There have been a number of tegu photographs and videos going viral on social media over the last few months with the video making the tegu lizard from South America look like a cute and friendly pet leading to a large number of people going out and purchasing one without doing much research.
Unfortunately, many tegus, especially males can be aggressive and will often charge and attack you if they feel threatened.
Due to so many people presuming that their pet tegu was cute and passive, this has resulted in a large number of people reaching out to ask about the tegu lizard bite.
Unlike some other lizards, tegus have teeth similar to a mammal that are designed for biting and locking onto prey so if you do have an aggressive tegu, their bite can actually hurt you with some of the large tegus causing a surprising amount of damage.
With so many people thinking of adding a tegu to their family right now, we wanted to publish this article going over the tegu bite to offer a more balanced look at keeping a tegu as a pet.
Now, before we go any further, we just want to confirm that some tegus are very passive and will rarely bite you but this is not generally the norm. It is very common for tegus to bite their owners, especially people who are new to keeping tegus so you do have to keep that in mind.
Are Tegus Aggressive?
Many tegus are aggressive and will charge and bite their owners with minimal warning. Some tegus can be passive and allow you to handle them without showing any aggression and then switch to trying to bite you relentlessly.
Other tegus can be totally passive and never bite you though it really does just depend on the personality of your pet tegu.
Unfortunately, this is where the main problem comes in as it is impossible to determine the personality of your pet tegu prior to you actually getting it.
This can become problematic if you think that you are purchasing a cute and cuddly lizard and you end up with a three foot lizard that likes to bite you!
Unfortunately, we have also seen reports of people who have ended up with an aggressive tegu outright lying about its personality to be able to sell their tegu quickly online.
The new buyer then ends up with an aggressive tegu that they initially thought would be passive and friendly due to what the seller said in their ad.
Do Tegus Bite Humans?
Some tegus will bite humans, especially adult males as the size advantage of a human just doesn’t seem to bother them.
We have seen adult male tegus charge their owners who they are used to interacting with and bite them for no apparent reason where as we have seen some other tegus act like cute little puppies and let their owners pet them without issue.
The personality of your pet tegu really will come into play on this one but just because you have raised your tegu from being a baby does not mean that it won’t randomly show signs of aggression to you.
There have been a number of cases where a tegu has been fine for years and then one day it seemingly randomly decides to bite its owner.
Although some people do claim that this behavior is if the tegu is underfed, we know this to be incorrect as well-fed tegus who have recently had a full meal have been known to bite their owner’s hands and feet given the chance.
There really does seem to be little middle ground with tegus and then can go from calm and placid to having their jaw wrapped around your finger in a split second.
How Bad Is A Tegu Bite?
A tegu bite can be pretty bad as they have the strongest bite force of any lizard of up to 1000 newtons of force for an adult male tegu.
On top of that, tegus are unique in the fact that they have differentiated teeth like a mammal rather than this means that they have different types of teeth just like a human that are designed for different tasks.
When it comes to a tegu bite, this means that their incisors and canines are a problem as they are primarily designed for latching on to flesh like your finger, hands and toes.
Their molars and pre-molars can be problematic if they get your finger deep into their jaw as they are able to apply a bone-crushing 1000 newtons of force with their rear teeth.
Although tegus have no poison or venom, their bite alone is enough to deter most people from trying to take on an angry tegu as it really is underrated.
The average human will exgert around 1000 newtons of bite force when they tear a chunk of steak off their meal so think of an angry three-foot lizard having that bite power with its jaws locked on your finger or toe.
How Can You Prevent A Tegu Lizard Bite?
There are a number of precautions that you are able to take when feeding your pet tegu to reduce the chances of it biting you.
Keep in mind that even if you do take all of these precautions, you can still have problems with a tegu charging you and trying to go for your legs or feet so don’t wear shorts and always wear shoes when feeding your tegu!
The most obvious way to prevent a tegu bite from getting to your skin is to get yourself some construction gloves.
Keep in mind that this will limit the range of movement that you have available when wearing the gloves and most types of construction gloves are not thick enough to prevent your pet tegus teeth from getting through them a little bit.
The construction glove method is used to take the majority of the length of your tegus teeth to try and reduce the chances of it sinking its teeth into your skin and causing more damage than it would with construction gloves on.
The best method to prevent a tegu from biting you is to use a litter picker to feed your pet tegu its food.
This allows you to add distance between your hand, the food, and your tegus jaws to drastically reduce the chance of your tegu biting you.
As we touched on above though, if your tegu is not confined and is able to charge you and go for your feet and legs then it may just do that.
What To Do If A Tegu Bites You!
If your tegu bites you then there really is no point in struggling and trying to pull your hand away from the tegu, once it has locked its teeth down there is a good chance that you won’t be able to free your hand without your tegu choosing to let you go or you hurting your tegu.
The best thing to do is to try and get your tegus attention onto a food source so that it will voluntarily release its grip on you and go for the food instead.
This can work but if your tegu is simply charging you to try and be dominant on the territory, food is not the primary motivator of the bite.
In this case, the best thing to do is to not act aggressively and submit to the tegu, don’t hit the tegu to try and get it off you quicker as it is more likely that your tegu will see this as you being aggressive to it.
It really isn’t a good situation to be in but some people do spray their tegu with water if it does bite them but we doubt that it will do much in reality.
This is why we never recommend people new to keeping lizards or reptiles go with a tegu as their first pet as you really do need some experience behind you to be able to handle and keep a tegu effectively.
That brings our article going over the tegu lizard bite and what you should do if your tegu bites you and how you can try to stop your tegu biting you to an end. We hope that you have found our article helpful and that you have realised that many tegus are not as cute as some people make them seem on social media. In our opinion, they are not an ideal first lizard and you should start with something much smaller and easier to handle than a tegu if possible.