Understanding the health requirements and issues regarding the captive care of chameleons
is, by far, one of the most important topics discussed within this site. Without obtaining a firm grasp on chameleon
health, a keeper is not doing their job. While chameleons have been identified as difficult to maintain in captivity,
noticing any problems before they get worse is key. Having an experienced reptile veterinarian available for check ups
and consultation is also imperative.
The best method for reducing chameleon health issues is to practice preventative
methods. This includes, but is not limited to, regular cage cleaning. If you slack off and your chameleon's cage
becomes littered with dead insects and fecal matter, diseases will easily spread to your chameleon. Also, be sure
that you are paying attention to warning signs. A chameleon who sleeps during the better part of the day is most likely
ill. A chameleon whose eyes are sunken and / or whose skin is shriveled, etc. is probably dehydrated. A simple test
involves gently pinching the chameleon's skin and watching it bounce back. A healthy, well hydrated chameleon's skin
will go back to its normal shape rapidly. If a chameleon is keeping one eye closed, both eyes closed, or has secretion
from the eye, chances are it has an eye infection.
If a chameleon's diet lacks certain vitamins, minerals, or nutrients, other problems
may occur. One such disease that can show its face is Metabolic Bone Disease. This is a common problem in many captive
lizards who are not allowed to bask in natural, un-filtered sunlight. This is because the ultraviolet rays from the sun
allow the chameleons to soak up Vitamin D3. Currently there are full spectrum fluorescent lights available such as Zoo
Med's Reptisun 5.0 bulbs. These provide the proper amount of ultraviolet waves and radiation. Vitamin supplements,
such as Sticky Tongue Farms' Miner-All, include Vitamin D3 and calcium in order to prevent Metabolic Bone Disease.
Chameleons may also become the hosts of a variety of parasites. Although ticks and
mites are not usually a problem with these lizards, roundworms, tapeworms, and flukes are common. Bacteria such as
Coccidia will also be present in the realm of chameleon diseases. The majority of parasites are found in wild caught
chameleons, although these can easily be passed onto captive bred specimens.
Other problems such as respiratory infections, tongue injuries, and mouthrot are also
very common in chameleons. Respiratory infections can arise from extreme temperature exposure and poorly ventilated
cages (ie. Glass aquariums.) The term "mouthrot" describes a condition that is related to a wound in the mouth that
becomes infected by bacteria.
If you keep a close eye on your chameleon's health, you can ensure a happier
chameleon in its captive environment. By doing this you are fostering an environment that will allow your chameleon
to live longer, act naturally, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.