Hermie is sick :(


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I just got a call from my mom, telling me that Hermie has been sick and at the vet. I'm a college student, who due to various reasons is home a lot, so while Herm is "mine" my mother really adopted him (wouldn't let me take him with me, as she grew too attached). I have a vague description as to what's wrong, but I'm hoping that you all can give advice.

Here's all of the back ground info first though. Hermie is a captive bred, store bought veiled chameleon. He's about 5 months old. He lives in a 65 gallon full screened reptarium. There aren't any live plants in it, but he has many leafy veins lining the cage, and then a 'highway' of plain veins that loop from the top of it to corners and sides and what not. The bottom has a "pond" (look like water dish) that collects the water that runs from the dripper that he has. The dripper will go for about an hour and we run it 3 times a day. THe cage is hand misted. He has a UVB/UVA light, a Reptisun 100 watt bulb and a ceramic heater. High end is 95* and low end is 70-75*. He spends most of his time in the middle, occasionally moving to the hot end. But usually I'd say he hangs in an 85ish range. He was just moved into this cage about a month ago, and at first he went on a hungar strike for about a day but gradually started eating again. Prior to moving there he was in a 20 gallon enclosure, and would eat 8-10 meal worms, 3-4 wax worms and about 7 crickets a day. I never actually saw him eat the crickets (he spoon fed the others), but they always disappeared. After moving he never really got back to spoon feeding but I'd put stuff on the leafs and it would disappear, and the place wasn't crawling with crickets (I put in about 10 a day) so I figured he was eating ok. The crickets are gut loaded with flunkers gut load, dog food and various veggies. I dust them Everyday with repcal and everyotherday with reptavite, but as he doesn't eat them right away I don't know if he's getting much of it at all.

Now on to him. He hasn't appeared to be growing lately, and my vet recommends that you weigh "fragile" reptiles on a regular basis, because a lack of gain in weight in a young one will be your first sign. He weighed 40 grams three weeks ago, and still weighs 40 grams. We weigh him everyother day, and since we started giving him baby food (he'll usually eat maybe 4 cc each time), he doesn't mind coming out so much. Then today my mom noticed that he was having a really hard time holding on with his left hind leg so she took him into the vet. She also said that she didn't hink that he's been eating the last 3 days because his meals worms looked like they had just fallen off of the leaves. Our vet said that he was a tad dehydrated, so she gave him lots of fluids, rec'd upping the baby food, gave him antibiotics, and said to put him back in his smaller cage to keep a better eye on him. She said that he did look a little weak and she's concerned that he's not gaining weight, but that his foot seemed fine to her and his grip was good. He has not been pooping everyday but rather every otherish, but he did poop today (urates and brown stuff). I really trust this vet, but I'm not sure that I agree about moving him out of his new cage. While, the problems did start after moving him, I personally worry that movingh him again will just stress him out all over again. What do you guys think? I mean his old cage wont even look the same anymore as I incorporated some of his fixtures into his new cage and what not.

I'm very worried about him, as this is the exact same weight that Corey was at when she started having problems.

Sorry this was so long, but i wanted to give as many details as possible. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
PS -- I forgot to mention that Hermie did jus shed the 3 days ago, and shed all of his skin within a day without a problem. But that was the first time that he had shed in probably ... 1.5 months.
Hi Jam,

He hasn't appeared to be growing lately... He weighed 40 grams three weeks ago, and still weighs 40 grams
A 5 month old veiled should be gaining some weight. It sounds like your cham is not eating as well in the new cage; probably why your vet recommended the move back the the tank. You will have to modify your feeding methods and maybe try some different feeders. If you have not already, I recommend cup feeding. Try using a few cups in different locations until your cham gets used to it.

Our vet said that he was a tad dehydrated, so she gave him lots of fluids... He has not been pooping everyday but rather every otherish
Do you ever see him drinking? What color were his urates (white, yellow, orange)? You will probably need to look over your watering method too. If you are not ready for an automated misting system, I recommend giving your cham a shower once or twice a month. How has your cham responded after the added fluids?

While, the problems did start after moving him, I personally worry that movingh him again will just stress him out all over again.
I agree, the move will add stress. Additional stress, especially in an already weak condition, should be avoided if possible. I think your vet recommended it because she knew you were able to get your cham to eat and drink in the smaller tank. Getting your cham to start eating and drinking properly is the main goal. If you can do that in the larger cage, I would keep him in there. If not, move back to the smaller cage until you can redesign the larger one.
His urates are white, and there is usually a good amount of them, his poop is formed, but fairly moist also. We do see him drinking, he perfers to drink out of his little "pond" as opposed to drinking drops as they drip off of anything, and is attracted to his pond by the drops dripping into them.

My mom said that she moved him back into his new cage last night bc I was freaking out about him getting more stressed out again. This morning she saw him holding onto a branch with his tail, hanging pointed downwards and drinking out of his pond again, and that he was light green this morning. I guess that's a good sign, bc it would take some strength to do that? He was never so dehydrated that his eyes were sunken in or anaything, but she said that he seemed a lot more active this morning, so I have a feelings that the fluids helped.

But she also said that his one leg is still really funny, and she is still worried that it's broken. Aparently when he is walking around it's not going where it "should" and he is completely missing the branches with it on the first few tries. I will be home on friday myself to see him, so I can get a better first hand idea of what is going on.

We'll try the cups with him. He used to be so quick at snatching stuff up that it never seemed really worth it, as he would spot it right away on the leafs and go for it, but maybe this new enclosure is still a little too large for him.

I have a new hermie update, and I'm hoping that someone has seen this before, because hermie isn't doing very well.

On the positive side he did eat 7 wax worms out of my mom's hand today along with some vegetable baby food.

But on the (very) negative side he has lost coordination in all of his limbs. When he tries to walk he is constantly missing the branches, his back legs will reach up and onto his front legs, and he has trouble climbing. Yet his grip is very strong. Once he actually gets ON something he can hold onto it just fine; if he's holding onto your hand and you flip him upside down he will stay holding on (my vet tried this).

He still has enough in him to hiss at you and he was light green for part of the day (also shades of darker green but he normally changes colors like that throughout the day).

Has anyone seen anything like this before???
It sounds like a possible neurological thing to me. Usually when they lose control of their limbs thats a good sign that somethings not connecting well in their heads....Sorry, I know thats not what you want to hear.
Here are some of my thoughts. You had said you were dusting him everday with repcal, and every other day with reptivite. Are you using the repcal with D3 in it?? I know reptivite has A LOT of D3 in it, and vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. Another words....in large quanitities it can be toxic. At the pet store I used to work at we had neuro problems in some of the baby beardies that...in my opinion....got to much D3. At 5 months old I'd recommend cutting back to once a day on the reptivite, and maybe using a calcium with D3 supplement one other time a week. Other than that, since he should be still growing, I'd probably dust with a straight calcium supplement 2 other times a week and split these 4 dustings up throughout the week. Also you should know that as he gets older, your not going to really need to dust more than once or twice at most a week.
Another thing I noticed is that you have him eating lots of wax worms and lots of mealworms. In my opinion...wax worms are about the least nutritious feeder available. They are very fatty, and have lots of protien....but thats about it. Their good for putting weight on underweight chameleons and possibly as a supplement to a growing chams diet. I try not to use them as a staple. Same with mealworms. Not quite as fatty, but still not quite as good as crickets. Crickets in my opinion are great. Especially if gutloaded well before feeding which it sounds like you do. And as far as baby food goes....I cant say I've ever used it with my chams. I dont see how it could be bad...in the right dosage, but if he's not getting enough protien and other good stuff from the bugs because his stomach is full of fruit....then that may not be a good thing either.
Good luck with him and I hope this helps.
When my chameleon got sick, my vet prescribed the antibiotic metronidazole (Flagyl). Within just a few hours of taking the first dose, he had symptoms like you are describing in your cham. I took him off the antibiotic, and he recovered.. slowly. Later, in the course of his long illness, I used Baytril and he had no problems with it.. beyond the problems usually associated with Baytril, that is. What kind of antibiotic have you been prescribed?
My vet put him on SMZs.

Well, today he ate, seems to really want his wax worms more than anything else. He also drank.

But, my mother also said that his coordination is getting worse. She explained it by saying that his joints have no stability in them anymore, and will bend backwards and stuff, and are all floppy. He can hold himself up, but he can't actually walk around anymore, due to this lack of coordination. Tomorrow I will be home and get to see it for myself.
Hi Jam,

I am sorry to hear Hermie is still having troubles. Did your vet do a test for MBD or check for any kidney problems (high levels of uric acid in the blood)? Were any blood tests taken? Have you or your mom called the vet after realizing the troubles are progressing?

I do not have much experience with antibiotics, but after reading some posts above I looked around for some info. I found an article at chameleon news on flagyl:
If metronidazol goes through the blood-brain barrier in excessive dosages it may cause neurological disorders, namely, incoordination, lethargy, flaccid paralyses, non-typical postures, and -sometimes - death.

I hope things improve
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Wow, I hadn't seen that, Brad. That would explain my chameleon's reaction to it, although the dose was supposed to be a small one.

The lack of coordination

does sound like MBD. This can be caused not only be a deficiency in calcium but also from TOO much. You do not need to be dusting everyday - with anything. Your feeder gutload could use some improvement, too. "various" greens could mean anything. You can buy or make quality dry and wet gutloads. I agree with 2by2 re: the waxworms. Seems that ecery herp on earth loves them, but I think it is b/c they are the "chocolate" of the herp world! They are fatty. A better larva would be silkworms. There are several online sources in article on chameleonnews.com for resources.

I would recommend the vet try and and get some blood to see what his calcium levels are. Of course you risk adding more stress by bringing him back to the vet but you have to weigh things out.

Can you post some photos of him and his setup? Since you have moved him can he see other animals? is there anything in the new environment "spooking" him. You say you mist and have a dripper but is he drinking? How do his eyes and casque look? solid and straight?

Sorry if I repeated anything already said or asked. long htreads and tired eyes:rolleyes:
one other thing...

Jam said:
He has a UVB/UVA light, a Reptisun 100 watt bulb and a ceramic heater. High end is 95* and low end is 70-75*. .

do you mean a PowerSun (mercury vapor) bulb?? They give off a LOT of heat and UVB and personally I would not recommend them on a young cham I don;t even like them for adults). Few breeders even use them unless they can keep them at least 18" away from basking branch. I would switch to a reptisun 5.0 fluorescent ASAP.
I have some very bad news on hermie, and I am quite heartbroken. I came home from school today, and my mother warned me on the way home that hermie was NOT doing well. She found him at the bottom of his cage today looking quite dark and hiding, before I was supposed to come home. SHe put him in a shoe box with a blanket at the bottom of his cage thinking that it was it for him, and that he wouldn't make it for me to get home, but she said that she told him "You're mom's coming home ... she'll TRY and make you better."

When I got home hermie was out of his box, and green but the minute I saw him I knew what was wrong: MBD. His legs were limp like spagetti. I immediately scoopped him up, grabbed some heat packs and we headed two towns over to the emergency reptile vet. Where it was confirmed that Hermie not only has MDB but two broken legs. She said that she felt that he was too little to draw blood but they took xrays to confirm. His spinal cord still looked good, but his legs hardly showed up -- despite many tries -- on xray. She did not feel comfortable splinting/casting/making a decision about his legs, but sent me home with pain meds for him, a calcium medicine for him (along with giving him a calcium shot) and instructions to take him out of his cage with ANYTHING that he can climb on and to house him in a small cage with lots of padding for him to lie on. Tomorrow we are taking him to an orthopedic specialist in our area to see what he says about his legs. The vet said she was surprised that hermie hardly acted like he was in pain at all -- stayed shades of light green and yellow, tried to move around. I can tell a change in his attitude, but I know him pretty well. I don't know what will happen. I told hermie that I will fight with and for him as long as he wants to, but I don't want to make him suffer too much, so if he is ready I will let him go.

I feel horrible. Absolutely horrible. I thought that I was doing it right this time, and yet I've nearly if not killed him again. I didn't know that MBD could be caused by too much Calcium, the vet told me that he was very calcium deficient, but when we went over my feeding regimine she couldn't figure out why, except that maybe he's letting the crickets clean all of their coating off before he eats them.

I SWEAR that two weeks ago he did not show signs of this to me. I've always been paranoid about it, bc I've heard that it can be such a problem, and about once a week when I have him out I would sort of touch/GENTLY palpate his legs with some pressure to make sure that they were strong and his crown too to make sure that it was strong and holding itself up right. On tuesday my mom noticed his first leg looking weak and flimsy and then on wednesday they all started to get flimsy. I know that sounds impossible -- I always thought that it was a gradual thing, it must be, but I don't know how I missed the signs.

When I said that we fed various greens I just meant whatever was in the house currently for our beardies -- usually collard greens and romaine lettuce mixes. Never spinache or iceberg lettuce. No, the reptisun 100W just gives off UVA light, I've been told by the bearded dragon people that I could just sub it in for a regular house bulb, for the same effect, but cheaper. The UVB light is an ESU bulb.

Right now I have a small tank set up as a bed for hermie, and he looks to be resting peacefully. He is limish green with thick yellowish stripes running down his sides.

If anyone knows of some good sites or places that I can learn more about MBD please send them my way. And please cross your fingers for Hermie.:(
I am so sorry to hear this :(

It is interesting how one would assume that something like MBD would show signs along the way, but I had a similar experience, just not as extreme. One day I noticed that Luna's casque was bent. I was shocked b/c I had not noticed and it did seem to happen overnight. At another time I noticed one leg bent funny as she moved across her branch. It was broken. I am a very attentive mom and although Luna had some serious calcium imbalance due to her frequent clutches I did my best to stay on top of it along with my vet. Needless to say I was shocked to learn that she had the beginnings of MBD. I take A LOT of photos of my animals (almost daily) so I am able to document and look back to see what I missed - or not. People are always saying that chams are so good at concealing any weakness until it is often too late and it is true. Yes, there probably are subtle signs along the way and the more experienced and informed WE are the more likely we will pick up on odd behavior.

As for the fate of Hermie...I do not know what to tell you. I have heard from other keepers that veileds are one of the hardiest and some will survive even with the lame and bent legs. here is an article with some rather disturbing photos.http://www.adcham.com/html/veterinary/mbd-fractures-kramer.html

and another

You mention that you thought you were doing better this time...have you had cham's before that have not done well> You may need to review your husbandry if you are planning on getting another.

Here is an article that includes a list of setup questions. You may want to copy and paste them into a post and answer them to see if we can help trouble shoot. I do not know about the quality of the ESU bulbs and/or it was situated close enough for him to benefit from it. Even with dust coming off the crickets it is the gutload that reallt matters. If you make your own dry gutload you can make sure it is balanced. As for calcium rich foods check out this chart at Beautiful Dragons Nutrition

You will know if & when his quality of life gets to the point that you need to make a tough decision - make it for him. :(

Today he is still handling it like the tough little trouper that he is. I have heard that they change really darnk colors when they are stressed... is this really true? He is still a very pretty light green with and yellow stripes which surprises me for a chameleon who is usually so stressed out by every little change.
I think that his pain meds helped last night -- he became more active after getting them.
I did have another chameleon corey. THe pet store that I got her from gave me a list of instructions for her, and they said to keep her tank high end at 85* -- she got an impaction and despite spending 4 days at the vets for intensive care and therapy I still lost her.
I am getting ready to call the vet now, so I will post more later.

thank you
ESU bulbs are just garbage. I'd have that replaced ASAP with a good Reptisun bulb.

Did your vet give you any liquid calcium drops? I have a bearded dragon, Buddy, with advanced MBD (diagnosed on Dec. 7, 2005) who couldn't move his legs, arms and barely lift his head. He started on liquid calcium right away and showed improvement by the next day. He's doing really well now for what he's been through.

Do you use a feeding cup in your enclosure? I make sure to dust all my worms that go in my panther's cup because I know he'll be checking them out and eating them daily. The dusted crickets are hopping around the enclosure for days and days so I know the powder's fallen off of them.

Good luck with your little guy.
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Well, we have hermie home and set up from the specialist. Two of his legs have been splinted and bandaged. She gave him a guarded prognosis, because she is not sure how well he will handle a) his legs being splinted and b) his new cage stress wise. I had to move him completely out of the reptarium, and while she said that she knows aquariums are bad for chameleons, her recommendation was to put him in a 10 gallon aquarium that was padded and had something for him to perch on if he wanted to.
SO, his aquarium is set up with a folded towel and pillowcase (that holds an exam glove with warm water in it ... she thought it might be more comfortable for him to lay on if he wanted, and would give him heighth options too. There is a branch/stick laying on the bottom of his cage for him to get on, but he falls off anything that's much heigher (his splinted legs work, but not the way that he wants them too).
So far he has eaten some baby food today (mixed with powdered calcium), and a wax worm. I am going to go and order the other worms that were mentioned right now -- butter and silk I think -- none of our local pet stores carrie them, they only have wax worms, meal worms and crickets.
I will go out and get a UVB light that is not ESU today also.
THe emergency clinic sent me home with liquid calcium and pain meds for him. The vet today said that when we bring him back next week for her to check him, depending on how he's doing, we will start him on a drug called "calcitonin." Which will prevent his body from taking more calcium from his bones, but she didn't want to do that until we had a good enough calcium supply going into him, for his body to use.
He pooped yesterday and today, so I guess that's a good sign.
His coloring is still pretty shades of light green and yellow. I am hoping that this is something that I can rely on to tell me how he is feeling. His grip in his feet is still good, and his tail works well.
He makes attempts to move around his 'sick bed', and half crawls/walks around to move to different temperature gradients.
Thank you to everyone for their help, if anyone has any advice or comments please let me know.
Well done for taking him to see a vet. I have no personal experience with MBD but I wish you all the luck in the world with this. Please keep us informed.
I am so sorry that Hermie is going through this. At least you are taking the right steps to help him through his pain and ordeal. Please let us know how he is doing and I'll give a little hug to my teddy bear tonight for him...

Keep trooping Hermie!
Thanks for the kind words and well wishes.
Hermie is still hanging in there like the fighter that he is. I think that his stubborn and tough guy attitude has served him well in this case.
He was willing to eat some baby food this morning, which was a good sign. Though he has gotten wise to the fact that when he hisses at us we normally will pop a syringe of something (medicine, water, baby food) in his mouth, so he's resorted to little half open mouth hisses at us that are very short.
I gave him little rolled up pieces of paper in his cage, because he likes to have his mittens clamped onto something, but we can't let him climb in fear that he'll fall.
I figure by the end of this ordeal, if he makes it, he will either have become very people friendly or he will hate us and repay us with vengence for everything.
We ordered silk and butter worms so hopefully they will be there tomorrow for him.
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