Current dietary recommendations for the Giant Green Iguana
There was a time where we depended on dietary research based on growing green Iguanas as a food source for dietary recommendations. This diet was rich in meat based proteins and insects as it found that Iguanas fed a high protein diet grew to a marketable size rather quickly. Since they were only interested in the short term dietary needs to grow iguanas quickly, they did not care if this diet was really correct for Iguanas kept as pets in captivity. This high protein diet if fed to our pets does produce an animal that grows rapidly, looks beefy and has gorgeous color but we found that these animals had a relatively short lifespan, about 7 years! As such we had to develop a diet that would grow healthy Iguanas as pets with a normal lifespan of 25-30 years! The Iguanas that were fed this diet usually died of liver or kidney failure and it was theorized that since an Iguana is such an efficient herbivore this dietary protein caused a buildup of dietary toxins resulting in death of the animal.
Quazimoto suffered from a very severe case of MBD. She was lucky
Many owners then began feeding a diet of lettuce typically Romaine or Iceburg combined with carrots, celery, tomatoes, melon and squash. This diet was totally deficient in nutrition and devoid of dietary Calcium and Phosphorus. These animals also did poorly, developed nutritional deficiencies such as MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) lost condition and died. Metabolic bone disease is caused by insufficient dietary Calcium and Phosphorus, as a result the body begins to pull these minerals out of the bones of the Iguana and they become spongy and brittle. In an attempt to protect those bones the body produces fibrinogen which is a tough fibrous material that surrounds the weakened long bones making the animals thighs appear fat when in actuality the owner is seeing the damage caused by the improper diet. Caught early this disease can be reversed although the fibrin deposits will remain for the lifetime of the animal.
So what then do you feed an Iguana?
Shred, bake or boil these vegetables because your Iguana does not actually chew but rather manipulates the food through the mouth and into the stomach. The larger the pieces the less food he can actually put into his stomach.
Current recommendations include a high protein vegetable source such as Alfalfa which is easily incorporated into the diet in the form of rabbit pellets (rabbit food).
Squash such as Kubota squash can both increase your Iguana's nutrition but it will also help bring out any blue coloration.
Mustard Greens and other DARK leafy greens should be part of the mainstay in your Iguana's diet.
Collards and broccoli can be given but should be limited as they have a substance called Oxalic Acid which binds with calcium making it unavailable to the body.
Turnips, parsnips, carrots, jicama and other root vegetables should be included in the diet.
Legumes such as peas, beans and tofu can be included but should be kept to a minimum due to their high protein content.
10% of the diet should be fruits such as apples, pears, bananas, peaches, etc.,
A good quality calcium/phosphorus supplement designed for herbivores should be applied to the food daily
A pinch of good quality vitamins should also be applied to the food every other day.
This does not mean that the occasional snack of meat is harmful but it should not be included as a mainstay of the diet.
Understanding of the dietary recommendations for the Giant Green Iguana is always undergoing some change based on Veterinary research. As with any piece of information take this with a grain of salt, use what you find useful and file away that which you do not.
Under proper care and feeding a pet Iguana can be both engaging and interesting. If tame there is no better pet in the world than an Iguana.
Remember that males can become territorially aggressive at certain times of the year making them downright dangerous. Do not take this aggression personally, it will subside. During this time, please keep safety in mind and keep him in his enclosure. It will pass after a few months when his hormones settle down. Do not consider buying a female for him during this time either as it will increase his aggression! Males have been known to seriously injure and even kill a female who is caged with him, because she can not get away.
S. Wiesner Copyright 2009
Reptile Rapsody Reptile Rescue http://www.reptilerescueca.org
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