Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Treating ripped-out claws

©1997, 2002 Melissa Kaplan


You may be startled one day to come home and find blood sprayed around your iguana's enclosure, or dried drops on his basking log, climber or floor. You search frantically for the gaping wound that bled all that blood...only to find no wound, no slash, but a missing claw.

How does it happen? Some iguanas jerk when they move, especially when they are nervous, scared or simply don't want to be touched. When these iguanas are standing on or clinging to hardware cloth or other rigid wire mesh, they may jerk their toes rather than lifting them out, resulting in either a broken toe, a ripped out claw, or both. The same may happen if the claw is trapped in a tiny hole or fissure in a piece of wood. Sometimes the claw may still be attached to the quick/cuticle or fingertip by a tiny shred of skin. It is best to remove the claw at this point. Depending on how much tissue is holding it to the toe, you may wish to take your iguana to the reptile vet to have it cut off. If it is just a shred of tissue, you can quickly pull it off.

Treating the Wound
Dip the toe tip in warm dilute Betadine (povidone-iodine; to the color of medium tea) and let it soak for several minutes. Top the tip with antibiotic ointment. For the next couple of days, repeat the Betadine soaks, and top the tip at night with antibiotic ointment.

Regrowth and Prevention
Depending on how much matrix is left, the claw may or may not grow back. If it does grow back, the regrowth will be rather slow.

The best way to treat claw injuries, of course, is to prevent them from happening to begin with. While accidents will happen from time to time, you can reduce the likelihood of their happening:

  1. Keep the iguana's claws nicely trimmed. By removing the fine, sharp, curving claw tip that does so much damage to your arms and hands, you also remove the little grappling hooks that get caught in the tiniest of cracks and worm holes in their branches and shelves.

  2. Use sandpaper or a moto-dremel to smooth out or widen the cracks and to make the holes larger.

  3. If you are using wire mesh (such as the rigid hardware cloth) to build cages, consider your iguana's temperament first. I have used hardware cloth for years, both to screen in balconies and to build large enclosures which were used by my iguanas to climb up the outside and lay on top. Only one of the dozens of iguanas ever ripped her toes on this wire mesh. She was also one of the most antisocial igs I'd ever had, panicking when looked at and talked to as well as when approached for handling. She would jerk back and try to flee, almost always with one or more toes or claws hooked around the wire surface she was laying on.

  4. Check your iguana's toes and claws regularly to make sure they are well trimmed, free of retained shed, and have no untreated cuts, abscesses, or breaks.

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