EnRICHing the iguana/keeper relationship through accurate care information and compassionate re-homing.
DO IGUANAS NEED TO BE GROOMED?
There is a certain amount of maintenance to keeping an iguana. The biggest part will be the shedding.
Iguanas shed in patches, not all at once like snakes. Starting at the head, the area being shed will turn a lighter color, almost white. This indicates that the shed skin is about to lift from the new skin underneath. Resist the temptation to pull shed that is not easily flaked off. Shed skin that is not ready to release is still attached to the new skin, and can damage the new skin, if pulled off prematurely. At times, it may be necessary to “help” your iguana with its shed. Extra misting on the shedding areas, and daily baths for soaking will go along way to decreasing shedding problems, and make your iguana a little happier for it. Having the skin shed can be an irritating time and your iguana might become crabby, or go off feed a little. You can use this as an occasion for quality time together with your iguana to gently remove shed around the eye.Unshed flaps of skin can get caught in the eye, and it’s just plain annoying. Your iguana will not be co-operative at first. But once it realizes the benefit, it will close it’s eye and allow you to remove the shed. You can also use a warm, wet washcloth to gently wipe around the eye area. Always be sensitive to your iguanas’ mood and reactions while doing this. Obviously, this doesn’t work on an untamed, unsocialized iguana. The risk of getting bit is high, so use discretion and wisdom. The dorsal spikes are some of the hardest areas to shed.Using plain mineral oil on these areas will prevent shed buildup, which just makes it harder to shed the next time. After giving your iguana a soak in the tub, moisten your index finger and thumb with a dab of plain mineral oil. Don’t use baby oil; it has perfume and other additives. Then, gently massage it into the spike, starting at the base, and working your way up to the top. You don’t have to use a lot, just a dab will do. Leave it in until the next bath. The mineral oil traps water between the old shed and new skin, loosening the shed for easier removal. In the case of the dorsal spikes, you will know the shed is ready to release when the shed skin at the base will “break” away from the rest of the skin. Shed is eminent. Other difficult areas are the toes, fingers and tail tip. Especially for hatchlings, if these areas are not shed completely, the shed skin acts as a tourniquet, constricting blood flow, resulting in amputation. If you’ve ever seen an adult iguana that’s missing part of it’s fingers and toes, it’s probably a result of dried shed skin that couldn’t release. Checking your iguana for shed skin is a wonderful way to handle and socialize your iguana. It will come to trust you more as you teach it that you are not going to hurt or harm, or in the iguanas way of thinking, eat it. And it’s a great opportunity for you to get ahead of problems before they get out of hand.
In the wild, iguanas are found high in the tree, basking and eating. Iguanas climb up and down similar to the way of squirrels, going round and round the tree trunk. Their nails need to be sharp to navigate the rough bark.
In captivity, their nails will continue to grow sharp points, but they won’t have as many rough surfaces to file them down. Trimming your iguanas’ nails will not adversely affect its climbing ability. I’ve seen two of my own iguanas shimmy up a plain 2x4 without using their claws to dig in. Nail trimming is another grooming procedure that will give you and your iguana quality time together. Realize, of course, that nail trimming is not natural to the iguana. It can and will put up a fuss at first. It will not like the idea of someone holding its hand or foot. That is too much like a predator for it’s comfort. Talk reassuringly in soft tones. This will require a lot of patience on your part. Again, as before, you will need to assess the mood of your iguana. If you have an iguana that simply does not tolerate handling, you might have to use the “Iguana Burrito” technique. This involves wrapping it up in a towel while leaving the hand or foot free. This rarely makes the iguana happy, but sometimes, drastic measures are needed. If you think your iguana is prone to biting, put a towel over its head too. Better safe than sorry, and it will be over sooner than trying to duke it out between you and your iguana. Don’t count on being the winner. It’s safer for the iguana too, as it will prevent it from thrashing about which can cause damage to its tail or other body parts. Nail trimming is the same on iguanas as with birds or cats. If you’ve had experience with either of those, you will have no problem with iguanas. The sharp tips are the only part that need trimming. If your iguana has not had proper trimming before, you might need to go beyond the sharp point. Cutting into the quick will cause bleeding, and this prevents some people from performing nail trims on their iguanas. You can take your iguana to the vet, but it can get expensive after awhile. Using the right tool and having a jar of a quality blood-stopping agent handy will make you proficient in no time. Always use the “guillotine” type nail trimmer that’s made for reptiles. Avoid using the “anvil” type. Human nail trimmers are the anvil type and these tend to crush reptile nails. It’s hard to see where the quick starts within the nail matrix. Again, depending on your iguanas’ temperament, if it will allow you to hold its finger, you can position the nail in the trimmer and apply pressure first, before cutting. If the trimmer is too high, the iguana will pull its hand/foot away. This works more with tamed, socialized iguanas. In any case, you don’t need to take a gigantic chunk of nail off any way; maybe only as little as 1/16th of an inch will suffice.As you keep up with nail trims, the quick naturally recedes, and your iguana will have beautifully trimmed nails. Reward your iguana with a special fruit treat when it behaves in a calm manner!