Mites are a close relation to fleas and ticks, so if your iguana is having problems shedding, is scratching excessively, or has damaged scales, then it could be signs of mites. As with fleas on a dog or cat, mites can be very difficult to eradicate, because it's hard to kill all of them. Mites have a basic life cycle which includes hatching, finding prey (your iguana), feeding, and laying eggs before they die.
What Are Mites?
Mites are tiny, the majority are the size of a pinhead. You may need a magnifying glass to identify them. They crawl over your iguana, choose warm places, such as between the toes to live. These small parasites live on the skin causing disease. They can sometimes be seen with the naked eye in the enclosure or on your iguana pet. Mites are able to cause a number of problems for your pet including itchiness, restlessness, and lack of appetite, to name a few.
Mite infestations can cause a host of symptoms. Knowing the symptoms can help you quickly treat for mites to ensure the best end results.
Your iguana may have mites if:
- It is scratching excessively
- Dull appearance
- Scales pitted or crusted
- small hemorrhages on scales
- Skin ulcers
- Loss of appetite
- Soaking in water for extended periods
In extreme cases with a severe infestation, iguanas are known to become anemic and in some rare cases, mite infestation can be fatal, if ignored for long enough.
There are a number of common causes on why your pet has mites, this includes:
It is imperative that you keep your iguana’s habitat clean at all times, providing ample fresh water. Not cleaning the enclosure can make it a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria and a welcome home for mites.
Wrong Heating and Humidity
Iguanas, as with other reptiles, are cold-blooded and rely on their environment to regulate their body temperatures. Incorrect temperatures can make your pet susceptible to infection and disease, including those caused by mites. Conditions that are too warm can be a welcome place for mites to live.
Welcomed a New Reptile
It's not uncommon for mites to arrive on newly purchased reptiles and iguanas. Even if you haven't purchased a new iguana, but a leopard gecko or another lizard, you may find that if the reptile is not quarantined properly, mites can get onto your pet.
Mites don't have to be fatal if you catch them early. The same as ticks and fleas, they are feeding on your reptile and making it uncomfortable. There are a number of treatment options you can try to eradicate the mites effectively.
Iguanas enjoy swimming, so providing your pet with a lukewarm bath for around 20 minutes can drown the mites, but remember the head will still be exposed.
Some iguana owners have used olive oil as a way to smother the mites effectively. Gently rub the olive oil over your pet, but note this can be messy. So it's advisable to do this in a separate container, maybe a few hours before a bath.
Tick and flea collars you buy for dogs and cats can be used inside the enclosure. Ensure the collar you choose doesn't contain organophosphates, which can be toxic to your pet. The collars can help to kill off the mites effectively.
Once you notice a mite infestation on your iguana or in its enclosure, you are going to want to do a thorough cage clean. Removing everything, soaking ornaments and decorations, and disinfecting the entire enclosure before returning your pet. Replace everything including the substrate to eradicate any eggs and help fight the mites.
Speak to your vet if you are struggling with mites if soaking and a cage clean doesn't help to reduce or eradicate them.
Preventing mites is much easier than treating them. They are parasites, they are hard to get rid of and they will cause you and your pet a lot of frustration and stress.
Quarantine New Arrivals
Any newly purchased reptiles should be quarantined for no less than four months. Quarantine means keeping them separate from your iguana. Do not use the same equipment for the new reptile and your existing iguana. The new addition should be fed, cleaned, and given fresh water after the others in the home. Never go from your new reptile to one of your other existing reptiles.
Keep the enclosure clean to reduce the risk of mite infestation. You should do:
- Daily spot cleaning – remove any poop, debris, and dirt from the enclosure
- Monthly cleaning – do a thorough clean, remove everything from the enclosure, wash the inside of the tank thoroughly and then replace everything once cleaned.
Heating and Humidity
If your pet isn't being housed properly, then it can become susceptible to disease and infection, including those caused by mites. Optimal heating and humidity help to keep your pet’s immune system strong.
Using a digital hygrometer, you should be able to easily monitor humidity levels to ensure that they range between 65% and 80%.
You are going to want to provide your iguana with a basking area, then a warm and cool side to the enclosure. Don't forget to focus on nighttime temperatures. Ideally, a digital thermometer with a remote probe will help you monitor temperatures effectively. Your iguana enclosure temperatures should be as follows:
- Basking area – 96ºF to 100ºF
- Warm side – 80ºF to 85ºF
- Cool side – 78ºF to 80ºF
- Night Time – 70ºF to 75ºF
Mites can be very frustrating and exceptionally difficult to get rid of. The most common cause includes them coming in on a new reptile purchase and being transferred to your pet. By keeping the enclosure clean, the temperature and humidity and optimum and always quarantining new purchases for at least four months can help prevent the risk of mites moving forward.