallow bath consisting of 1/2 water and 1/2 Pedialyte. Soak Izzy for about 20 to 30 minutes. Reptiles can absorb the electrolytes and fluids through their skin and vents (where droppings pass out), so make the water deep enough to cover the vent. Be sure to supervise closely to keep her from escaping.

I'll be back with more.

There are several reasons why Izzy may not be eating. Since she was wild caught,she is probably extremely stressed by being in captivity. I wish stores would not sell wild-caught lizards because they often can't adjust to living in what is, for them, a tiny cage. That is probably also the reason Izzy is trying to escape. Because she hasn't been eating and is stressed, she is probably dehydrated. The soak I described above will help with that.

Next, she is cold. 80*F is fine on the cool side, but right under the basking light, it should be 105*F to 110*F. A cold lizard will not eat. The wide temperature gradient is important so she can choose where she is most comfortable at any given time. It's very important to have a thermometer on each side because proper temperatures are crucial.

You can increase the basking temperature by using a higher wattage bulb in the basking light fixture, lowering t he fixture itself (but not so low that he can be burned on it), or by adding a second fixture. If you need a second fixture, you don't have to buy something expensive from a pet store.If you live in an area that has farm stores, you can buy a clip-on metal light fixture made to keep baby chicks warm for just a few dollars. Don't buy the accompanying bulb, however. You need an ordinary incandescent bulb in the basking light. Hardware and home improvement stores sell similar light fixtures as work lights. At night, the temperature can be allowed to fall into the upper 70's throughout the cage.

I'll post this so you'll have more to read while i continue typing. Then, I'll be back.

Is this something I should do with the second rock head iguana that came with Izzy. This one we call Iggy. Iggy has not really been eating either and does not have any injuries that we can tell. Izzy's injury came with her and before Iggy came. Iggy is only about 3 and a half inches long. They seem to get along fine without any fighting. But like I said Iggy isn't really eating either.

Yes, do the first aid for both of them. Unfortunately desert iguanas, especially wild caught ones, are not a good first lizard. Their care and the conditions they require have to be optimal. They need a very large cage for their size. This may be another reason Izzy is trying to escape and injuring her tail. It is also very difficult to determine their sex. If it turns out both are males, they will fight viciously as they get older. It is recommended that one desert iguana be housed in a 100 gallon tank. Smaller will be ok for babies. but will increase the chances for the kind of injury Izzy is suffering from.

First aid for the wound will be next.

I don't want to miss lead you, A friend caught the two lizards in the wild and gave them to my daughter on her birthday. We first got Izzy and then 3 days later they found Iggy and gave that one to her as well. I'll anxiously await more instructions. I promise to give both lizards the best care you instruct as I possible can. Thank you so very much!

You're very welcome, and thank you for your honesty. What your friend did was illegal, and keeping them is also illegal. Of course, I am not going to report you, but I wanted you to be informed. If you decide it would be better not to keep them, a good option would be to turn them over to a wildlife rehabilitator. If you want to consider that, I can look for some if you give me your state. If you want to read about the laws, here is a good site:

Now for the wound: Clean it with Betadine, which is sold in the first aid departments of discount stores and pharmacies. Follow that with a light application of plain Neosporin . Repeat the Neosporin twice per day. While it's best to have desert iguanas on a substrate of play sand mixed with small pebbles, that is going to stick in the wound. Until the wound heals, you can keep Izzy on plain paper towels.

These igaunas need a huge variety of foods : collards, mustards, dandelions, escarole, parsley, grasses (pesticide free!), shredded green and orange vegetables, soft fruits, flowers such as hibiscus, roses, dandelions, nasturtium, geranium (leaves and flower heads). Cactus pads (trimmed), creosote flowers if you can get them, and prickly pear. Supplement with a calcium supplement a few times a week. After they have each had a soak, and have been warm for a day, try offering some of these foods. Without variety, they will die of malnutrition.

We aren't finished yet.

I want to give you as much information as possible. Double check your UVB light to make sure it is truly UVB. Pet stores often sell the wrong type. If you're not sure, turn the light off and let it cool. Then you can read the information on the bulb itself. If you send me that, I can tell you if it's adequate. I do recommend the Reptisun 10.0. UVB is extremely important for desert species. The lights should be left on for 14 hours per day. The bulbs should be replaced every six months. They still look fine after that, but are only emitting visible light - not UVB- at that point.

The iguanas will also need a hide - one on the warm side and one on the cool side. These are sold in pet stores or you can make them. They are like little caves. I also want to give you a link to a reptile vet directory. If infection should develop in Izzy's tail, you won't be able to help her at home.

When we keep lizards, it's not unusual to have to drive quite a ways to find a vet. I have a two hour drive myself. It's a good idea to locate the nearest one before you actually need one.

I think I have covered the important information. If you have more concerns, just let me know. I'm glad to help. I hope the iguanas will thrive for you.


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I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Hello Anna,Thank you for checking back in. Izzy and Iggy seemed to liven up after their pedialyte bath and I believe they started eating. However they are quite shy and don't really let us watch them eat so I don't know who eats how much. I have varied their diet and made sure their enclosure is between 90 and 100 on the warm side. My question for you is this...Now that Izzy has had her soak and first aid treatment to her tail, I can clearly see that the tail is half way severed and is only attached on one side. It dosen't seem to hinder her movement but then again I am not an expert on these lizards. Will the tail eventually fall off or will it stay attached this way? Question 2 is do I need to soak them again or when would I need to give them another bath??Thank you for all of your help.
Hello again,There is no way to know what will happen with the tail. There are three possibilities. The two you mentioned - falling off or staying as is. The third is that infection could develop. That's common with tail wounds in lizards. The very best thing you could woukd be to have a reptile vet amputate the tail. Otherwise, keep an eye on it. If it turns red or black, the situation is dangerous and amputation is the only option. If there is oozing or it just 'looks' infected, oral antibiotics can help. I hope none of these things will happen.As for the soaks, most lizards do best with one weekly soak in plain water. However, if they become lethargic or lose their appetites, then you'd need to start Pedialyte soaks again.If you need anything anything else, don't hesitate to ask.Anna
The tail actually looks good where the break/cut is. It is not red or black and it is not oozing. I will definitely keep a close eye on it. Again, you are much appreciated in this. Have a nice weekend.
That all sounds good. You enjoy the rest of the weekend, too.
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