Paralysis in Green Iguanas
Paralysis is not a normal physical condition. It must be treated as a medical emergency.
©1999 Melissa Kaplan
If you are reading this because you just realized your iguana is fully or partially paralyzed, do not email me, or send mail to a mailing list or to a message baord to ask what do to about it! Instead, get your iguana to a reptile vet right now. If the cause is not due to an accident or traumatic injury, then you also need to read the articles on metabolic bone disease and the ICFS article, and start making the necessary corrections to diet and environment along with implementing the treatment directed by the veterinarian.
Given the number of people who don't see why they need to get their paralyzed iguana or other reptiles to a reptile vet, this bears repeating: Paralysis is not a normal physical condition. And, unless something smashes onto your iguana, or your iguana smashes into something and its spine is thus fractured, paralysis typically is not something that comes on suddenly, but a preventable side-effect of a condition whose onset is slow, with many tell-tale signs leading up to it.
When MBD has set in, even before it gets as far as paralyzing the iguana, other signs (as discussed in the Identification and Treatment of Metabolic Bone Disease and Calcium Metabolism and Metabolic Bone Disease articles) will have already been exhibited, often for some time, by the iguana. Twitching, loss of appetite, softening and swelling lower jaws, reluctance to climb - all are signs that something is wrong and needs to be analyzed and addressed immediately.
During this slow onset, the bones become increasingly porous and so are more easily fractured at pressures far less than would fracture a healthy bone. A minor slip-and-fall that wouldn't harm a healthy iguana will easily fracture the more delicate finger and leg bones of a calcium-deficient iguana, and ultimately just trying to bear its weight while standing up will be enough to cause fractures in the spine without any actual impact trauma.
normal motor or bowel function be restored?
if the iguana remains paralyzed?
continued life may not be an option...
What often happens is that, in delaying making such an assessment and decision, the iguana continues to decline, eventually dying. Is it a painful, or confusing, dying? I don't know, nor do I know if it is possible to truly know. I do know that proper euthanization by a capable veterinarian, is far less painful or confusing than lingering and weakening day by day.
If your iguana is paralyzed right now, please follow the links above and get your iguana to a reptile vet and do a thorough evaluation of its diet and environment.
If you are just reading this article because you are interested in the topic, good for you! The more you are aware of as to what can go wrong, the better you can do everything you can to make sure it doesn't go wrong.
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© 1994-2013 Melissa Kaplan or as otherwise noted by other authors of articles on this site