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Reptiles/Infection or calcium deficiency?


Hello! My name is Matthew and I was wondering if my lizard might have either an infection of calcium deficiency. He has a buildup of hardened puss jus around his gum line on either sides of his jaw. We have been feeding him a mixture of greens that we recently have noticed has spinach and Swiss chards in it, and we have read somewhere that both swiss chards and spinach are bad for the lizard as they have such a high calcium content that they cancel out any calcium sprinkled on. Is this true?

Hi Matthew,

Both spinach and Swiss chard are high in calcium oxalates which bind with calcium to form calcium salts. Calcium in this form cannot be absorbed by your lizard. That is the reason that those greens should not be used as a staple food but included only occasionally.

Calcium deficiency can cause the lower jaw to become soft, distorted and swollen looking but I don't think that is what is going on with your pet.

Your description sounds more like an infection known as mouth rot.

Make sure his temperature is correct. From his diet I'm guessing you either have a Bearded Dragon or an Iguana and the basking area for both need to be right around 38C. The correct temperature will ensure that his immune system is functioning well.

You can also clean out the crusty area with a cotton swab dipped in hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is available where they sell first aid supplies like Band-aids. Dip the swab lightly so that it is not dripping and hold your lizard with his head tilted down. You want to avoid having any go down his throat. It will bubble and foam as it lifts and removes the dried discharge.

Hydrogen peroxide is good for the initial cleaning but should not be used often or repeatedly as it can prevent irritated tissue from healing. I would suggest following that by swabbing on a thin layer of antibiotic ointment or some diluted Betadine. Betadine is povidone iodide and is also available at drug stores. Dilute it about half with water. It will take care of most bacterial and also fungal infections.

If you don't start to see improvement after a few days of home treatment then you should consult a vet. Good luck.  


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I can answer questions on the proper husbandry and diet of Iguanas, bearded dragons, geckoes, skinks, chameleons, tortoises, box turtles, treefrogs, non-venomous snakes and tarantulas. Also the breeding of some species of feeder insects. I have no experience with venonmous snakes and only limited experience with aquatic turtles.


I have been keeping and breeding reptiles for over 30 years. In addition to my regular job in the medical field I also worked for several years in a pet store that specialized only in exotics. The job entailed both caring for and answering questions on innumerable species. It required constant, extensive research into a wide range of reptiles. I have been called to appear on televised national media (CBC, CTV and Life Channel) as well as CBC radio to discuss the proper care of reptiles and other exotics in captivity. I currently own one or more species of those listed under my expertise with the exception of chameleons. I owned chameleons for years but keep none currently. I keep over 20 snakes comprising 5 species, both Colubridae and Boidae. I bred corn snakes for several years. I have a particular interest in treefrogs and currently have 5 different species. I've raised redfoot tortoises for 10 years and have two iguanas, one for 12 years.

A small and now defunct local magazine called "Pet Vue"

Diagnostic medical microbiology with some parasitology experience.

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