Iguanas are predominantly herbivores. Even more specifically, they are folivores (an animal that feeds on leaves). But what about meat? Can and should iguanas eat it in any form? Are there any benefits to doing so and will it satisfy any protein requirements? With these questions in mind, I decided to conduct some research. Here is what I have been able to find.
So, do iguanas eat meat? No, iguanas should not consume meat. This is true of all meat based foods; insects, beef, chicken, pork or other meat-based products. All meat contains high levels of protein which iguanas cannot digest or get the nutrients from. Iguanas eating meat will suffer ill health and it can even prove fatal if meat is consumed regularly. Instead, an iguanas diet should comprise of leaves, flowers and fruit only.
Many people wrongfully believe that iguanas require protein like most lizards. Iguanas do not need much protein, the little protein they do need; they acquire from their staple of greens.
Excessive amounts of protein can be detrimental to the health of your iguana. You must stick to the natural diet of these reptiles as closely as possible; they will thank you for it by living long, happy lives.
Naturally, many iguana owners want to know can iguanas even eat meat; let’s delve more into the iguana’s diet in the following sections.
Can Iguanas Eat Meat?
No, iguanas cannot eat meat. When we think of the diet of lizards, most of us would consider worms, crickets, and roaches to be an appropriate meal suggestion – this is not the case with iguanas.
An iguana would never eat meat in its natural environment. Their source of food is plant-based, so it is crucial to replicate their natural diet when in captivity and not feed them meat.
Most lizards enjoy a staple diet that includes crickets, worms, grasshoppers, roaches, and more, but you cannot supply any of these to your pet iguana.
Morevoer, meats consumed by humans like beef, chicken, and pork are entirely unsuitable for an iguana.
It is not unheard of for pet iguanas to eat meat when presented with it. Still, a responsible iguana owner should familiarize themselves with a diet that is suitable for these incredible lizards.
Meat consists of animal protein, which leads to organ damage in iguanas. It can also lead to limited growth and other growth related issues.
An iguana that accidentally swallows a small amount of meat might be okay, but if they are fed meat over an extended time-frame, it is likely to make them very sick.
The diet of an iguana is very restricted; this should make mealtimes less challenging for any owner, as you only need to offer them a few well-selected foods.
What Does An Iguana Eat?
Iguanas are primarily herbivores, but more specifically, they are folivores. Folivores are animals that feed on leaves.
These lizards have strong pleurodont teeth and powerful jaws that allow them to tear leaves off plants and trees; in the wild, iguanas mostly eat leaves, but also some fruits and flowers too.
Iguanas begin life as herbivores. From the time iguanas are born, they start eating leaves and plant matter. Baby iguanas do not begin life eating insects; this is a common misunderstanding.
Iguanas, being native to the rainforests of Central America, Brazil, and the Caribbean, are accustomed to the leaves and plants that grow in abundance in those regions.
In the wild, these reptiles enjoy a wide variety of plant matter with leaves making the core of their diet, but they also eat soft fruits and some flowers.
In captivity, you must stick to this natural diet and supply them with plenty of greens that include:
- Mustard Greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Turnip greens
- Dandelion Greens
Make sure that you don’t feed iceberg lettuce to your iguana as it has very little nutritional content. The high water and fiber content can also cause issues without any nutritional gain.
Greens must make up 70% – 80% of your iguana’s diet.
In addition to greens, you should supply your pet with some vegetables and soft fruits, these include:
- Bell Peppers
Commercial iguana food is available from many pet stores in the form of pellets, but you must not consider them the primary source of nutrition for your iguana.
These pellets can, however, be ideal supplements to boost your iguana’s diet.
Feel free to offer the occasional treat to your iguana as it keeps them curious and avoids boredom.
Excellent treat suggestions can include cooked pasta, cooked rice, and wholegrain bread (cut into small manageable chunks.)
Again these should be fed infrequently and in moderation.
What Should Iguanas Not Eat?
Aside from cooked or raw meat and insects, iguanas should not eat foods that could be a potential choking hazard.
Iguanas have very sharp serrated teeth that they use for ripping and tearing food but not for chewing.
Make sure to offer small chunks of food to your iguana, paying extra attention to younger iguanas, who will need their food cut up into smaller pieces, or even grated.
Certain foods are entirely off-limits as they are toxic to iguanas and can make them very sick.
Some foods contain a substance called oxalic acid, which iguanas can’t digest. Oxalic acid can cause bone disease in iguanas as it prevents them from processing calcium.
If consumed in large quantities, the consequences can be catastrophic for these lizards.
Foods containing oxalic acid ad should be off-limits to iguanas include:
- Beetroot Tops
- Swiss Chard
There are other foods to avoid giving your iguana as they pose their own hazards; these include:
- Avocados – these are very toxic to most lizards and can be possibly fatal.
- Eggs– these have the potential to be toxic to iguanas.
- Dairy products – like meat, dairy products contain animal protein which iguanas can’t digest.
- Fireflies – these are notoriously toxic to most lizards, including iguanas.
- Dog and Cat food – many people think these foods are okay to feed iguanas. Aside from the fact this food contains meat, it also contains too much fat and vitamin D.
Now we know for sure that iguanas do not nor should not ever eat meat.
Most animals require protein of varying amounts, but this is not true of iguanas; they are unable to digest protein. Other foods containing animal protein like dairy should be off-limits as well.
Something is freeing about the fact that their diets are so narrow. You don’t have to waste too much time worrying about meal ideas, instead offer a few well-selected foods and enjoy life with your pet.
Iguanas lead simple lives, and they like consistency in their environment and their diet. Sticking to the same foods may not seem very exciting, but it is what these lizards need and in some ways want.
Ideas are continually expanding regarding the dietary needs of pet iguanas, so make sure that your vet informs you of any research into this subject during pet’s examinations.
Can iguanas eat insects? No, insects are not suitable for iguanas. While insects such as crickets and mealworms are often included in the diet of a pet reptile’s; iguanas have different needs and requirements. Instead, they are exclusively herbivores and do not have a preference for such foods. Insects are rich in protein something iguanas do not need a lot of.
Can iguanas eat chicken? While a small amount of chicken may be consumed very infrequently without harm, eating a meat like chicken will cause health complications if routinely fed over time. Iguanas may even choke on chicken if feed and if not shredded into manageable pieces. For the most part, owners should not look to feed chicken – there are no benefits on doing so.
How long can an iguana go without food? Iguanas can go around 2 weeks without food on average before undesirable outcomes begin to occur. However, this is not something that you should try or attempt as an owner. You should look to feed your iguana regularly and often, always ensuring they have access to appropriate foods in your care.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.