Your iguana may look and act like a lazy little dinosaur most of the time, but he can be quite formidable if he gets agitated. These beautiful lizards have several built-in weapons: sharp claws, heavy spiked tails, and strong teeth, all of which can be very dangerous. Iguana bites can be extremely painful and quite serious, so an aggressive iguana is nothing to take lightly. In this article, your local vet Phoenix discusses aggression in iguanas.


Fear is often the cause of aggression in iguanas. Iguanas usually prefer flight over fight, and will try to run from anything they perceive as threatening. A captive iguana doesn’t have the option of fleeing, and may lash out instead. Iguanas that have not been properly socialized are more prone to aggression, so if your pet is new, it can take some time to properly socialize and tame him. Being held in a manner that is painful or uncomfortable can also cause iguanas to attack, so make sure to always handle your iguana appropriately. Unnatural light patterns, or too much or too little light, will sometimes trigger aggression in iguanas. Sexual frustration is another common cause of aggression in iguanas. Sometimes, even seeing certain colors can send lizards into a rage!


Always keep a close eye out for signs of agitation in your iguana. Head bobbing, tail lashing, and/or an extended dewlap are all red flags that indicate irritation or discomfort in iguanas, and are often precursors to attacks. If you see signs of an oncoming temper tantrum in your lizard, try giving him a towel or toy, so he can take his aggression out on that instead of you. Making sure your iguana has plenty of room and is happy and comfortable in his home will also reduce the chances of aggressive behavior. You’ll also want to research sexual aggression in iguanas, so you’ll know when your pet is most likely to be on edge.

What To Do

Dealing with an aggressive iguana can be quite tricky. If your iguana is scratching or biting you, you will of course want to get away from him as soon as possible. The problem there is that if your iguana attacks because he doesn’t want to be held, and you put him down when he bites, then he just won the battle and may think aggression will get him what he wants. Therefore, using proper precaution is crucial. Get to know your pet’s body language, so you can recognize the signs of an upcoming attack and take steps to avoid it. Always use extreme caution when approaching or handling iguanas!

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