Hello! I’m Gemma Argent
As an introduction, I’d like to say that I have been around animals my entire life. Animals, simply put, are a part of my life. I went to college initially as a pre-vet student, but ended up changing that to a major in wildlife biology and environmental resource management. Growing up, I had a sampling of the usual pets; guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, turtles, fish, chameleons and cats. Then when I grew up and moved out of my parents home, I decided to try something a bit more exotic.
My First Iguana
I bought my first green iguana. I thought it was a male, but Land-Rover, or Rover for short, turned out to be a female. I learned a lot from that iguana, like how my cat was afraid of her and that Rover’s very long tail could be used as a whip. But there were also health concerns. Since lizards are cold-blooded, they need a constant supply of heat to drive their metabolism or else they can’t digest their food correctly. I also learned that they require vitamin D, supplied by the sun. Food must also be in the correct balance, as with all animals, of course, but lizards even more so or deficiencies can quickly affect their skin, teeth, feet and even their mouths. As an example, one day I noticed that Rover had a sore or cut on the outside of her mouth, where lips would be if she had them. She also had very small teeth, which I thought should be a lot bigger.
I thought she had cut herself on something, so I gave her a bath-iguanas love the water and need it to help their skin shed-and dabbed her mouth with some soap and water to clean it. I kept a careful eye on the sore, but it didn’t get any better. In fact, it got worse. It was time for a trip to the vet. Now, most vets handle small animals, but only a few deal with reptiles. There’s a big difference between treating mammals and treating reptiles, so I had call around a bit. Luckily, there was a young vet close by who had worked on snakes and lizards, so I made an appointment and brought Rover in. She was about a year old and was otherwise healthy. After an examination, the vet thought he knew the problem right away, but he took a sample of blood anyway. While it turned out that the blood test didn’t show anything conclusive, he believed that my little Rover had been missing out on protein. Unlike other lizards like chameleons, iguanas don’t eat meal worms. Instead, they are vegetarians and eat all sorts of fruits and veggies, like banana, cantaloupe, cucumber, peas, grapes, carrots (the leafy tops especially) and broccoli.
It was fun trying new foods to see which ones Rover liked, but I hadn’t realized that young iguanas also eat insects, grubs or worms to supplement their diet. As they get older, they apparently don’t need as much protein for growth and revert to a vegetarian diet. Luckily for Rover, I was able to buy some canned iguana food that contained a meat protein. Now here’s the funny part. Remember that I said I found out that my cat was scared of Rover? Well, once I learned that meat protein wasn’t bad for her, I offered her some of my cat’s canned food as it was a lot cheaper than the iguana food and cat food has a high content of protein. She loved it, but soon learned that when I fed my cat, she could sneak underneath the cat and steal his food while he wasn’t looking. My cat, Tony, looked down one day and saw this foot long lizard between his front legs, eating his food! Just like in a cartoon, Tony leaped straight up and took off. I still laugh at that image. Needless to say, for Tony’s sanity, I gave Rover some cat food, and still the occasional iguana food, in another room.
Within a few weeks, the mouth sore healed and Rover’s teeth started looking bigger and stronger. This enabled her to eat harder foods, which I’m sure also helped balance out her nutrition. After about five years, Rover grew to two feet long with a four foot tail. She was gorgeous. Even Tony seemed to mellow out around her, once she stopped stealing his food that is.
Things To Come
I’ll be writing on various animal health-related topics that will hopefully help make the bond between human and animal stronger. I consider humans to be guardians of the planet and believe it’s incumbent upon us to treat animals with respect and love. That means, if we keep pets in our homes, we absolutely must take care of them and make sure their bodies, as well as their minds, operate in harmony.