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How to Tell if a Chameleon is Dying?

chameleon

Do you own a chameleon or are thinking of getting one?

If yes, then you probably already know that these little lizards are fascinating creatures with unique abilities. They’re known for their stunning appearance and their incredible color-changing skills.

But as exotic pets, they need specialized care to thrive in captivity. Even with the best care, chameleons can sometimes face health issues and get sunken eyes. That’s why it is important to recognize the signs that your scaly friend may be in distress or facing a serious health challenge.

Knowing what to look for can help you take quick action and potentially save your little buddy’s life!

Chameleons often mask their sicknesses until the condition is severe. This means that by the time you detect symptoms of illness, like sunken eyes, in your chameleon, it may be dying and need immediate medical help.

chameleon sunken eyes

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the signs and symptoms and help you learn how to tell if a chameleon is dying. Plus, we’ll give you some tips on how to be a responsible and attentive owner for a healthy chameleon.

Remember that this information is not a substitute for professional veterinary care, but it can help you be better prepared to care for your pet.

Chameleon eyes can tell a lot about their health. They are usually round, active, and alert.

If you notice chameleon not moving and eyes closed, sunken eyes, along with lethargy, sagging skin, weight loss, and unusual color, don’t take it lightly!

Lets see what causes these symptoms, and what can you do to prevent and treat them? 

Dehydration

Dehydration is the leading cause of death in pet veiled chameleons!

If you’re wondering whether your chameleon is dehydrated, just take a look at its urates (the white part of chameleon poop). If they appear yellow, it’s a sign that your pet needs more water, while orange urates indicate a serious dehydration problem.

how to tell if a chameleon is dying

Signs of Dehydration

Watch out for signs such as:

These are all indicators that your chameleon is suffering from dehydration and needs immediate attention.

What to Do if Your Chameleon is Dehydrated

First things first! Make sure your chameleon has plenty of water to drink!

Next, make an appointment with your certified reptile veterinarian immediately to determine if your misting, humidity levels and water availability align with your chameleon’s needs.

If they are, there may be some other illness causing dehydration. 

If your chameleon is five months or older, you can give it a 30-45 minute “shower” by placing a fake or live plant in the shower with your chameleon and adjusting the showerhead, so the water hits the wall (not the plant or the pet!) and bounces off as mist.

misting a chameleon

This provides intensive rehydration for your chameleon. 

A terrarium misting system is critically important, and we have a post reviewing misting systems designed for chameleons you can check out if you need an upgrade.

Stress

Yes, you read that right!

Stress can be a major cause of death for chameleons!

When a chameleon feels stressed, its stress hormones increase to help it cope with the situation. However, it can take up to a week for these hormones to return to normal levels. This can put the chameleon’s immune system, growth, reproductive system, and blood flow to the skin on hold, resulting in serious health problems and even death if the stress is chronic.

stressed chameleon

So, it’s important to take care of our little chameleon friends and make sure they have a stress-free environment!

Signs Of Stress

Some signs that your chameleon is suffering and possibly dying from stress include:

  • Not interested in food
  • Hunger strikes
  • Darker or brighter coloring than usual
  • Rocking back and forth
  • Unusual aggression
  • Keeping eyes closed
  • Sunken eyes
  • Watery or very smelly feces
  • Changes in body temperature

What to Do if Your Chameleon is Stressed

Once again, make an appointment with your certified reptile veterinarian immediately if you think your veiled chameleon is suffering from health problems related to stress.

If possible, it might be best to have your vet make a house visit, as movement could cause more stress damage.

It is also wise to remove all possible stressors from its environment.

Chameleon stressors include:

  • Wrong lighting and heating
  • Being paired with another chameleon
  • Too much human handling
  • Seeing its own reflection
  • Changes in its habitat
sick chameleon

If you’re not confident you have the proper lighting, here’s a post where we’ve covered the best lighting for chameleons that you’ll find helpful.

Parasitic Infestations

Did you know that sometimes chameleons, particularly those caught in the wild, can have some tiny parasites in their bodies?

It’s not a big deal as long as they are healthy and their living conditions are clean.

However, if they get stressed or are kept in unhygienic conditions, these parasites can multiply and turn into a serious infestation that could even be fatal for the chameleon.

chameleon with parasites

Signs of Parasitic Infections

The sure shot signs that a chameleon is dying from parasites are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • A swollen belly
  • Weakness and listlessness
  • Sunken eyes
  • Diarrhea
  • Bad-smelling feces
  • Emaciation

What to Do if Your Chameleon has Parasites

If your chameleon shows any of the above symptoms, make an appointment to see your reptile veterinarian and bring a fresh (not older than 24 hours) sample of your chameleon’s feces with you for analysis. 

You may also want to stop feeding your chameleon wild-caught bugs like grasshoppers and crickets, as these are often how chameleons get infested with parasites in the first place.

chameleon dying

And since we’re on the topic of crickets, here’s a post we wrote on how many crickets chameleons can eat you may find interesting.

It might also be a good idea to deep clean its enclosure with a veterinary disinfectant like F-10 or chlorhexidine.

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Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)

Pet chameleons are lovely creatures to have around. However, they are prone to illnesses just like any other pet. One of the most common diseases that can affect them is metabolic bone disease. It is quite serious and potentially painful, but thankfully treatable with proper care and attention.

chameleon mbd

Signs of Metabolic Bone Disease

How to tell if your chameleon is dying from Metabolic Bone Disease?

Look for:

  • Lethargy
  • Broken bones
  • Mouth not closing correctly
  • Inability to use tongue
  • Twisted looking joints
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sunken eyes
  • Muscle spasms/twitching
  • Swollen limbs. 

Fun fact, have you ever wondered how long the chameleon tongue is? So have we! If you’re curious, check out the post we wrote about it.

Metabolic Bone Disease is most commonly caused by a lack of dietary calcium and insufficient lighting (chameleons require at least 12 hours of UV-B light daily to process their food’s calcium content properly).

Thankfully, MBD can easily be prevented by ensuring they receive enough calcium in their diet (check with your vet) and by using a high-quality UVB light like this one on Amazon.

What to Do if Your Chameleon is Dying from MBD

I may sound like a song on repeat here, but I can’t stress enough that if your chameleon shows signs that it is dying from MBD, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with your reptile veterinarian.

chameleon with mbd

You may also need to start administering a calcium supplement like this one and replace your UVB light bulbs with new ones or buy a better quality lamp like the one mentioned above. 

Miner-All Calcium/Mineral Supplement, Indoor, 6 oz
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  • The package height of the product is 2.5 inches
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Chameleon Health Crisis: Red Flags You Must Not Ignore

I know this may seem like a load of information, but in truth, the most critical step in understanding whether your chameleon is healthy or not is to be attentive and observant of its routines, moods, and regular habits.

Knowing things like how often chameleons usually eat, what color it is when it’s happy, and how often it’s going to the bathroom will allow you to detect signs of illness early so you can give it the treatment it needs. 

Taking care of chameleons can be a bit tricky, but don’t worry! If you’re familiar with the common illnesses they might experience and know the signs and symptoms indicating that your chameleon is feeling under the weather, you’ll be well-prepared to give your little buddy all the care it needs. The result? A healthy chameleon with a joyful life!

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