Metabolic Bone Disease in Iguanas

Metabolic bone disease is a term used to describe various conditions that cause bone deformities in iguanas. Iguanas in the wild never suffer from this condition. It almost always occurs because of improper care by the owner.


This disease can be caused by one or more factors. The most common is a lack of calcium in the diet. When your iguana does not get enough calcium, his body will start leeching it from the bones. This leads to dramatic softening leaving your iguana very susceptible to fractures.

Metabolic bone disease can also result when there is an improper calcium to phosphorus ratio in the diet. Another common cause is not enough exposure to UVA and UVB. Iguanas need this light to manufacture their own vitamin D, which is essential for calcium metabolism. Other common causes include improper temperatures in the enclosure and diseases which cause a hormonal imbalance.


One of the first signs of metabolic bone disease is not visible. If you feel the lower jaw bone, it will feel spongy or soft. It may also start to swell and make it difficult for your iguana to eat. This usually leads to loss of appetite. Your iguana's thinning bones will also cause him to suffer easily broken bones.

As the disease progresses, he may start experiencing episodes of twitching and tremoring. This usually occurs in the muscles of the toes and legs. He will also likely develop a jerky gait that you can easily notice when he walks.


Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. The good news is that metabolic bone disease in iguanas can usually be treated when detected early. If your iguana has suffered any broken bones, they will need to be allowed to heal. If calcium deficiency is the underlying cause, then a strong calcium supplement may be prescribed. Other causes resulting from improper care will also need to be remedied to treat the disease.