Are Iguanas Dangerous To Humans? How Safe Are They To Raise As Pets?

  • By: Kavi Ranjan
  • Date: December 2, 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.
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People love to keep all kinds of wild and exotic as their companions. Iguanas are one of the most popular inexpensive passive lizards people like to buy from pet stores along those lines.

Are iguanas dangerous?

Iguanas are docile and not dangerous or aggressive reptiles, but we should treat them with care, awareness, respect, and caution. 

With the power of their serrated teeth and magnificent defensive skills, they don’t hesitate to bite and can cause deeper cuts if they feel threatened and unsafe.

Iguanas are less dangerous and venomous compared to other majestic poisonous lizard families. Even though iguanas look like docile herbivores, their unexpected aggressive behaviors and unprovoked bites cause countless injuries to ignorant owners. 

In order to keep any animal as a pet, you must follow proper training and practices in your place. This also applies to iguanas, their nature depends on the individual – some can tame to give warmth to the people as a pet, others are not.

It’s important to observe and learn your iguana’s personality, body language, and preference to keep them calm and not dangerous to you. 

Iguana’s teeth look overawed and threatening at first, they rarely bite unless they are disturbed. 

Let’s learn their personalities and other intersecting factors which make them unique among reptiles.

Personalities of Iguanas:

The adult male iguanas are 1.5 meters (approx. 5ft) in length and weigh up to 9 kgs, and female iguanas can lay nearly 80 eggs per year. 

They can dig lengthy tunnels with their sharp claws, cause damage to building infrastructure and even collapse sidewalls, pavements, canal banks, seawalls, and berms. 

Even dogs and cats behave aggressively if cared less – knowing a few iguanas documentation knowledge and good practices, owners can tame them into a well-behaved pet in human civilization.

Their droppings can also erode the docks, seawalls, decks, porches, pool platforms, and moored boats, and cause numerous troubles while raising them.

They are naturally calm and relaxed animals, and mostly try to hide or escape from danger rather than fighting. Iguanas can chew, champ, or bite, whip their tails to protect themselves from threats, and even transmit salmonella to owners and other pet animals.

Usually, they bite and scratch humans’ hands, wrists, arms, ankles, fingers, or face and rarely cause serious injuries in exceptional situations.

Some of the common aggression types that every lizard are as follows:

  • Accidental aggression – It occurs when you accidentally make them angry through cleaning, general handling, or even feeding. You have to remember to handle it with care and observe their body language when you are playing with them.
  • Response to fear aggression – Iguanas attack you when they feel threatened and unsafe or unable to escape from danger.
  • Breeding aggression – This happens in both males and females when they look for their mate.
  • Competitive aggression – This is a more serious type of breeding aggression. This will be shown by alpha males who see you as a hurdle for mating.

To calm down them, just allow them to utilize their environment, don’t provoke or corner them to get agitated again. 

Aggressive behavior is normal for any animal, owners have to handle them well and also make sure to recognize their personality to remain safe in all circumstances.

What is the reason behind their aggressive behavior?

Iguanas act aggressively in some contexts and are affected by psychological forces and underpinning instinct patterns that decide their behavior and personality.

Like any other creatures, iguanas have their temperament, characteristics, features, and personality. 

Some of the common reasons for aggression that every iguana shares when they are angry, nervous, or stressed are the following :

  • Territorial – Some iguanas possess strong instincts against humans and don’t like when we enter into their enclosed space and react aggressively.
  • Dominance – The male iguanas are more aggressive than females and try to show their dominance in the presence of females. This male desire for dominance and pain of straining displays in the form of aggression.
  • Hormonal – This occurs in both men and females in a season when they mature and search for their mate. Their hormonal changes are responsible for moodiness and different behavior from normal days.
  • Breeding – Both males and females become aggressive during the breeding season. In the wild, they breed for thirty days, but in captivity, they take longer days.

Owners have to rely on monitoring their body language to understand their instincts and feelings to safeguard themselves. The lizards are more aggressive than normal, it’s important to be aware of your lizard’s behavior that helps you to avoid further agitating them.

What are the potential dangers of keeping iguanas as a pet?

Like any other animals, iguanas are also potentially dangerous creatures in life-threatening situations. Their self-defensive techniques to fight against enemies in an attempt to run away from the unsafe place look dangerous to people. 

Some possible common dangers they carry are as follows:


Iguanas attack humans when they feel that the environment is unsafe or cornered. Iguanas’ first instinct when facing threats is to flee from the place, but if they can’t escape, they start to attack and bite humans.

Their bites won’t be gentle – they have 120 razor-sharp teeth which can rip and tear our skin into pieces. These teeth are used to shred up thick and dense vegetables for their diet.

Animal psychology is always complicated and different from humans, so before you enjoy their company, be careful around them.


Iguanas are the fastest climbers- having sharp, long, and needle-like claws. For self-defense, they use claws to attack owners with their claws to make a quick run away, scratching is a method that they resort to. 

Their scratching does not cause as much damage as bites but is still dangerous because of bacteria spread from them.

If you get scratched, clean your wound with soap and water, use an antibacterial ointment to avoid further damages.

To avoid scratches, make sure to cut and clean their claws at regular intervals. By practice, your iguanas learn to accept it and cooperate with you in cleaning their nails.


Salmonella is a bacteria that causes many diseases to humans and makes us sick. Many lizards carry salmonella, which can be on the drinking water, skin, and other things they contact and iguanas are no different.

Even become fatal for young children, elder people, and those with weak immune systems. You can touch and play with them, but you have to be careful and wash your hands with soap and water frequently.

Practice disinfecting habits and proper hygiene, to keep your pet clean and to avoid the risk of contamination of bacteria.

Tail whipping

Iguanas have a strong, large, and thick tail up to 4 feet in length, which can break human bones with a continuous whip. These tails are used as a defense technique to whip against their enemies in an attempt to escape from the place.

Like biting and scratching, the wild iguanas use the tail whip as their last defense method to escape from the enemy. When they feel aggressive, they start to tail whip and give warning signs like biting. 

Observe their body language closely, back off to avoid getting whipped.

You never intentionally threaten your iguanas, but there is possible that they feel threatened or cornered without even you knowing it. 

That’s why it’s important to have good knowledge and practice to keep your iguanas safe and protected.

Can iguanas be affectionate towards other pets?

Dogs and iguanas cannot be friends, the pestering and protective nature of the dogs may annoy sensitive, territorial and erratic temperamental iguanas. Dogs and other pets may feel threatened and display their aggressive nature.

Iguanas are also not social animals and are not affectionate towards dogs, other pets, and even humans. They enjoy the company around humans and allow themselves to rub their heads if a safe environment and food are provided consistently.

Even dogs are affectionate toward their owners, but they are never comfortable with an intruder in their territory who poses a threat. Both dogs and iguanas are territorial, when both live under a roof, one will get injuries. 

Iguanas have advantages when it comes to self-defensive techniques. They can easily attack the dogs with their serrated teeth and sharp claws and can escape from the place.

When they are out of their enclosure, iguanas become hyperactive and cause damage to other animals. They carry salmonella bacteria which is dangerous and even fatal to other pets if it is mixed with food.

Overall, iguanas reptiles do have potential serious threats like bites, scratching, and other injuries. However, when handled properly, they can become docile and relaxed pets, reducing their aggressive tendencies. 

It is important to create a friendly environment for such animals and to train them, before investing in them as pets.