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Reptiles/Green ig - dehydration and raised kidneys??



My question is:
Is it possible to feel or see the kidneys in an iguana, perhaps if it is dehydrated, or is it a sign of kidney failure?  

Zade is my female (spayed) green iguana. I've had her for 10 years, ever since my parents bought her for me from a dinky pet store as a scrawny, jittery little thing (we did not do our research before this undertaking...) She free-roams in my room and has for most of her life.  Inside her old tank is where I keep her water bowl, which she has access to, though perhaps not the easiest access (she has to climb up a big branch, across a board above a window, and onto the shelf where the tank is).  

I attached a picture of the area of concern- there seems to be a lump above each of her hind legs that I haven't noticed or paid attention to before.  I looked up the anatomy of a lizard and think that the lumps may be where the kidneys would be, but I'm not sure.  

The reason why I'm concerned, which you can probably tell from the picture, is because she's dehydrated (I'm pretty sure). Regrettably, this didn't cross my mind until somewhat recently, when I realized she hasn't been drinking water despite our heat being turned on for the colder weather.  She used to drink when I offered her with a bowl, or would even trek into her tank for a drink, but for the past couple months she's been refusing water from me and I haven't seen her drink from her bowl.  

I started paying attention to her poop in the past couple days, and bits of her urates are yellow.  There is also a lot of clear liquid when she goes.  Her skin is also pretty wrinkly (she's shedding in the photo), and the skin on her thighs seems loose.  Her food is always wet when she gets it, she's been eating normally, and I've recently switched to a calcium supplement without D3.  In the past couple days, I've been squeezing drops of water in and around her mouth with a syringe, trying to force her to drink- she was so irritated at me about it yesterday that she went to the bathroom right there, and she's usually housebroken.  She gets a bath soak once a month, and I'm going to start misting her with a spray bottle.

I plan on taking her to a vet, but I don't know when that will be, what with the hurricane and all.  If those 'lumps' aren't her kidneys, is it normal?  Also, are her flabby thighs and wrinkly skin sure signs of dehydration?

Very concerned about my baby :|

Hoping you are in a safe part of NJ... I am in PA so the storm was also "part of my life" earlier this week.
Yes, it is possible to feel an iguanas kidneys...but usually only when there is a kidney issue and they are on the ventral side of the ig. The area you see the lumps can be the kidneys or they can be normal fat deposits. An x ray would show if the lumps are kidneys.
Yes, she does look dehydrated... I would start bathing her daily...they do actually absorb a small amount of water through their vents.  I would also offer her watermelon daily. Even some water flavored with baby food fruit or water with pedialyte in it.. You may also want to add a humidifier to her basking area.  
The picture you took, or when you noticed her wrinkled skin... was this after she went to the bathroom?  many times after they go, they will look skinny and wrinkled...
Having a large amount of clear liquid when she goes is a good thing..that shows she is hydrated. Does the liquid part have any odor to it?  If yes, what does it smell like? The slight yellow... that can happen on occasion from different things...foods, dehydration, illness... where the yellow was, was that like the white of an egg(slimy) or was it hard, white and dry?  If hard, again, a sign of dehydration or disease.
As you can see, what you are seeing with her can be normal or it can be illness, dehydration.  I do suggest a vet visit for some blood work.
Some things that concern me.... are you using a recommended source of uvb lighting for her?  If not, then there can be health problems in the works.
With her being free roaming, does she have a basking area with the correct temperatures?
What is her diet?
Igs really should only have a plain calcium, with nothing added to it..and generally only a few times a week.
Even though she is spayed... no one really knows if iguanas still go through a breeding season/egging, etc period... think back to previous years..has she acted the same way about this time of year?
With it being colder she laying in the window?  The cold will come through the window and can cool her down too much..they need even heat... if the air on their underside is cool/cold they cannot reach their needed internal temperatures.
I'm going to include a basic care sheet which you may or may not need so that you can check your uvb lighting, temperatures, etc.
Again, I would get her to a vet for at least an xray to see how the kidneys look... and bloodwork to make sure it isn't an issue with some levels.
I do want to mention that heavy doses and long term use of vitamin D3 can cause kidney problems so be sure that when you do go to the vet you mention that.

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 caresheet 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

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thanks for your concern. We went about 4 days without power, during which I was very worried for Zade since our makeshift generator (using a car) could only power her heating pad for short periods throughout the days. And it got pretty cold at night :( Power's back on now, thankfully, but gas is hard to find...

I'm hopeful that I can get a humidifier in my room later today. She isn't a fan of baths--she gets very still and alarmed, poops, then starts to desperately claw herself out of the tub. But I'm gonna make it a weekly thing and hopefully she'll warm up to it.

I didn't know they look wrinkled after going, but she does look like that more often than not, particularly in the morning. Even I get very dry-mouthed and thirsty in the morning, and I'm starting to keep my room door open night for more ventilation.

The liquid part of her poop definitely has a foul odor to it.. the best I can describe it as is musky, not sharp or strong, but lingering.  The yellow in the urates is slimy like the white part.

Her basking area consists of a human heating pad, an All Living Things basking bulb, and a Zilla UVB coil bulb. I admit the UVB bulb was only added a month ago, as I thought her regular bulb was providing the right UV rays and she does sun herself at the window when it's warmer in the summer. I'm not sure of the temperatures... definitely getting a thermometer.

She gets leafy greens with occasional banana or grapes.  No animal protein.  She's definitely had more romaine in her life than she should have, probably why I think she's stunted (she's only 14" snout to vent). Now she's getting primarily collard greens with chopped up butternut squash.  I wouldn't say her time on calcium + D3 was in heavy doses, since I was the only one in the family who would supplement her with it and for most of the past 4 years I was away at college and/or travelling for work. But I'll be sure to mention it.

Unfortunately, I can't say this behavior is familiar to me, again because I was away from home a lot. Her eating, pooping, and activity level are normal as far as I can tell... but I read that they can act completely fine up until a few days that kidney failure sets in and kills them :(  

Another thing I was wondering if you've had experience with, not sure if it's related to the current issue: She's been making little 'clicking' sounds when she swallows her food. Sounds like little suction noises, maybe once per swallow. I've definitely not heard her do this in the past, and was wondering if it might be a sign of a respiratory problem?  

Thanks so much for your prompt and knowledgeable replies!

Hi Karen,
Glad to hear your power is back on... it is one of those things that you don't realize how vital it is (especially when you have reptiles) til it isn't there.
On the uvb..the coil ones do not put the uvb out and in the direction the iguanas need.  I would do with a uvb/heat bulb for her... the one from REPTILE UV , the TRex uv/heat or even the Power Sun if you can't find one of the other brands.
Do check her temperatures in the basking area as they are very important for proper functions.
Romaine isn't as bad as what is generally isn't a food to be used as a sole diet, but... I've taken in rescues that were horribly stunted but were not "unhealthy" that were fed is good for hydration, which keeps many a poorly kept ig alive. I would not give her many bananas or grapes..I always recommend watermelon as a "safe" fruit that doesn't contain high amounts of oxalate acids or phosphorus. Collards are good, but do try to add more to her diet..turnip greens, arugula, endive, escarole, all in a good mix.  Even some of the bagged salad mixes work good in addition to the collards.
14 inches isn't a real bad size for an adult...I have one that is about that size..and she has had good care. Some just aren't as big as others..genetics plays a part. I have a rescue male that is so tiny you would think he is about 18 months old but he is 7 yrs old... again, his care was never bad, even before I rescued him.
We all have learned the needs of iguanas, in most cases after we got them.  The important thing is that when we learn their  needs, we fix what we have been doing.
On tubbing her..try placing a folded bath towel in the tub so that she can hang out on it..that may help her feel more secure.
Urate smell..clicking... both of these can point to kidney problems...I believe that their tongues may swell with kidney problems also.
She is at the age where problems can develop..which is sad. Along with a vet visit, you may want to do some research on holistic treatments...if I remember right, grape seed extract is used for kidney problems.  I know others have used cranberry extract with good results..but as always, talk to your vet before using any product.
Also, with the clicking, does she have any discharge from her nose?  (other than the normal clear sneezing)
I do wish you well with your girl...and I am glad to hear that you weathered the storm well.


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I am well versed in all aspects of the care and keeping of green iguanas, leopard geckos and bearded dragons. This includes all husbandry issues pertaining to the above species. I am not a vet so I cannot answer medical questions. I research other reptiles and am able to give general information on other species of lizards. I prefer not to answer snake questions as that I have not researched them enough.


I own 3 green iguanas, two of which are rescues. I own two leopard geckos, both rescues. I've had my reptiles for 11 years. I spend many hours researching the care of my reptiles to keep up to date on all information pertaining to keeping reptiles that I have. I own a yahoo group dedicated to raising healthy iguanas.

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 6 years. Research, experience and learning from the experience of others that have raised reptiles for many years.

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