At some point in your chameleon's life, it may need to pay a visit to a veterinarian. Unlike a dog or cat, not all veterinarians at your local animal hospital are able and willing to treat a reptile, so it's helpful to do a little research before you make the drive.
Can My Normal Vet Treat My Chameleon?
Legally, any licensed veterinarian can treat any animal, including a chameleon, but not all veterinarians are comfortable doing so.
In vet school, veterinarians all learn the basics of disease processes, preventative care, pharmacology, surgery, and other aspects of veterinary medicine. Depending on what their personal interest are, they usually also have the option to take certain niche classes and this can include the treatment of reptiles.
Different species get different diseases and benefit from different medications. You cannot treat a pig the same way you treat a cat, or a chameleon the same way you treat a cow. Veterinarians understand this and may refuse to treat a chameleon if they don't have specialist knowledge about them.
Vets that see chameleons often have a personal interest in the species and have appropriate resources, medications, and equipment to treat reptiles in their hospitals.
They will usually have taken formal classes on reptiles in vet school or after they graduated for continuing education credits. Often they will have completed or are currently working on their speciality in reptiles and amphibians under the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). Sometimes they may have completed or currently be carrying out an internship or externship with another vet that is experienced in this field.
Finding an Exotic Pet Specialist Veterinarian
In order to find a vet that is comfortable and knowledgeable in treating chameleons, you will have to do a little research. The same vet that sees your dogs and cats may also see chameleons, but you will need to ask them to be sure. If they do not see chameleons or you do not currently have a vet for any of your pets, you can find an exotic pet vet a few different ways.
The Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians (ARAV) has a simple to use search engine on their website that lists veterinarian members of their association near your address. This is a good starting point.
Another search engine can be found on the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) website. This site only lists veterinarian specialists and you can narrow your search by selecting "Reptile and Amphibian" in the category drop-down list. There are very few reptile and amphibian ABVP specialists in the country, but you may be lucky enough to have one near you.
Another option is to talk to the place you got the reptile from. Reputable breeders, local pet stores, and rescue groups in your area are likely to know what vets will treat a chameleon that may not be listed with the ARAV or ABVP.
If you are still having difficulty finding a vet, start calling the animal hospitals in your area and simply ask them if any of the doctors are willing to treat chameleons.
Having more than one option for a vet is prudent since not all vets are available 24/7. Compiling a list with the hours that each vet is typically available will be helpful in the event that your chameleon needs veterinary attention, especially if it is an emergency situation.
What Questions to Ask Your Chameleon's Vet
Once you've found a vet that will treat your chameleon, you may want to ask a few questions.
Find out the veterinarians comfort level and experience in treating reptiles, if any other doctors at the practice or at other clinics nearby are willing to see reptiles in the event they are unavailable, and what their typical appointment hours are.
If you are new to chameleon care, it would be helpful to get additional advice and recommendations on keeping your chameleon healthy. Things like ideal habitat temperatures, humidity levels, and feeding regimens for your specific type of chameleon would all be worth covering. Your vet can also advise what they feel your chameleon's ideal body weight should be.
If medications are necessary, be sure to discuss how they are to be administered in order to make things as stress-free as possible.
Don't forget, if you do spot the signs that you have a sick chameleon, it is important to seek veterinary help as quickly as possible and to keep them as warm as possible.