Jackson's Kidney, Horn Health and Husbandry Issues?

CBee7726

Member
Hi Everyone,

My male Jackson's had some health issues, and I'm hoping to find answers and/or confirmation on what's going on.

Since the day I got him (Early February), his rostral horn has been growing in a downward bend (I'll post pictures below). By reviewing photos over time, this growth has been a slow/ consistent progression. I reached out to the breeder and he suggested supplementing calcium w/D3 (I think in case of MBD?). The horn has always been hard and bone-like, never soft or flimsy. Up until this point he's been otherwise really healthy. I took him to my local exotic vet for a wellness check and they said he was really healthy (strong grip, typical "attitude" etc.), and only made a couple of minor suggestions to his care: because he already had a T8 UVB bulb, they said to stop supplementing with D3 (he only took this for 3 weeks or so), and to give him a bath a couple of times a week. They also recommended increasing his multivitamin to 1x per week instead of monthly.

The second issue occurred much more recently, and I'm honestly heartbroken because I feel like I tried so hard to take care of him the right way. Over the holiday weekend, he fell from the top of his cage (he was really active all day, didn't show any signs of illness/distress) and hasn't acted right since. He stopped using his back legs as much, wasn't nearly as active, turned dark green, and I observed a decrease in his appetite. I brought him to the vet ASAP last Monday, and he was diagnosed with kidney failure w/ uric acid levels ~17. They also noted in his X-ray that there might be early signs of MBD based on the appearance of his digits, but that it could be subjective based on the imaging. He stayed at the vet all last week for fluids/medical treatment. His uric acid levels came down to 13, and they sent him home with allopurinol and I've been administering this myself since then.

Chameleon Info: Husbandry has changed over time as I've learned. Initial conditions are in Blue and current/ new conditions are in Green (if changed)

  • Your Chameleon - The species, sex, and age of your chameleon. How long has it been in your care? Jackson's (male), currently approx. 1 year, 2 months old. I got him at 8 months.
  • Handling - How often do you handle your chameleon? Once/weekly when he was healthy. Now daily for medications and hand-feeding
  • Feeding - What are you feeding your cham? What amount? What is the schedule? How are you gut-loading your feeders? Crickets (5-8) every other day, occasional hornworm. Gut-loading was initially Fluker's, but I observed quality issues with the product. Initally after that I was using potato, oats, and orange slices. After doing a bunch of research, I switched his gutload to a home-made recipe including: dandelion leaves, sweet potato, carrots, raspberries, blueberries, orange, apple, and a small amount of fennel seed, basil, and bee pollen. Due to illness, he is syringe fed a liquid diet.
  • Supplements - What brand and type of calcium and vitamin products are you dusting your feeders with and what is the schedule? PangeaCal w/o D3 3x per week (There was a short time I used cal + D3 due to horn issue). Herptivite 1x per month. PangeaCal w/o D3 3x per week. Herptivite 1x per month. Currently he is on a liquid syringe-fed diet due to his condition/ appetite. I bought Zoo Med reptivite for the future since it contains vit A instead of beta-carotene.
  • Watering - What kind of watering technique do you use? How often and how long to you mist? Do you see your chameleon drinking? When I initially got him, I was told I just needed to mist a few times per day + provide a dripper. I quickly found out that Jackson's require high humidity at all times, and I made significant changes to his cage within the first week or two. Now, he has the exo-terra monsoon automatic mister which goes off for 2min/hour (max setting). He also has a cool mist humidifier to keep the humidity up, a constant dripper, and I mist an additional 3-5x per day depending on the need. He's kid of a shy drinker, but while I've had him I've observed him drinking a number of times.
  • Fecal Description - Briefly note colors and consistency from recent droppings. Has this chameleon ever been tested for parasites? Solid brown fecal w/ white urate. Never tested for parasites. Since his fall and recent health issues, he has become quite constipated. While he was at the vet he was given an enema and they said that his fecal looked otherwise normal. Never tested for parasites, the vet didn't feel this was necessary.
  • History - Any previous information about your cham that might be useful to others when trying to help you. CB from a breeder. peculiar rostral horn growth, otherwise appeared healthy. Up until recently, he'd appeared well-hydrated, light green in color, normal appetite and very active.

Cage Info:

  • Cage Type - Describe your cage (Glass, Screen, Combo?) What are the dimensions? Repti-breeze 16x16x30. Shower curtain wrapped around 2 sides to hold in humidity. I was in the process of looking for a larger cage/ DIY cage based on his needs as an adult, but then all of his health issues came up.
  • Lighting - What brand, model, and types of lighting are you using? What is your daily lighting schedule? Zilla T8 Tropical UVB, 40-60w basking bulb (depending on need based on the ambient temp of the room). I have his lights on a 12-hour timer. I learned that the zilla bulbs are poor quality, and per vet recommendations he now has the reptisun 10.0 sitting a few inches above the cage.
  • Temperature - What temp range have you created (cage floor to basking spot)? Lowest overnight temp? How do you measure these temps? Zoo Med digital combo probe. 70-75F during the day, 80-85F basking. 65F at night.
  • Humidity - What are your humidity levels? How are you creating and maintaining these levels? What do you use to measure humidity? So this is where I struggled initially. My apartment runs very dry in the winter, so the humidity was only about 30% on it's own, so the initial recommendation to mist a few times a day was clearly not enough. Within a couple of weeks with the modifications aforementioned, his humidity has been consistently 60-100%, varying throughout the day. Average is ~75%. This is measured with the Zoo Med digital combo probe.
  • Plants - Are you using live plants? If so, what kind? Pothos, Dracaena, Ficus Benjamina that I rotate in the cage. When I have to take him out of the cage I have a 3-4ft. palm tree to put him on and it's without a doubt his favorite plant.
  • 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? He was in the corner of the living room on a side table. His newer setup is next to a wall on a metal rack on the other side of the room. In both locations are not notably drafty.
  • Location - Where are you geographically located? New England, USA (CT).

Current Problem - See initial description. His rostral horn was concerning to me, even though he was otherwise in good health. Has anyone seen this type of horn growth before/ what causes it? The vet said it could have been a fall that permanently affected the growth rate.

More recently, he has been suffering from kidney failure and unfortunately the prognosis is not good, as I understand chameleons typically do not recover from this. He is currently on allopurinol, enrofloxacin and metronidazole. My best understanding from what I read is that kidney failure is typically caused by dehydration. Unless this is disease manifesting from an event a long time ago, I'm not entirely sure that his humidity would have dropped to cause this any time recently. I also read that Jackson's are particularly sensitive to supplementation, so could that have been the cause?

The photo of him on the palm plant was from back in April, and the other photos are more recent (I want to show the change in shape of the horn here). I've also attached his x-rays and bloodwork.
 

Attachments

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
@JacksJill may be able to help.
I can't read/figure out blood work results well enough to tell you what's going on. I'm not a vet.
IMHO...with my "non-vet-eyes"...I don't think the bones in the X-rays indicate a major issue with MBD....if at all.

Reptisun 10.0 sounds like too much to me...but I hope @JacksJill can help you with that...or @Beman .
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
What liquid diet is he on?
How long was he on the calcium with D3 before you changed it?
How long was he on the old gutload with the oats and all?
Allopurinol is a treatment for gout generally. I don't know if it helps lower uric acid in general as well but expect it could. Don't know if that helps kidney failure or not either.
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
This is one for @JacksJill.
T8 out put will be different then a T5 though. Basking with a T8 10.0 should be at 5-6 inches below the light. T8's run cooler which is my understanding is good for a jackson's vs the heat a T5HO puts out. I believe @JacksJill runs T5 fixtures though with a 5.0 bulb. She will correct me if I am wrong. :)
 

CBee7726

Member
What liquid diet is he on?
How long was he on the calcium with D3 before you changed it?
How long was he on the old gutload with the oats and all?
Allopurinol is a treatment for gout generally. I don't know if it helps lower uric acid in general as well but expect it could. Don't know if that helps kidney failure or not either.
Hi,
He took the cal + D3 for approximately 3 weeks. The fluker's product was about a month. I switched to potatoes/oats/oranges/carrots for the majority of the time, probably about 4 months. the new gut load is very recent after I had done a ton more reading on the importance of the nutrient balance in the ingredients-.
 

CBee7726

Member
@JacksJill may be able to help.
I can't read/figure out blood work results well enough to tell you what's going on. I'm not a vet.
IMHO...with my "non-vet-eyes"...I don't think the bones in the X-rays indicate a major issue with MBD....if at all.

Reptisun 10.0 sounds like too much to me...but I hope @JacksJill can help you with that...or @Beman .
I'm not an expert either, but she said it was super subjective, if at all. She said that the appearance towards the end of his digits might be questionable but that it may not even be an issue.
 

CBee7726

Member
What liquid diet is he on?
How long was he on the calcium with D3 before you changed it?
How long was he on the old gutload with the oats and all?
Allopurinol is a treatment for gout generally. I don't know if it helps lower uric acid in general as well but expect it could. Don't know if that helps kidney failure or not either.
I'm so sorry, I just realized I missed your first question. The vet provided Lafeber's Nutri-Support
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
Oats bind calcium so you don't want to use oats at all. I never use white potatoes but sweet potatoes are a good choice.

What was the liquid diet he went on?
 

CBee7726

Member
Oats bind calcium so you don't want to use oats at all. I never use white potatoes but sweet potatoes are a good choice.

What was the liquid diet he went on?
So to your point, I stopped using the oats as soon as I read about that. I believe I read the same thing about spinach and collard greens as well? I agree that sweet potatoes are a much better choice.
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
So to your point, I stopped using the oats as soon as I read about that. I believe I read the same thing about spinach and collard greens as well? I agree that sweet potatoes are a much better choice.
Collards are ok to use. They don't have too much in the way of oxalates. It also depends on whether the oxalates and calcium are bound together in the greens...and I don't know all of the ones that are/aren't.
 

Deejay

Member
Hi, sorry to hear about the suffering. Jacksons chameleons need a RH of 30 to 50 in the day. That is not high. RH at night can be 75 to 100 which is easy to hit because as the temperature goes down the humidity goes up. I have a Jacksons chameleon and I would not let his humidity ever hit 100 because it is too hard to come back from 100 to 50 in the day. You chameleon has a lot of personality and I hope the best for him and you. Try giving less humidity.
 

DocZ

Established Member
What liquid diet is he on?
How long was he on the calcium with D3 before you changed it?
How long was he on the old gutload with the oats and all?
Allopurinol is a treatment for gout generally. I don't know if it helps lower uric acid in general as well but expect it could. Don't know if that helps kidney failure or not either.
Allopurinol will inhibit new uric acid production, but will not affect kidney insufficiency or failure.
 

DocZ

Established Member
By lowering the serum uric acid levels the crystals should slow or stop formation, but dissolving the already formed crystals is a slower process I think.
 

JacksJill

Chameleon Enthusiast
A diet with excessive D3 and/or calcium, that your vet prescribed can make him constipated. Excessive D3 can mimic many of symptoms of MBD. It can even damage the liver and kidneys over time as it will cause calcium to be deposited incorrectly into the tissues rather than the bone. I wouldn't give him any excess D3 (more than once a month) beyond the initial dose but I'm not your vet. Check to see if the liquid diet has D3, some do.
Eventually you will have to wean him off the feedings and he will take a while to start eating on his own.
His horn growth could be genetic, the Hawaiian inbred Jackson's have a variety of horn abnormalities or it could be due to an injury in the past. There is a thread somewhere on here where some one corrected the growth direction with a plastic brace. Not necessary but interesting.
The kidney and gout relationship has already been covered. Keep his temps in the proper range and boost his humidity over night and allow him opportunities to drink through out the day.
I use T5 5.0 or 6% bulbs. Unless you have an unusually large cage that is very densely planted I would not go higher.
 

DocZ

Established Member
If a chameleon has kidney failure, won’t native production of 1,25 dihydroxycholecalciferol (active form D3 that affects calcium absorption in the GI tract) by the kidneys also be affected leading to a functional D3 deficiency and possibly calcium deficiency in the chameleon?
 

CBee7726

Member
A diet with excessive D3 and/or calcium, that your vet prescribed can make him constipated. Excessive D3 can mimic many of symptoms of MBD. It can even damage the liver and kidneys over time as it will cause calcium to be deposited incorrectly into the tissues rather than the bone. I wouldn't give him any excess D3 (more than once a month) beyond the initial dose but I'm not your vet. Check to see if the liquid diet has D3, some do.
Eventually you will have to wean him off the feedings and he will take a while to start eating on his own.
His horn growth could be genetic, the Hawaiian inbred Jackson's have a variety of horn abnormalities or it could be due to an injury in the past. There is a thread somewhere on here where some one corrected the growth direction with a plastic brace. Not necessary but interesting.
The kidney and gout relationship has already been covered. Keep his temps in the proper range and boost his humidity over night and allow him opportunities to drink through out the day.
I use T5 5.0 or 6% bulbs. Unless you have an unusually large cage that is very densely planted I would not go higher.
Hi JacksJill,
Thanks so much for following up on this, I really appreciate it. He had a follow up appointment today (since he hadn't pooped). They said that the nutri-support is very low in calcium/D3, and they gave me a liquid cal w/o D3 to supplement that. Do you think that the supplementation of D3 for the three weeks is what caused his kidney problems? I initially wouldn't have thought that short term use would create such significant problems (especially since he had the zilla t8 tropical bulb at the time which I've read is insufficient), but I know these guys are really sensitive creatures. If this was the case, then I at least have an assignable cause that I've already changed in his care.

His issues with his back legs didn't come up until after his fall. He was patrolling around the cage like he normally does when he seemingly fell out of nowhere (he was on the screen), and that's when he became "lazy" with his back legs (for lack of a better term, he CAN use them, he just seems to have lost some coordination/strength there) and became constipated. I've read that this issue can be caused by a number of reasons, ranging from kidney problems, to neurological issues and traumatic injuries. His X-rays didn't show any breaks or dislocations, but today the vet prescribed a low dose of tramadol to use as needed if some of this is due to inflammation.

For clarity on the bulb, are you saying that the 10.0 T8 is too much, or to just not use a 10.0 T5 HO? He's been spending most of the time 9-18 inches below it since he's gotten sick.

It's reassuring that the horn shape isn't a major health concern, I just wanted to make sure it wasn't some lesser- known indicator that something may have been wrong with him earlier on.

In terms of the humidity, should I really let it drop to 30%? My apartment tends to run pretty dry in the winter due to gas heat, and if I don't keep up with it with a constant humidifer, it will drop pretty drastically after mistings (I confirmed this with a second humidity probe for accuracy). This is significantly less of an issue during the summer. His cage does get some air flow, so it doesn't sit stagnant and I see the plants dry up quite a bit between mistings. I've just always worried about him getting dehydrated. Most care sheets I've seen say 60-100%, how variable should it be throughout the day?

The vet rechecked his uric acid levels today, and it has come down to 4.5 and she was very pleased with that. He still tries to climb around quite a bit despite his leg issues (some days are more active than others). Have you seen chameleons recover to some degree from this? To help him out, I'm going to build some ladders out of wooden dowels to make it easier for him to climb up and down between perches.
 
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