From healthy and active to dead in 18 hrs.

mgjohnson2552

New Member
Two weeks ago I brought home a 4 month old, female Panther chameleon from a local breeder. This was my first Chameleon, but I have kept other small animals (amphibians and reptiles) for 10+ years. For the first two weeks, she was very active and healthy. I fed her crickets daily, and she would consume 5-10. I dusted the crickets with vitamin and calcium +D3 supplements as directed. Each day I would see her drink water off the leaves beneath the drip system. I would do daily mistings, and one heavy misting just before nighttime. The environmental conditions of the terrarium seemed to be within their appropriate ranges. Temperatures in the mid 70s during the day, 60's at night. Daytime humidity levels around 40 to 50%, with around 80% at night. Two separate basking areas (one ceramic heating element and one halogen basking light), some shaded areas, and a UVB 5.0 bulb above the screen. The terrarium was a 55 gallon glass aquarium, but with a screen lid and a second level to allow additional climbing space (see picture below). I went with a glass enclosure for humidity and heat retention, since it gets cold where I live (Illinois). A small fan ran during the day (located outside the screen) to increase ventilation, but turned off during the night to allow for humidity increase. The fan and lights are all on a timer.

chameleon setup.jpg
chameleon setup 2.jpg


On Wednesday, I observed the usual routine. She hunted down and consumed about 5 crickets early afternoon, and I watched her drank some water from the drip system. Her coloration seemed good (see picture attached), and she seemed active. When I checked on her that evening, however, things were different. I found her sleeping on a large, mid-level branch, which was the first time I had observed this. It was unusually early for her to be sleeping (I had never observed her sleep during the day). Every night since I had brought her home, she had slept in the same location: a small branch in the upper corner of the tank. But now she was somewhere much lower. I figured I would let her sleep, and I checked on her later that evening when I do a routine misting just before the lights go out. She had not moved, and was still asleep. Her eyes also appeared slightly sunken in. At this point, I was obviously concerned, but it had only been a few hours (4) since these behaviors began, so I thought I'd see how she was doing in the morning.

chameleon wednesday.jpg
chameleon thursday.jpg

This picture was taken Wednesday early afternoon. This picture was taken the following morning, after I relocated her only a branch.

The next morning, Thursday, I found her on the bottom of the terrarium. Her arms were gripping a branch, but her bottom half was touching the ground. She was clearly in very bad shape. I picked her up carefully. This was the first time I had handled her since putting her in the enclosure two weeks prior. I don't like handling the animals I keep because it induces stress. She hissed when I picked her up, and appeared only able to grip things with her front arms. Her back legs and tail seemed totally limp. I relocated her to a large branch, a little closer to her basking area. Her coloration was dark, brown, and unhealthy looking. Every now and then I would observe her take large breathes. I called the breeder that morning to get his advice. Per his instruction I gently felt her belly to see if there were any eggs (even though we both thought it was way to early for her to be gravid). There were clearly no eggs. His only guess was that she might have sustained an injury during a fall. Within about 2 hours, she was dead.

I'm trying to figure out what went wrong. If the issue was environmental, I would have expected a more gradual decline in health. This was sudden and catastrophic. Within a span of less than 18 hours, she went from active and eating to half immobile, and then dead. Could a fall really have caused such a mortal injury? It was almost as if she had broken her back, since her back legs and tail were totally limp. I am looking for an explanation. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Thanks, Matt
 

JacksJill

Moderator
Staff member
Chameleons are predators but they are still low on the food chain and will try to hide any vulnerability.
That said the enclosure you are using does not allow for a temperature gradient that would allow her to regulate her internal temperature as needed. It also doesn't give her many places to hide and elevated stress levels will chip away at their health. Elevated humidity mixed with heat can lead to a variety of infections. Stress reduces their resistance to infection.
She could have had an intestinal blockage from accidentally eating substrate while hunting crickets.
These are just guesses based on your setup not knowing all of your husbandry.
 

mgjohnson2552

New Member
You dusted with calcium+D3 at every feeding? That should only be given 2 times a month. What kind of uv bulb did you have? A compact screw in, a T5, or a T8?
No, I did not dust daily. I would dust with the vitamin supplement 5 out of 7 feedings a week (this was what I was told to do by the breeder), the other two days were just plain crickets. I used the Calcium+D3 in place of the vitamin supplement maybe 3 times.
 

ERKleRose

Chameleon Enthusiast
No, I did not dust daily. I would dust with the vitamin supplement 5 out of 7 feedings a week (this was what I was told to do by the breeder), the other two days were just plain crickets. I used the Calcium+D3 in place of the vitamin supplement maybe 3 times.
It has to be a quality phosphorus-free calcium without D3 every feeding and a quality multivitamin with D3 once every two weeks
 

mgjohnson2552

New Member
Omg. This is a pretty crazy story. I'm so sorry for your loss.
How were you taking the temps? And how hot was her basking area ?
The basking temps were upper 80's, maybe 90 at peak. I didn't notice any signs of burning on her skin. I looked her over very thoroughly after she died and could find no sign of abrasion or burn.
 

ERKleRose

Chameleon Enthusiast
The basking temps were upper 80's, maybe 90 at peak. I didn't notice any signs of burning on her skin. I looked her over very thoroughly after she died and could find no sign of abrasion or burn.
Her basking temp (measured where her casque/top of her back was when she was on her basking branch) shouldn’t have gone over 80*F at the max! High temps and over feeding can cause high clutch sizes and/or other issues related to laying eggs
 

mgjohnson2552

New Member
Edit: or a quality phosphorus-free calcium with D3 once every two weeks and a quality multivitamin without D3 once every two weeks
I'm getting a little confused. I'm heard contradicting recommendations concerning the vitamins/Calcium/D3 so now I don't know who to trust.

Concerning your question about the bulb, its a compact screw. Reptisun UVB 5.0
 

ERKleRose

Chameleon Enthusiast
I'm getting a little confused. I'm heard contradicting recommendations concerning the vitamins/Calcium/D3 so now I don't know who to trust.

Concerning your question about the bulb, its a compact screw. Reptisun UVB 5.0
How old and how far away was the UVB? T5 High Output linear fixtures (either the length of or a foot longer than the length of her enclosure, which should’ve been a glass terrarium, screen cage, or hybrid enclosure) with either an Arcadia 6% or Zoo Med 5.0 linear UVB bulb of the matching size 8-9” away from her basking branch is the best method for UVB. Linear Arcadia bulbs replaced yearly and linear Zoo Meds every 6 months if you don’t have a Solarmeter 6.5. It was also @AmandaS question. Depending on the brand and type of supplement changes the schedule. For what you used, it should’ve been the schedule I put, calcium w/out D3 every feeding, calcium w/D3 every two weeks, and a multivitamin w/out D3 every two weeks.
 

mgjohnson2552

New Member
Chameleons are predators but they are still low on the food chain and will try to hide any vulnerability.
That said the enclosure you are using does not allow for a temperature gradient that would allow her to regulate her internal temperature as needed. It also doesn't give her many places to hide and elevated stress levels will chip away at their health. Elevated humidity mixed with heat can lead to a variety of infections. Stress reduces their resistance to infection.
She could have had an intestinal blockage from accidentally eating substrate while hunting crickets.
These are just guesses based on your setup not knowing all of your husbandry.
Some sort of intestinal blockage did occur to me as a possibility. However, the bottom of the terrarium was covered in sphagnum moss, and I'm unsure how a small piece of sphagnum would have caused such a catastrophic blockage. Perhaps a small piece of bark instead?

I regularly checked the temperature and humidity in the tank with a gauge. I had this terrarium up and running for 2 months prior to bringing the Chameleon home, just to make sure I had the parameters dialed in. Based on the regular readings I took, there was a pretty clear, and stable, gradient.

According to what I've read on Chameleon Academy, they are supposed to experience an increase in humidity/drop in temperature during the night, so this is what I provided. During the day, the humidity was on average 40%.
 

mgjohnson2552

New Member
How old and how far away was the UVB? T5 High Output linear fixtures (either the length of or a foot longer than the length of her enclosure, which should’ve been a glass terrarium, screen cage, or hybrid enclosure) with either an Arcadia 6% or Zoo Med 5.0 linear UVB bulb of the matching size 8-9” away from her basking branch is the best method for UVB. Linear Arcadia bulbs replaced yearly and linear Zoo Meds every 6 months if you don’t have a Solarmeter 6.5. It was also @AmandaS question. Depending on the brand and type of supplement changes the schedule. For what you used, it should’ve been the schedule I put, calcium w/out D3 every feeding, calcium w/D3 every two weeks, and a multivitamin w/out D3 every two weeks.
It was a brand new bulb. I had it on daily for about a month before introducing the Chameleon to the terrarium.
 

ERKleRose

Chameleon Enthusiast
Some sort of intestinal blockage did occur to me as a possibility. However, the bottom of the terrarium was covered in sphagnum moss, and I'm unsure how a small piece of sphagnum would have caused such a catastrophic blockage. Perhaps a small piece of bark instead?

I regularly checked the temperature and humidity in the tank with a gauge. I had this terrarium up and running for 2 months prior to bringing the Chameleon home, just to make sure I had the parameters dialed in. Based on the regular readings I took, there was a pretty clear, and stable, gradient.

According to what I've read on Chameleon Academy, they are supposed to experience an increase in humidity/drop in temperature during the night, so this is what I provided. During the day, the humidity was on average 40%.
Sphagnum moss is an impaction risk. There should be no substrate unless the enclosure is bioactive (I don’t think yours was). Could you fill out this form in as much detail as possible please? It’ll help us see what was correct and what wasn’t:

Chameleon Info:
  • Your Chameleon - The species, sex, and age of your chameleon. How long has it been in your care?
  • Handling - How often do you handle your chameleon?
  • Feeding - What are you feeding your cham? What amount? What is the schedule? How are you gut-loading your feeders?
  • Supplements - What brand and type of calcium and vitamin products are you dusting your feeders with and what is the schedule?
  • Watering - What kind of watering technique do you use? How often and how long to you mist? Do you see your chameleon drinking?
  • Fecal Description - Briefly note colors and consistency from recent droppings. Has this chameleon ever been tested for parasites?
  • History - Any previous information about your cham that might be useful to others when trying to help you.

Cage Info:
  • Cage Type - Describe your cage (Glass, Screen, Combo?) What are the dimensions?
  • Lighting - What brand, model, and types of lighting are you using? What is your daily lighting schedule?
  • Temperature - What temp range have you created (cage floor to basking spot)? Lowest overnight temp? How do you measure these temps?
  • Humidity - What are your humidity levels? How are you creating and maintaining these levels? What do you use to measure humidity?
  • Plants - Are you using live plants? If so, what kind?
  • Placement - Where is your cage located? Is it near any fans, air vents, or high traffic areas? At what height is the top of the cage relative to your room floor?
  • Location - Where are you geographically located?

Current Problem - The current problem you are concerned about.

--------------

Please Note:
  1. The more details you provide the better and more accurate help you will receive.
  2. Photos can be very helpful.
 

mgjohnson2552

New Member
Her basking temp (measured where her casque/top of her back was when she was on her basking branch) shouldn’t have gone over 80*F at the max! High temps and over feeding can cause high clutch sizes and/or other issues related to laying eggs
This basking temperature advice contradicts everything I've read elsewhere. For example, https://www.chameleonschool.com/chameleon-temperature/

"on average a chameleon will need a basking spot between 85° and 90° and an ambient cage temperature between 75° and 82°."

Also, the Chameleon was only 4 months old, which would seem very early for a first clutch. I did check her belly and she was clearly not gravid.
 

ERKleRose

Chameleon Enthusiast
This basking temperature advice contradicts everything I've read elsewhere. For example, https://www.chameleonschool.com/chameleon-temperature/

"on average a chameleon will need a basking spot between 85° and 90° and an ambient cage temperature between 75° and 82°."

Also, the Chameleon was only 4 months old, which would seem very early for a first clutch. I did check her belly and she was clearly not gravid.
That is old husbandry info. It has been shown to decrease a female chameleon’s life, along with overfeeding, due to both increasing clutch sizes. I never said she had eggs, just that high heat and over feeding can cause egg issues in females
 
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