Emergency care after a veiled chameleon eats a firefly.


Hi everyone!

This post is to inform chameleon keepers of alternative options to try if you can’t make it to a vet in time.


What worked or helped us may or may not help your chameleon. All chameleons are different and unique and their susceptibilities to particular toxins is different. If you can take your chameleon to a vet or hospital, I highly advise you to take them. I am offering you this advice as an alternative if you can’t get to a hospital and don’t want to just let nature run it’s course. I am not a vet but operates in the guidance of a vet throughout this entire process.

Last night our 9 mo female veiled chameleon ate a firefly before we could get her. After several calls to the emergency vets in our area we were left pretty hopeless because by the time we could get her to the hospital it would would be most likely too late. Since our little girl survived the ordeal we wanted to share the experience we had so we could potentially help someone else. I have no idea if what we did actually helped her or if she is just a special little girl. But based on her state today, I can say it didn’t hurt her.

The toxicity of fireflies takes 15 minutes and up to 2 hours to manifest. The ER vet said that from her experiences and case studies a firefly can kill most reptiles by the two hour mark. Things to keep in mind. Female veileds have a faster metabolism than males. Younger chameleons have a faster metabolism than older ones. This can translate to female juveniles being the most likely to pass on after eating a firefly. The vet told us that if she showed no symptoms of toxicity (vomiting, mouth gaping, oral and or vent seepage, sunken or cloudy eyes, and color changing to dark colors) at the 2 hour mark she would most likely be in the clear. At the 2 hour mark though, there is nothing most vets can do other than ease the pain since it would be well into the digestion process.

Things we did:
  • Orally gavaged her with water (we used a medicine dropper to give her small amounts of water to keep her hydrated).
  • Provided her with ample amounts of food (which she did eat).
  • Kept her moving and climbing.

What I am about to say here is to be taken with a grain of salt. I am not a vet and was only operating under the guidance of a vet in an extreme situation. This method I am going to describe is to be used only as a last resort option and comes with its own risk. Please be advised and only proceed with this option if you absolutely must.


Things we could have done if things got worse:

Had our girl shown symptoms, we had only one option the vet shared with us. We could have orally gavaged her with activated charcoal. The vet told us that this was risky and not to be done out of precaution but only if she showed symptoms of poisoning. The charcoal I had planned to use is the charcoal that you buy for fish tank filters. While the vet couldn’t give a mg/mL amount, she did pass on that we could take a very small amount of crushed charcoal and mix it with water to suspend it. She then advised giving her 0.1 mL of that charcoal solution. She said that as long as the charcoal was rinsed and not grill charcoal that we would be fine. Again, this is risky because you could induce charcoal toxicity as well. If your chameleon is sick and you can’t get her to a vet or hospital then this should be used only as a last resort after the onset of symptoms.

I can tell you that I spent a large chuck of my night holding her and trying to help her in any way I could. She was not too happy with me for gavaging her but I knew that keeping her hydrated was key. I am very thankful that she made it through the night and seemed normal this morning before work. I learned a very valuable lesson last night and wanted to provide my experience as a possibility to help anyone else that may run into a simple situation. Kiwi is a very lucky chameleon and I wish anyone else the best of luck if you ever find yourself in this situation because it is quite terrifying.

I hope this helps anyone
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Here are a couple pictures of our little girl Kiwi.


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Staff member
Glad she did well. Nice work.
In an ideal situation, which you were not, there is an activated charcoal suspension that your vet can give so people don't have to guess on the dosage. It is usually given asap to block toxin absorption. Your vet is very resourceful to think of an alternative, glad it wasn't necessary. For others in this situation, If you can get to your vet do so and get that treatment quickly, don't have to wait for symptoms like you had to because it is a known dosage and safer.


Chameleon Enthusiast
The struggle with fireflies too is that they're usually out in the evening. It might be later in the day when it happens and your vet could be closed.

Klyde O'Scope

Chameleon Enthusiast
Fireflies are all over our property—beginning with the hedges in front of the house, and raptors (hawks, turkey vultures, owls) & ground predators can usually be seen daily. I've seen the raptors swoop down & grab garter snakes, etc. from the yard. For these reasons, I probably won't take any pet reptiles outside unless within an enclosure of some type.
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