Iguana Has Lost Appetite: What Can We Feed Him?

The first thing I’m absolutely bound to say is that you really do need to find a vet. Even if the one who looks after the stock animals on the farms around you wouldn’t call him/herself an expert on exotic animals, he or she will have plenty of relevant knowledge and expertise to bring to bear – and may even be able to put you in touch with a colleague who specialises in unusual pets.

A Few Thoughts

That said, three things spring instantly to mind about this poor anorexic iggy.

Firstly, you say he’s approaching 17 – well, that’s not a record (some are said to have made 25 or more in captivity), but it’s certainly pretty old as iguanas go; the average seems to be around 15-20 years of age. I’m simply not going to attempt to diagnose at a distance, but one possibility is that it may simply just be his time.

Secondly, it’s not clear from what you’ve said whether the “lights” are ultra violet (UV) or not; UV is essential to his well-being – so once you’ve had him checked out by a vet and ruled out any serious problems, if you don’t have a good UV source, you’ll need to get one. Remember that UV bulbs lose their effectiveness over time, so you’ll need to replace yours on a regular basis in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Thirdly, is he drinking? If he hasn’t drunk in a week, that’s more immediately worrying than not having eaten for the same period. In the wild, iguanas often take to the water and swim well; in captivity they need a humidity of 60 – 90 per cent, so if yours doesn’t have a good sized water bowl, try adding one as many people have found that allowing iguanas to submerge themselves stimulates appetite.


There seems to be a lot of debate about diet in iguanas; once upon a time, we all believed that green iguanas enjoyed a diet that includes insects and the like as hatchlings, before gradually becoming herbivorous adults. These days, there seems to be a thought in some quarters that green iguanas are exclusively vegetarian even as youngsters and so shouldn’t be offered anything else. Well, all I can say is that I know I’ve seen juveniles take insects in the wild, so on a personal level, I’m fairly confident that the meat “ban” is unnecessary.

Equally, I’ve seen some pet keeping books that advocate giving iguanas cat food – but I would tend to agree with you that it’s not good for them! If memory serves me correctly, I seem to recall that it’s supposed to place too big a strain on their kidneys. By the same token, you seem to be saying that your iggy eats rabbit food; I can only conclude that you don’t mean the sort of dry, husky stuff that I’m thinking about.

I haven’t had anything to do with pet rabbits since I looked after a friend’s as a child, so maybe I’m out of touch with some deliciously lush, fresh fodder now available for them. However, most iguanas adore the occasional slice of well dampened wholemeal bread – which is scarcely a natural diet item either!

I’m assuming the material you describe isn’t all he gets to eat; there’s evidence to suggest that too much banana should be avoided ( a bit too phosphorus-rich), spinach can interfere with calcium metabolism, and kale has been implicated in iodine/thyroxin disturbance. If it is, you would probably be well advised to try to broaden the make-up of his menu, but then if he’s survived on them to the ripe old age of 17 (and many captive iguanas scarcely make 10, while 8 has been suggested as the average lifespan in the wild) he’s clearly not doing so badly!

The bottom line is, with a few notable exceptions, the more varied the leaves, stems, flowers and fruits in his diet, the better – but obviously you need to get him eating again in the first place.

For that to happen, I honestly have to say I think you are going to have to see a vet; with a such a geriatric anorexic, it’s the single most useful suggestion I can make. Good luck – I hope he’s soon munching his greenery with renewed gusto!

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