Jackson's Off Balance

Connorology

Established Member
Hi All,

So when I left for work this morning, my ~year old male Jackson's chameleon was doing fine. I misted him for a minute or two and he drank the water. He also appears to have eaten about five small dubia roaches today. So he started off the day healthy. However, he is now moving vigorously but erratically, and seems off balance.

When I got home from work this evening, he was under his basking light, I when I went to mist him, he almost fell off the branch. He recovered, and started making erratic movements around the cage. He seems to be moving to the right in a circle, as if he has balancing issues. He is vigourous and has energy (this isn't a weakness issue) and tightly gripped my hand when I took him out to examine him. I see no visible signs of injury. I do not know enough about chameleon anatomy to know if they have an analog to an inner ear, but it looks to me like whatever sends the message to his brain about how to remain upright is screwy. My question: Is there a known cause/causes of balance issues in an otherwise healthy chameleon? Are there interventions I should be taking immediately?. I can call around tomorrow and see if any vets in my area have experience with chameleons, but if I need to do that I want a list of possibilities going in. Chameleons are specialized and unique animals and I don't have a lot of faith that my local vets will have sufficient experience without some additional help.

Because I know I will be asked:

Background: He is housed in a 24" by 24" by 36" inch enclosure. Two sides and the top are barred, two sides in the back have been retrofitted with black garden mesh to maintain humidity and reduce stress.

He has a basking bulb that keeps his basking area between 85-90. The area where he usually basks is about 85, though he could probably get closer to the bulb if he wanted. The ambient temperature in the upper part of the cage is mid seventies. It dips down into low seventies to high sixties lower in the cage, but he never goes down there. I have a zoo med 5.0 UVB tube bulb. It is getting to be about time to replace it, I've had it for about six months. I don't think this would result in an extremely quick deterioration of his health.

The enclosure has pothos and umbrella plants, I vetted all the plants before I set up the enclosure. He has cover and climbing vines. I have a cool mist humidifier set to go off a few times a day to maintain the humidity when I am not at home. I mist him twice a day, and I have a drip system I usually let run when I am at work.

I switch superworms and dubias as a staple. I feed those insects on mostly fresh produce. I dust with D3 free calcium every feeding and do vitamins and d3 a couple times a month. I cup feed, and most of the time by the time he eats his feeders they have cleaned most of the dust off themselves, so I probably tend to over dust to compensate.

I have had no problems until now, nor has his behavior been out of the usual.

I can provide additional information if necessary. Again, I am really hoping for any information about what could cause a balancing issue in an animal that appears otherwise healthy. His color is green, he's thrifty enough, but his movements are bizarre. I'm ok with spitballing possibilities if you have experience or a reason to think that could be the cause. I would like to make a list of possibilities, and assuming he's still the same tomorrow (and not recovered or deceased) I can investigate veterinary care.

Sorry for the rambling, I'm going for time effectiveness over eloquence. Thoughts? Ideas?

Thank you for your time,

RonG
 

Lathis

Chameleon Enthusiast
That's good in info - thanks for being so detailed. There's nothing that jumps out as so egregiously wrong that it would cause a suddenly decline. His baking temps might be a bit high. I do think you offer vitamins and D3 too often, but understand your rationale.

How is he doing this morning? A few things that it could be but admittedly I am reaching:

Maybe he ate a stink bug or something else that upset him? Maybe it's an overdose of vitamins? Maybe he overheated?

Give us an update of how he is. I'm sorry I'm not more helpful.
 

leedragon

Avid Member
how is your gutloading? the basking temp seems a bit too high.

what I know about losing balance, or more precisely be falling down from the branches is when the chameleons has become too weak to hold himself in the branches, it is no too far from dead, however you seems strong and those making not fit to a such case.
this is all I can come up with, maybe a vet check, parasites or any blood deficiency
 

Lathis

Chameleon Enthusiast
how is your gutloading? the basking temp seems a bit too high.

what I know about losing balance, or more precisely be falling down from the branches is when the chameleons has become too weak to hold himself in the branches, it is no too far from dead, however you seems strong and those making not fit to a such case.
this is all I can come up with, maybe a vet check, parasites or any blood deficiency
That's a good question about gutloading. I forgot to ask that.
Jax are much more sensitive to nutrition issues and supplements than other chams. I've found that gut loading is extremely important to my Max's overall health. Weakness, muscle issues, grip, and tongue problems can all be related to nutrition issues. It can be difficult to decipher whether the issue is under or over supplementation, though. A vet might be able to do some blood work to look at certain levels - I've never had that done though, so I can't provide any advise.
 

Connorology

Established Member
Update: So about three hours after I posted this original message he was fine, and had completely regained his balance. He even ate a hornworm moth that hatched last night. Today, he is fine and has completely regained all motor function with no evidence of yesterday's wonkyness.

I don't think it's the basking temperatures- the area where it's 85-90 is an extremely small area of the enclosure. The only reason it's that high is because I need a strong bulb to keep the overall temperature up during winter, and by the laws of physics that means there will be a spot in the cage that is warmest. It's a diffuse bulb and he can easily thermoregulate by moving a few inches to either side. I've tested out a few bulbs of varying strength, and this is the one he seemed to be doing the best with (measured by color and quick feeding/drinking response). I do have those other ones on hand though, so if I have a problem I can try and lower wattage.

Gut loading and dusting protocol is probably an area of husbandry I have some room to improve on. What I'm doing now is adequate, and is how I have fed all my reptiles since the first gecko I got when I was seven (I am now in my20's). Though I've never had a nutritionally related health issue, this chameleon is probably the most advanced species I have kept. I don't think it would manifest and go away so quickly, though I can't rule it out.

I have been meaning to do a parasite check, but haven't gotten around to it. I may just do it myself, if you have access to a microscope it's like $80 with the reagents. I'm sure there is a learning curve, but once I know how to do it, future tests become free (unless the reagents expire... Maybe I have to think this one through).

There are two possibilities I noted as possible explanations for his bizarre behavior. Neither seem particularly likely, but I'll spitball:

1) My UVB light is no longer putting out UVB. I said it's about time to replace it. When the cham started acting weird I put a zoomed UVB 10 compact I had lying around on him. I know it's strong, but I wanted to feel like I was doing something. About an hour later he was looking better and two hours later was back to normal motor function. This was the only variable I changed, but I can't imagine two hours of UVB would be enough to trigger the metabolism cascade that would reverse any health problems. Worth noting though. I'm going to go to a local reptile store that can test UVB bulbs and see if my old one is shot. If this was the problem, at least it is easy to fix.

2) He was drunk. No, seriously. I mentioned he ate a bunch of dubias day of. I didn't notice it in the morning when I fed him, but the dubia culture I was feeding him out of was itself feeding off of some fruit that had gone rotten. I know animals can get drunk off of fermented fruit. It is conceivably possible that the roaches ate a bunch of the fermented fruit before I noticed and threw it out. Then the chameleon eats a bunch of the roaches, and gets drunk off of alcohol roaches. This seems ridiculous, but would explain the weird behavior and lack of balance without loss of strength, as well as the quick recovery.
 

Lathis

Chameleon Enthusiast
Glad to hear he's back to normal. Maybe he did eat something that disagreed with him. I agree it probably wasn't your lighting, and nutritional issues wouldn't likely pop up so rapidly. Keep an eye on him. Hopefully, he won't have anymore issues.
 

Connorology

Established Member
Interesting. So there is a precedent for drunk chameleons. That description sounds similar to what I was observing.

Well that's easy enough to fix. No more alcohol for the cham! I bought a new UVB bulb (the old one was going out but not totally spent). I'll maybe tone down the vitamins as well.

While I'm here- what is considered good gutload? I generally use whatever produce I have on hand, which is a lot of apples, carrots, and leafy greens. I know there are some specific recipes available for dry diet, but I'm sure that extends primarily to roaches and crickets, as other feeders won't eat the same dry diet or produce. Superworms are generally grown in bran or oatmeal, and I throw in produce for them to snack on as well. I supplement with hornworms (which will obviously only eat the hornworm chow), waxworms (which will eat nothing useful) and soldier fly larva (which seem to eat whatever as long as its compostable, I've been giving them cornmeal and fruit fly media). Again, I don't really think I have a nutritional problem, but as long as I am taking the time to reassess husbandry I might as well get everything as close to 100% as I can.
 
I found that when my daughter got her bearded dragon and I started using more of the items on her the list for beardy salads that were staples my Jackson perked up and was more active

http://blackninjakitty.com/herps/care/troystuttlegreeniglist.htm

I tried some home made also but ended up with "cricket crack" and "bug buffet" that were sold by members here -

Sandrachameleon is the undisputed goddess of the gutload-
https://www.chameleonforums.com/blogs/sandrachameleon/835-simple-gutload-bug-food.html
 

repdog

Member
For feeding roaches this is what I use. I just buy 10lbs of roach food from http://www.theroachguy.com. You can ask him for a list of ingredients. It is far easier to order from him then make your own. I needed the info for the vet records and was provided in a timely manner. 10lbs will last me about 6 months depending on how fast I let mine reproduce. I then feed them all fruits and vegs. as well.

I feel bad but I really don't have to use supplements that much with any of my reptiles. I use lights from lightyourreptile.com that provides enough D3, and with the roach food that is loaded with calcium plus all the other feeders I don't use much of that (only babies get the most supplements). Mine go to the vet every year for blood work and a check up. With the lights I have been told to back off D3 and with the high content of roach food calcium is spot on. Supplements are used for rescued and babies. Otherwise just once a month and that's it. It really goes to show me at least you are what you eat. Now if I could only convince my other half about that.
 

Connorology

Established Member
Thanks for all the info. Always good to be checking in with the larger community now and then for feedback.

Best,

RonG
 
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