Recognizing the Warning Signs of Illness in Your Chameleon
One of the biggest challenges of being a pet owner is noticing and interpreting the indications that your pet may be getting sick. After all, they can’t tell you something isn’t feeling right. With pet chameleons, it can be especially difficult to notice signs of illness because they’re wild animals, and therefore instinctively mask weakness or injury.
Unless you already know what to look for, you may not realize your chameleon is sick until it’s too late. Here are some things to look for as you evaluate the health of your chameleon.
Common Symptoms of a Sick Chameleon
If your chameleon is lethargic, lacks appetite, has started sleeping more than usual, or is lying on the bottom of his cage, these are clear warning signs his health may be at risk. Carefully monitor your chameleon’s daily routine and get to know his normal habits and behaviors so you’ll be more apt to notice as soon as something seems amiss.
Dehydration is the most common cause of death for captive chameleons, and can cause fatal kidney or liver failure if untreated. The biggest warning signs of dehydration in chameleons are sunken eyes, weakness, weight loss and skin that has lost its elasticity or appears overly dry. Unlike animals that drink from water bottles or dishes, chameleons depend on their environment to provide their water source. If your chameleon is showing symptoms of dehydration despite having a properly misted habitat and the correct humidity level, this may signify a larger health problem and should be evaluated by a vet immediately.
- Eye Infection
Eye infections are also relatively common among chameleons in captivity, and may be easily remedied if you notice the problem early enough. If your chameleon’s eyes appear to be irritated or show any signs of discharge or swelling, use a magnifying glass to see if any debris has gotten into his eye. If so, try gently flushing the chameleon’s eye with water to clean out the source of the irritation.
- Respiratory Infection
The cause of a respiratory infection in chameleons is usually environmental and can often be traced back to a failure to maintain an adequate temperature in your chameleon’s habitat. Symptoms include labored or audible breathing, as well as weakness. A vet may prescribe a course of antibiotics to help your chameleon recover more quickly.
- Misshapen Bones or Limping
Reptiles in captivity can easily develop nutritional imbalances. If you see a chameleon with brittle or malformed bones that can’t support their normal movement and limb function, it may be a sign of metabolic bone disease, which is caused by an imbalance in calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D. The best way to combat metabolic bone disease is through a combination of proper UVB lighting and a balanced diet that includes vitamins and minerals.
As with many other animals, stress can be a major factor in your chameleon’s overall health and well-being. Possible causes of stress for chameleons include an inadequately set up habitat, excessive human handling or another chameleon kept inside the same cage. Symptoms of stress include darker-than-average coloration and refusal to eat. This problem is easily solved by determining and removing the source of the stress.
This blog post is not medical advice. It is only intended to provide a brief overview of some warning signs of illness in a chameleon. If you notice any changes in your pet chameleon’s behavior or activity, we highly recommend making an appointment with an experienced reptile veterinarian as soon as possible. There’s no substitute for an in-person evaluation with a vet who has the knowledge and expertise to properly diagnose and treat your precious pet.