By Fred Milner, DVM
Q. My husband and I own many animals, including several reptiles. We have a rare Komodo dragon, a sulcata tortoise, a pair of mated grass snakes, a 5-year-old alligator who is very gentle and watches The Late Show with us, and a 2-year-old green iguana named Ned. Ned usually has the run of the house, since he is very good at keeping the bugs down. Lately he’s taken to sleeping in the baby’s crib, at least when Baby is there. I think he likes the body heat!
Is this okay, you think? When Baby wakes up and finds Ned sitting on his belly (that is, Baby’s belly) and looking at him, he is delighted and treats him as one would a favorite toy. Sometimes when Baby is hungry and wants his bottle, he sucks on part of Ned instead. What are your thoughts on this, healthiness-wise?
A. I do not think there is much danger of your child catching disease from close oral contact with a clean iguana. My concern would be more about the health of the lizard. Sooner or later Baby will be teething, if he is not already, and as the teeth sharpen he will be liable to bite Ned’s head off. I have never heard of this happening to an iguana, although when my younger brother was eighteen months old he chewed the head off a milk snake.
I suggest you get one of those realistic-looking artificial iguanas to keep Baby company, at least until he is old enough to know that Ned is more than friendly food.