How To Properly Supplement Your Iguana
Supplementing your iguanas diet with vitamins and additional calcium is a debated topic among, with both sides having valid arguments. The idea behind supplementing is that iguanas are fed a strictly vegan diet in captivity. Some claim that if you are feeding the proper foods, supplementing isn't necessary. Well the question to then ask is "What are the proper foods?" "In what quantity and how much needs to be ingested daily to meet those needs?" The other side says that iguanas are not getting enough of the required vitamins and calcium that they need and then questions that need to be asked are "How much do they need?" "How do I know if they did ingest enough and how much supplement should I offer to offset what they didn't get?" as you can see, these questions pose some serious debate and rightfully so. There is no clear cut answer here. There is no magical formula to know those answers without regular blood work, which most people are not willing to do because it would be time consuming and expensive. So how does one know what to do with supplements? The real truth is, you don't.
It is a proven fact that most iguanas are malnourished. This is because their owners are cheap, uneducated on the species or weren't prepared to take on the responsibility of owning an iguana and caring for it properly. An iguanas diet needs to be researched and it is the owners responsibility to ensure that its actual requirements are being met. A quality UVB source needs to be used and maintained to ensure that the iguana is able to metabolize its dietary calcium. Proper temperatures need to be maintained in order for the iguana to digest the food it has consumed adequately and the iguana needs to be well hydrated so that metabolism is in full affect. These issues play key factors in supplementing because if one of them is wrong, the iguana is not going to be metabolizing the food it eats properly and supplementing is going to be needed. If these requirements are being met responsibly and properly, the odds of needing the supplements is greatly reduced. How will you know for certain, with blood work that says everything is where it is suppose to be!
People who work with rescued iguanas are typically in a position where they are taking in animals that are not healthy. These animals have been neglected and their needs were not being properly met. Many rescued iguanas are suffering from varying forms of metabolic bone disease, malnutrition and dehydration. Their diets were typically sub par and if they were lucky, they had access to a UVB light that should have been replaced months ago or maybe they had direct, unfiltered sun a few times per month. These animals would benefit from supplementation. By simply correcting the wrongs that have been done to these animals, you will already be helping to reverse the damage, or at least stop further damage from transpiring. In addition to meeting their needs properly, these iguanas would benefit from added calcium in their diets, as well as the added vitamins and minerals that can be added. Iguanas who are gravid utilize a great deal of calcium. If their food doesn't contain enough calcium, they will draw upon the calcium found in their bones or they will succumb to medical issues. When drawing calcium from their own bones, they are essentially causing a great deal of damage to themselves in order to ensure that the eggs surviv,e so that the species progresses. These iguanas will benefit from calcium being added to their diets to ensure that they are not drawing calcium from their own systems.
I am not comfortable telling people how much calcium to add. I am not comfortable telling people how much vitamins and minerals their iguanas need. I am not comfortable answering these questions because there is no definitive answer or research to substantiate physical numbers placed on these questions. I do know that there are people out there whom have never supplemented their iguanas diets and the iguanas lived in excess of 15 years. They offered daily access to unfiltered sunlight (which I believe plays a critical role in the health of iguanas), offered them a healthy and varied diet, maintained their enclosures to near perfection and kept their iguanas hydrated. There are also others whom do supplement their iguanas and have had the same results! I also know that wild iguanas are not receiving supplements, though their wild life span can be shortened by malnutrition just as easily as it can in captivity. I am going to offer several links for people to read from. It is up to each owner to make their own decisions based on the research they do. If you are seeking definitive answers, bring your iguana to a qualified reptile vet and have your iguana accessed. Blood samples should be taken and your vet should be able to tell you if there is a deficiency in the iguanas diet. Then, and ONLY then can you get a definitive answer. Blood work will need to be done on regular intervals as continued maintenance if you truly want to ensure that your iguanas needs are being met.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation - Melissa Kaplan
Vitamins and Supplements - The Green Iguana Society
Feeding Iguanas - VCA Animal Hospital
Supplementation - The Iguana Den
Author: Richard Brooks