Lizard Digestion

Effect of ambient temperature

Lizards are ectothermic and therefore the temperature of their environment affects their body processes which are highly temperature-dependent. Temperature will affect enzymatic activity, the decomposition rate of ingested elements, the absorption through the gut mucosa, peristalsis (and gut transit times) and possibly gut flora.

Low temperatures may slow down or even stop all digestion and can have adverse effects on assimilation (i.e. in monitor lizards).

  • For example, an iguana kept at 28°C will eat but its food will not be digested properly.
  • Between 10°C and 15°C, digestion is extremely slow.
  • Digestion comes to a halt when temperatures drop below 7°C.

Suboptimal temperatures can lead to serious complications such as bloat, constipation or maldigestion. It is therefore crucial to offer the most appropriate temperature range by providing suitable heat sources, temperatures, and light intensities, in order to stimulate feeding and basking behaviour (which promote postprandial digestion).

For information on the lizard digestive system, see Lizard Gastrointestinal System.


  • Girling, S.J. (2004). BSAVA Manual of Reptiles. British Small Animal Veterinary Association. pp. 350. ISBN 0905214757