Iguanas: Crusty Deposits Around The Mouth
©1999 Melissa Kaplan
Okay...you are doing everything right and then one morning you go to say hello to your iguana and are horrified to see a crusty yellowish or brownish ring around his mouth opening (or on one part of it) where the top and bottom jaws meet. Sometimes you may have to actually pry his mouth open a bit to break that seal. When you do, there may be some mucous clinging to the edges of the crusty stuff. You freak, with visions of advanced mouth rot and vet bills the size of your kid's college tuition dancing in your head.
Relax. Take a deep breath. Better now? Then read on...
What is that stuff?
When there is a minor such injury to the gum tissue, there will be a small flow of intracellular fluid which may become mixed with some saliva. The viscous mixture may entrap some food particles. This builds up over the course of several hours to the crusty deposits you see.
These deposits can be easily removed by wetting a cotton-tipped swab in warm water, and then twirling it against the deposit to gently loosen and move it away from the mouth. Once you have done this, check the area inside the mouth as well as the rest of the inside of the mouth. If there are no signs of the plaques or petechial hemorrhaging associated with stomatitis, then there is nothing to worry about. You may have to repeat the removal with the swab a couple of times a day for a few days, but the injured tissue will soon heal in a healthy iguana, and you won't even need to treat the area with any topical antiseptic.
If such an injury occurs, you should consider having your vet look at your iguana to see if any topical or systemic treatment should be administered along with your using the swab to remove the crust.
Sign of More Serious
Sometimes, though, instead of sneezing to clear the salt glands (the reservoirs that collect the fluid until such time as a sneeze is triggered), the fluid just sort of dribbles out. You may see it glisten on the bottom rim of the nostril, or feel the wetness on its nose or chin. Or you may see it once it has dried to a fine, salty film coating the scales under the nostrils and around the mouth opening and farther down the outside of the lower jaw.
Just as with the sneezed-out deposits, this salty film is nothing to worry about. Wet a cotton-tipped swab or dampen a facial tissue and gently wipe it away if it bothers you...chances are, it doesn't bother your iguana at all.
As much as we love them, we all admit: igs are sloppy eaters. Between decorating their environment - with food painting, and diving rostrum-first into their pile of food, they generally end up with bits of fruit and vegetable decorating their face, dewlap and toes. They are like having a toddler around who will never grow big enough to not wear her Fudgsicle all over her face. So, while giving thanks that your iguana has not come down with some incurable disease, pull out that handy box of swabs or facial tissue, and have at it.
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