Top 10 Fun Facts About Iguanas

9. They recognize their owners by sight and sound.

Many people unfamiliar with iguanas don’t realize it, but pet iguanas absolutely recognize their owners by sight and sound. Iguanas have very keen vision and clearly see their owners and recognize them. Iguanas also hear well. While an iguana has no external ear, as we do, it does have a clearly visible eardrum (or tympanic membrane) on both sides of its head, continuous with the skin surface. They hear sounds in a different frequency range from that heard by humans, but they clearly discern familiar voices and other noise. While they may not come when they’re called like a dog, they definitely respond to their caretakers.

10. They carry salmonella bacteria.

All reptiles potentially carry salmonella bacteria in their gastrointestinal tracts, and generally these bacteria do not harm them in any way. When the bacteria pass into the lizard’s stool, however, the stool becomes a potential source of infection for people and pets who may come into contact with it and may put their contaminated hands in their mouths. Salmonella can cause serious gastrointestinal upset, blood infection and even death in people (especially infants and the elderly) with compromised immune systems. Therefore, all individuals must wash their hands after touching an iguana or its cage accessories and bedding. An iguana’s stool should be cleaned up soon after it is passed, so that it doesn’t dry up and become aerosolized, carrying the bacteria with it. Iguanas that carry salmonella don’t shed it into their stool every time they defecate; thus, culturing individual stool samples for salmonella is an unreliable method of testing for it. All iguanas should be assumed to carry these bacteria, and, therefore, families with small children who won’t reliably wash their hands should not have an iguana.

Iguanas are fairly complicated lizards to care for, but when maintained properly, these amazing reptiles can make wonderful companions for 15 to 20 years or more. If you are considering an iguana as a pet, speak to a reptile-savvy veterinarian before you rush out and get one to be sure that an iguana is right for you.

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