Chameleons can be very skilled at hiding their illness. Showing signs of sickness demonstrates weakness to predators and puts them at a higher risk of being eaten.
Even though pet chameleons are safe in their enclosure, these natural instincts to hide signs of sickness remain and can make it difficult for pet owners to recognize potential problems.
Knowing what signs may indicate your chameleon is sick can help you get your pet the veterinary attention it may need sooner rather than later.
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Not Wanting to Eat
Inappetance is a key indicator that any pet may be sick but it can be more difficult to notice when a chameleon isn't eating than it is in some other animals.
Since live crickets are most commonly offered to pet chameleons in their enclosure, pet owners may assume their chameleon ate the crickets that they put in the cage when in fact the insects are just hiding among the foliage. This means that you may think your chameleon is eating when it actually isn't.
In order to avoid this problem, feed only a few crickets every few days and try and make sure your chameleon eats them all. If you are unsure whether there are uneaten crickets living in the cage, place some cricket food in a dish at the bottom of the cage to lure them out.
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Spending Time in an Unusual Part of the Enclosure
Pay attention to your chameleon's normal hangouts so you can easily recognize when it's somewhere it normally isn't. Your chameleon may have a favorite spot or two in its enclosure, so if it's spending time in an unusual area like the bottom of its cage, this could indicate that it is unwell.
During the day, spending time near the heat light on a favorite branch is common but if it is on the ground or hasn't crawled up to the top of the cage as it normally does during the day then your chameleon may have something wrong with it.
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While normal shedding will also result in a temporary dulling, muted color changes outside of the shedding cycle can be concerning. Chameleons are known for their bright colors so if they are a dull, dark, or ashey in color instead of being vibrant, this can indicate your chameleon is sick.
Dehydration, skin issues, a low body temperature, lack of UVB rays, malnutrition, stress, and other things can cause your chameleon to have a color change.
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Some of the most profound physical attributes of a chameleon are its eyes. A chameleon has eyes that stick out of the side of their head and can move independently from each other. These eyes should appear rounded or almost pyramidal in shape in a hydrated, healthy chameleon. But if a chameleon is dehydrated, stressed, or sick, the eyes may appear sunken, flatter than usual, and perhaps even be closed.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Abnormal or Absent Fecal Matter
Normal chameleon stool should be dark brown to black and in a formed oval shape with a small amount of moisture. The white to yellow urates may also be seen but the feces should not be bloody, watery, or runny.
Both constipation and diarrhea can occur and act as signs that your chameleon could be sick. Paying attention to the amount, color, and character of the stool is very important.
Chameleons normally defecate once every few days depending on how much and how often they eat but if no normal stool has been produced in over two weeks, this may indicate a problem.
If a chameleon stops eating, has a gastrointestinal blockage, has an illness that affects its intestinal tract, is dehydrated, too cold, or has intestinal parasites, changes in the stool can occur.
Providing an appropriate environment and diet are vital for ensuring the good health of your chameleon. Enclosures that are too cold and dry, food that isn't gut-loaded with beneficial nutrients, and cages that don't offer space to climb can result in stress and illness.
Checking to make sure your cage set-up is appropriate is the best first step to take to avoid sickness that is caused by husbandry issues.
If you suspect your chameleon may be sick, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible and keep it extra warm. Medications, fluid therapy, or other treatments may be necessary depending on your chameleon's problem but these potential signs of illness should not be ignored.