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Iguanas/Black and red blisters/bumps on my iguana



under his belly
under his belly  
I've had my iguana for around a year and a half and he has recently become more ill. He is around 1 yr and 3 months old and is a male. Before he became more ill in this state (pictures are attached), I took him to the vet where he was diagnosed with dermatitis. I took him to the vet for around 6 times (starting in october) and spent more than $500+ getting him treatment with no sign of him really getting better. They prescribed him the following: Tobramycin ophth drops, silvadene cream, and cefazidime injections. When I first took him to the vet, he had excessive accumulation of shedding under his belly, tail and eye, which was removed most of it by the vet and I followed up with warm baths twice a day (10-20 minutes each) and rub the silvadene cream on the infected parts. Eventually after all those visits I stopped taking him to the vet this month, but the shedding left over came off to reveal this new problem on his skin! :( He started getting the bumps around a week ago and I honestly don't have any more money to take him to the vet again, especially when all they could tell me is that they aren't sure on what he has and even if they run more tests they still won't know for sure what illness he might have. I stop putting the silvadene on him recently because the bumps are "watery" and every time I touch near them he will get really agitated and run away from me. He was on the cefazidime shots for about 2 months, I gave it to him every 3 days and switch arms every time I did it, supposedly that was to prevent any kind of bacterial infection in the blood but I guess it didn't work...

As for his husbandry he is on a 150 watt light bulb, he has a green repti-carpet, he is on a 30 gallon tank, he has a heating pad under his tank (i only turn it on at night to keep temperature up), thermometer, humidity gauge, a bowl to fit in if he wants to soak in, and i try to spray his tank at least 3 times a day to keep humidity to at least 60 and temperatures are usually at 78-85 F since his tank is in the basement. I live in Chicago so winters can get pretty cold that's why I also got a 50-60 gallon heating pad to try to keep temperatures up. I also try to cover him up with a clean t-shirt at night to hopefully keep him a little warm to at least 70-65 F. :( Also, i try to feed him at least three different greens/fruits on his plate for his meals. Lately, I've only seen him eat at least once a day and he's still pooping fine.

I've been doing some research, trying to figure out if there's something I can do without resorting to putting him down if the disease spreads more, but I'm really not sure what to do. I've been thinking of giving him baths with some providone on the water to help clean the wounded blisters. Also I've consider rubbing on him tolnaftate antifungal cream, yet I'm not sure if this looks like a fungal infection. Also, I've considered neosporin ointment to help with his wounds, but I haven't applied any of these yet because I'm not 100% sure and I don't want to hurt him. I know the best thing would be to take him to the vet again, but I honestly don't have the resources to do so anymore. I really feel helpless right now, especially when all my efforts to help him have been pointless since he's only gotten more sick. :( I've considered finding him a foster home where they could give him the proper treatment, but so far the organizations I have found only take typical domestic animals like cats and dogs and I can't seem to find a place for my iguana. I really want him to live a proper happy please help me. I would truly appreciate it...If you have any more questions please let me know. Thank you so much in advance.

Hi Yesica,
You don't mention any uvb lighting. Unless the light states on the bulb/tube that it is a UVB producing lightsource, then your ig hasn't had any uvb.  They do need uvb to properly use the calcium in the foods they eat.   Its hard to tell if everything he has going on is due to lack of uvb.(if he indeed lacks uvb).I'm going to include a basic care sheet that I wrote.  There you can read more on uvb and also links to finding a vet.
He is very small for his age.  He really should not be in a tank. Even a hatchling does not fit in a 30 gallon tank.  His temperatures are not sufficient if he doesn't have a basking area...again, please see the care sheet for more on temperatures.
Using Neosporin won't hurt... giving him baths with betadine in the water won't hurt.  Make the water the color of a weak tea.
Sometimes anti fungal medications can make things worse when it isn't known the type of infection.   There is one virus called CANV that, sad to say is basically deadly, even with treatment in many cases.
I would stop trying for such a high humidity and see if that helps...let him go with just normal room humidity and bathe him daily. You can try the betadine(diluted) soaks and the neosporin.
If the heating pad is an undertank heater, do you have a protective layer between the glass and your ig?  The glass can get quite hot.
I can tell your frustration and my heart goes out to you.  You have done lots for him to this point. If, after reading the care sheet, you find that there are several areas of care that are lacking(I blame that on the vet for not going over care issues with you if that is the case), try making the changes..
Believe it or not, much of his problems can be stress related from such a small "home".  He has no room to be an ig..climbing, etc. Using the Neosporin ointment can help with shedding issues.  Vaseline can also help..many people use aloe vera lotion to aide in shedding..
Again, make any changes necessary, try some different options in treatments...
read up on the CANV and possibly find a new vet that will test for it... after that, then the decision is keep trying or to end any possible suffering your pet may be enduring. It is never an easy choice..but regardless of your choice, it is your decision and for your reasons.  Many of the care links I've listed will also list reptile rescues.


Iguanas have many, many special care needs..when those needs are not met, iguanas will suffer in many ways...which can include metabolic bone disease, no growth,kidney and liver disease....and death...its important to give an iguana all the recommended care to help them thrive in captivity....below is the basic care an iguana needs...anything less and they will not do well in captivity.. If their care is not right...they will not be active or eat..PLEASE read the entire care sheet...and print it out if needed...also be sure to read the enclosed links I listed at the bottom.....

Don't let the pet store tell you that an ig will only grow as big as the cage it is in!!! That's NOT true!!! Don't waste your money on a 10 gallon tank...that's big enough to bring them home in, but that's about it. To give you an idea how fast they grow, an iguana will outgrow a 75 gallon tank within the first year. Start with nothing smaller than a 55 gallon tank,but, since iguanas are arboreal, a tank does not offer the height an iguana needs.That's a very good reason to start with a cage that is bigger.The size that is required for an adult iguana is 6-7 feet high, at least 6-7 feet wide and no less than 3 feet deep.Its important to remember air circulation and also that you have to keep the humidity up. Also, that you have to be able to provide the lighting and heating from the top, so a screen or mesh top is needed, or a solid top with holes cut out and covered with screen for the lights to shine through.(the screen covering the opening prevents the ig from being able to touch the heat source) If not, you will harm your ig health wise.


Supplying uvb can be done in a few ways. By special lights that come in fluorescent tubes or special screw in bulbs (mercury vapor)that are designed to produce uvb and heat. The tubes do not produce heat. UVB is needed by the Iguanas to be able to absorb the calcium in the foods they eat. With out the uvb, they will develop metabolic bone disease. There are tubes that say ''full spectrum'' but they do not produce any uvb.
With the correct tubes, they must say that they produce BOTH uvb and uva. The uvb needs to be 5% or higher. Repti Sun 10.0 and the Repti Glo 8.0's are a great source for uvb. The old "favorites" are the repti sun 5.0 or the Iguana light..which are the same tube, just different package. These need to be positioned 6-8 inches over the iguana for the 5% and 8% and 8-10 inches for the 10% so that they get the uvb that is needed.  The tubes need to be replaced every 6-9 months as that they stop producing UVB long before they stop producing light.Using a fixture that holds two uvb tubes of at least 3 feet in length will provide adequate uvb for your iguana. On the mercury vapor , they also produce heat. They also produce the uvb and uva. The best on the market now are the Mega Rays.( The distance from these are greater than the uvb tubes and the directions must be followed that are listed for the light. When using the mercury vapor lights, you don't need to have one light for uvb and one for heat. The Mercury vapor lights provide both.

For daytime heat, if using the tube uvb, regular household incandescent light bulbs produce heat. I like the halogen bulbs as they produce a nice bright light for your ig. The wattage will depend on the size of your iguanas enclosure. and the room temperature.Of course, the best uvb is from the sun and if you are in an area that you are able to take your iguana outside in a proper enclosure, (Never a tank or enclosed, solid cage)


Igs MUST HAVE a basking light...they digest their food by the heat.

This light/heat can be provided by a regular halogen bulb or lights that are sold as basking lights. Depending on the size of the cage, you may need anywhere from a 60 watt to a 100 watt bulb. If you use a mercury vapor bulb for the uvb, that also provides heat, but it still may be necessary to use another light/heat source to maintain proper temperatures throughout the cage.

The basking area temps must be maintained at about 92 to 96 gradient higher...they NEED the heat to digest their food!! If the temperatures are too low, digestion is slowed, too high and the food digests too fast and nutrition is not utilized as it should be.

This, again, is for 12 hours of daylight (the same time your UVB lights are on).You can place this bulb in a silver dome fixture(be sure it has the ceramic socket) and it MUST be placed so that your ig cannot climb on it..or touch it. On top of your screen cage is safe but..if your ig likes to hang from the top of the will have to raise it up some how to prevent burns. Remember..if you must move it, monitor the temps again!!!!!!

This cannot be stressed enough. In order to maintain those temps,it is VERY important to use thermometers. Using a GOOD digital is a necessity!!

A THERMOMETER IS A MUST!! It needs to be at the igs level....where he lays in the basking area to see what the temp is there...if your thermometer is NOT where he lays,you will get an improper reading for his basking area and you will burn your ig (watch for panting or mouth gaping open - signs of overheating)or the temperatures in the basking area will not be in the correct range. The best are the digital ones that have the probe. Some also give the humidity reading along with the temperature in two different areas.

You will need a basking shelf or branch. The placement of this depends on what height you need to maintain the temps mentioned above and keep your iguana within the recommended distance of the uvb source. Be sure to make it at least twice the width of the ig. Keep in mind the distance the UVB light needs to be from the ig also. This is almost the hardest area of the cage to get requires a lot of monitoring of the temps until YOU ARE SURE they are correct.

Keep a shallow dish of fresh water for your ig at all times.

Some igs will 'poo' in their water dishes, so you may have to change it more than once/day. Providing a 2nd water source, such as some type of low pan for a small ig, or a cat litter box(filled with water) for an adult ig is a good idea.Keep water shallow enough that your ig can touch the bottom freely, as too many younger igs have been known to actually drown!

Igs do need to have humidity. They are mostly of the Tropical Rain Forest.
This means you need a humidity gage.   50% is the minimum... I wouldn't go above 70-75%, although most of us can't get that high...that's why misting your ig several times a day helps. You can use humidifiers or vaporizers can be necessary to get a humidity level that is needed. Also, what I have found that works best for me at least is to have my igs humidifiers(warm mist) on timers.  The timers are about $6-7 each and you can set them in 1/2 hour incruments.  I have mine set to run for 1/2 hour every few hours during the day. This seems to work well.

Basically, temperatures in the entire cage need to be varied, sort of like in "zones". The basking area (branch or shelf nearest the heat source) has already been covered.

You need to have a gradient temp in the area of 75-96. Sound confusing? Basically, you need the "basking" area, a middle temp area and a cool area. Basking area..92-96.....mid range gradient temp..88-92 (Ambient)and cool side 75-84.Igs cannot regulate their body temps. They rely on the sun (natural or by way of light bulb) and the shade (cooler area of the cage) to do that.
NIGHT..... LIGHTS OUT!!!!!! At night, if the temperatures drop below 75-80 degrees(depending on the iguana age)you need to provide a heat source in the form of a ceramic heat emitter(which can also be used during the day) or a special nighttime bulb(red or deep purple) that does not produce any bright white light.Some iguanas do not like the colored lights and do try to hide from them. Its up to you to see this and switch to a ceramic heat emitter to prevent your iguana stressing.
Iguana Iguanas are herbivores.... They DO NOT need animal protein, they cannot digest it... it will KILL them!! (Kidney disease)
Basically, the diet needs to consist of Collard Greens, mustard greens, turnip greens,dandelion greens,escarole, endive, chicory, arugula,(torn in pieces smaller than their head) winter squash (butternut or acorn squash), parsnips (grated or shredded) all placed in a shallow dish. (This is not a complete foods list, but is a good start.)
There are 'good' foods and foods for treats (those used only once in awhile). Fruits are be given a few times a week. (This doesn't mean that you cannot give your ig a piece of fruit every small piece a day is fine.) Again,I cannot stress enough the importance of diet. NO COMMERCIAL prepared ig bugs, worms, tuna, chicken, monkey biscuits,dog or cat foods, eggs, cottage cheese... NO animal protein!!!!!


This is what you use on the floor of your igs enclosure.

DO NOT USE anything that is bark, litter, loose substrates!!...Many are toxic and more so, your ig will ingest these items and it will KILL them. You can use paper bags, newspaper, paper towels, no pile carpeting or towels(wash first,and be sure there are no loose strings )

HEAT ROCKS KILL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!they can overheat, they cause burns (igs cannot feel the heat) they will KILL... if you have one and you ig loves it.cut off the cord and place it on his basking shelf and it will absorb the heat of the basking light. Never use heat rocks or heated caves!!!!

This list is by no means complete!!!! Below are listed some very good informational sites.They will be with us for 15-20 plus years with proper care and a little luck. Providing them with the proper needs will help them live a long, healthy, and happy life. Remember, we are the ones that pulled them out of the natural's our job to give them as close to a natural habitat as possible. (contains some outdated information on uvb) a yahoo group dedicated to raising baby iguanas

Find a Vet before you need one!!! Reptiles need Vets trained to treat find one in your area:

The information contained in the care sheet was originally written by me for use at the iguanaden website(2003) and also in the book"The Iguana Den's Care and Keeping of Giant Green Iguanas"(2005)

If you have any  questions, or don't understand something please let me know  


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I am well versed in all aspects of the care and keeping of green iguanas. This includes all husbandry issues pertaining to the Green Iguana. I am not a vet so I cannot answer medical questions, other than ideas for normal supplementation, removing stuck shed, dropped tail and mites and other general health questions


I own 3 green iguanas, two of which are rescues. I've had my Iguanas for 11 years. I own a yahoo group dedicated to raising healthy iguanas. I've rescued and rehabbed several young iguanas and have placed them in wonderful forever homes. I prefer taking in the "hard cases" that need critical care.

Scales and Tails Exotic Pet Rescue (one of the founding members)

One of the Co Authors of the Book "The Iguana Dens Care and Keeping of Giant Green Iguanas"

I was a vet tech for a small animal practice for 6 years.

Past/Present Clients
I own a yahoo group dedicated to raising healthy iguanas.(babyiguana) I have answered several Iguana questions on the "reptile" forum on here.

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