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Home > Reptiles > Do Iguanas Bite Humans? What You Need To Know

Do Iguanas Bite Humans? What You Need To Know

West Indian Rock Iguana

Iguanas are one of the most easily recognized and popular lizards kept as pets. These tropical creatures grow to large sizes and are harder to care for than some people are prepared for. Because of this, parts of the country, such as Florida, are full of wild iguanas that used to be somebody’s pet!

Whether you’re considering a pet iguana or encounter one wild in your backyard, you want to make sure you stay as safe as possible. Unlike smaller lizards, iguanas look like they could do some damage to a human if they wanted to. So, the question is, do iguanas bite humans? Like all animals, iguanas do sometimes bite, but generally only in self-defense. Keep reading to learn more about iguana bites and how to prevent them from happening.

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Ouch! Iguana Bites 101

Iguanas are herbivores, with sharp teeth and strong jaws designed to rip and tear the tough plant materials that they eat. If an iguana locks those jaws onto your finger, whether on purpose or by accident, the resulting bite can be painful and easily become infected. Fortunately, iguanas aren’t naturally aggressive towards humans, and bites are usually uncommon.

The bad news is that teeth aren’t the only dangerous parts of the iguana. They also have sharp claws on all four feet and a long, thick, powerful tail that they’ll whip back and forth to protect themselves. Both of these weapons often do a lot more damage than the iguana’s teeth.

Why Iguanas Bite

black iguana
Image By: gabi_mai_fuwa, Pixabay

The main reason that iguanas bite is because they feel threatened in some way. Pet iguanas need to be handled regularly to make sure they stay tame. Iguana owners should always move quietly and calmly when interacting with their pets, especially when they are just getting to know them. Even very tame iguanas can bite if stressed or startled.

Accidental bites can also happen if iguana owners try to feed their lizards by hand. Iguanas are very territorial and can have dominance issues because of this, leading to biting bearded dragon divider

How To Avoid Iguana Bites

West Indian Rock Iguana_ islavicek_Shutterstock copy
Image By: islavicek, Shutterstock

Avoiding a wild iguana bite is simple: don’t try to handle or interact with a wild iguana. Call a professional instead.

To avoid accidental pet iguana bites, be extra careful if you choose to hand-feed your iguana. It may be a better idea to just avoid the practice entirely and either use tongs or provide your iguana food in their enclosure.

Always use predictable, calm movements when handling an iguana so they get used to you and are less likely to get scared and bite. Try to avoid putting your iguana in situations you know will stress them out. Don’t allow your iguana to charge at you or attempt to dominate you.

Learn to read your iguana’s body language. An iguana that bobs their head, whips their tail back and forth or adopts an aggressive posture shows signs that indicate they are stressed and may bite.

If a Bite Happens…

Even if you take every precaution, there’s still a chance you may be bitten by your iguana at some point. If this does happen, clean the bite with warm water and soap and contact a medical professional for advice. Depending on the severity of the bite, your doctor may recommend other treatments or prescribe antibiotics.

Any animal or lizard bite is at risk of becoming infected without proper treatment. Lizards like iguanas are natural carriers of  Salmonella bacteria, which can cause serious illness in people. Err on the side of caution and always contact your doctor if you’re bitten by an iguana.

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If you want a pet that definitely won’t bite you, your best bet is probably to get a houseplant. Even the nicest and tamest of pets can bite under the right circumstances. Iguanas are no exception. The best way to avoid bites is to learn why and how they most often occur and take steps to avoid them. Owning a pet iguana can be quite the task but don’t let fear of being bitten keep you from getting one.

Featured Image Credit: Martin Vorel, Shutterstock

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