My Chameleon Died..


New Member
hello all. This is my first time posting so I hope that I do everything right. Unfortunately my chameleon died and I am hoping that someone can give me some insight to the problem.
Corey was a female captive bred veiled chameleon. I got her as "a baby" (that's how the pet store described her, and she was quite small, and my vet agreed with it), and have had her for 4 months. She grew by leaps and bounds at first, and was eating about 10 crickets twice a day (first small crickets, and then medium ones), and 10 meal worms once a day. I started gut loading the crickets with dog food, but then moved to flunkers gut load, because it guaranteed to have calcium in it for her. I tried feeding her fresh vegetables but she never was interested. We also dusted her crickets with calcium/phosphorus powder everyother day and reptivite once a day. She lived in a 10 gallon aquarium (we were planning on getting a larger one as she grew up). It was lined with indoor/outdoor carpeting. I used reptile UVA/UVB lights in it and the hot spot was about 82* and the cool spot was about 70*. She was lighted for 12 hours (and would "put herself to bed" if she desired to sleep sooner ... she would go to the dark side and curl up). We let her out to climb around (supervised) for about an hour a day and she would jet around. She had a vew different "sticks" (pet store bought) to climb around on, and we had reptile store bought sand in there in a dish for her. She had two "dishes" of water in her cage which she was actually freely drinking from even when there was dripping water. I used a water bottle with pin holes in it to drip water (which rolled down a stick and into one of the dishes), which she would also drink from. In fact, in the mornings she would hook her front feet on the top of the cage and stand there demanding you to drip water into her mouth (which we would do of course). When I got her I took her to the vet right away for a check up, and she did a fecal and had worms, which we treated and later she had a negative fecal. About a month after that I took her into the vet for a check up, just to make sure she was looking ok, and the vet said she couldn't have looked better, and I couldn't have gotten her to grow faster had I wanted to.
About a month ago she cut down on her eating ... about 5 crickets a day, and no longer wanted meal worms. I thought it was just because she was no longer on a growth spurt. She still was very active and drinking like crazy. Then, last friday I came home from school (she had been acting normal the day before and had woken up like normal that morning), and she looked horrible! Her color was like that of cardboard, her eyes sunken in and closed and listless. We rushed her to the closest emergency vet that works with exotics (our normal vet was already closed) and they gave her subQ luids for dehydration. They rebounded her nicely, but the next day she was looking sluggish and eye sunken again so I took her back for more fluids. That monday morning we took her to her vet (who specializes in exotics). They hospitalized her, started her on baytril and interferon, subQ fluids, force feeding (AD canned dog food), and vitamins. They gave her an enima with barrium so that we could do a barrium study with xrays. It appeared that something was impacting her (but not eggs, there were none), and after 8.5 hours it had only made it to her stomache. They were givng her warm soaks to try and move things along. Tuesday she was looking better, but still had not passed any solid feces, but her color was normal and she was more active. Wednesday when I got there to pick her up for th eholidays (I'm a college student and my mom takes care of her when I'm gone but wasn't up to all of the intensive care), and she had taken a turn for the worse. She kept opening her mouth wide up like she was yawning. An hour after I got her home she died in my hands.:(
I feel horrible, like I killed her. I don't know what I did wrong. My vet is afraid that our problem has been a long running one, and started when she cut back on her eating. You could feel the buldge in her belly from the stopped up food at the end.
Tomorrow I am taking her in for an autopsy, so I guess that i will know more then.
I loved her, and she was such a joy .. she even would eat her crickets off of a spoon, and would snuggle up against your chest and fall asleep after she had been around climbing.
If anyone can tell me what I've done wrong, I would appreciate. In case I decide to get another one ... which i'm not so sure of right now, considering I've apparently already killed one ... maybe I can learn from my mistakes.
Sorry this was so long.
Hi Jam,

I am so sorry for your loss, you sound like you were really dedicated to caring for your chameleon. Let me start by saying that I am not an expert at all and am a newbie chameleon owner myself. However, there are several husbandry problems that you described that may have contributed to her death, and I am sure lots of people will talk about screened cages vs aquariums, live plants, no water dishes, etc. But, regardless. One of the problems I saw in your husbandry that really stood out was low temps. I recently read some posts on another forum where a chameleon died due to impaction. Upon autopsy, the vet found that she was stuffed full of crickets. I believe the final conclusion was that the temps were a bit too low and she wasn't properly digesting her meals, and it eventually led to impaction and death. For a veiled, I believe the recommended temps are a basking light in the mid 90's and ambient in the 80's. I keep a panther, so I am not positive, but many on this list can help you with that. A concern could also be hydration. Did you mist her at all? How was your humidity? A cham begging for the dripper may not have been doing real well. Most chams won't drink from a water bowl at all, and usually only out of desperation. One concern with water bowls is a bacteria build up also.

Gutloads. Gutloading your crickets on dogfood or flukers was probably not a great thing. There are some very good products out there for gutloading, but IMO neither of those are. Fresh fruits and green veggies are also great to feed to your crickets for gutloading.

Anyhow, it sounds like you really tried hard to do the right thing for your cham, and I hope you consider getting another one in the future after you read more about proper husbandry. Unfortunately, many pet stores give really incorrect information on keeping chams, and it sounds like you may have been poorly advised.

I would really like to know the conclusions of the autopsy when you get them. It is good to have you here asking questions. Lots of very knowledgable folks on this list can help you with caring for a new chameleon.

Sorry for loss

Hi jam

Firstly sorry to hear about the loss of your cham, heika has covered all what i was about to say regarding the loss of your cham.Reading your post there are a few husbandry issues that could have contributed to the deaf of your cham ie temps. I feel heika is right in saying it was probably down to the fact she was unable to digest here food and died from inpacting.Before going out and buying another cham feel free to come on here and ask for advice as again heika is right saying there's lots of knowledgable people that post on this forum who will be willing to help you out regarding keeping your next cham if you decide to get one.The key to keeping your chams healthy is research research and more research
Hi there,
Very sorry to hear about your chameleon. It is obvious to me that you did everything you could for her. I am pleased you took her to the vets.
Reading your post, quite a few things stand out as being wrong and I am surprised the vets didn't mention these things to you (as they are supposed to check your husbandry methods with you).
1. The temperature was much too low, no mention of a basking bulb
2. A bowl of sand is not needed (where did you get that idea from?):confused:
3. Aquariums are not suitable for Yemen/Veiled chameleons
4. The carpet was not a good idea
5. Gutloading crickets with dog food is not to be recommended
6. Handling your chameleon everyday may have stressed her out
7. 'Drinking like crazy' suggests to me she may have been severly dehydrated or even had kidney problems

Once again, I am sorry for what happened to your chameleon. I do not blame you but think maybe you were mis-informed regarding how to properly care for your chameleon.
<SIGH>. Unfortunately I did go through my set up with my veterinarian and she said that it was fine.
She recommended indoor/outdoor carpeting as it is easy to clean to keep the bacteria levels down (she said many exotics are very susceptable to bacteria overload), and recommended gut loading with quality dog food. I had read to put a bowl of sand in there for her because she would need it when she started laying eggs, otherwise she would become egg bound without the proper substrate to lay them in. If sand is wrong what should have been in there? We did change the sand weekly, or sooner if she went to the bath room in it, so that it couldn't accumulate bacteria. She ate her crickets off of a spoon (her choice actually. I used a spoon to get the crickets in her cage and she started catching them off the spoon before I could even get them off of it ... soon she just walked over anytime she saw the spoon enter the cage), so I never worried about her catching them in the sand and eating sand by accident.
We didn't start letting her out because I had heard that it could stress her out, but only when I cleaned her cage out (once a week), she always readily climbed on her own onto my hand. The pet store had told me that when she turned really dark it meant that she was stressed and upset (is that right?), but she never did that when we let her out. Sometimes she would get dark spots on her if she went "on the prowl" but mostly she was varying shades of light green.
I always thought that she was just used to our routine to start watering her as soon as she woke up, and was just waiting. <sigh>. I did check her hydration levels when we had her out (with the skin pinch test to see if it tents ... I didn't pinch hard to hurt her or anything), and up until last friday they had been fine. We changed her water bowls daily to keep bacteria levels down, and I knew that they weren't supposed to drink from them, but I just thought that she was "special" (don't all owners I guess), bc she would choose that over her dripper if she was closer to the bowl. Originally I just put them in there to collect the water that dripped in so that it wouldn't get her cage all wet.
Thank you everyone for comments. I'm taking cory in later today when the vet opens, and I will let you know what she finds. I appreciate all of this, so that I know what I did wrong. I'm not sure that I will get another one ... I think this might be a one strike and I'm out type deal, I've already killed one chameleon, I'm not sure that really gives me the right to get another one.
Sorry I misunderstood about the sand, (because your Yemen was a bit too young to lay eggs at 4 months). I realise now you was putting it in there early for when she was ready. Sand is alright yes but it needs to be moist and in a large container. Vermiculite is used for egg laying too.
The pet store is correct that a dark chameleon can mean a stressed one or even a cold one.
I will be interested to read what the vet says killed her:(
Well, I just heard back from my vet. She said that when she first saw corey (dead) she thought that it was an impaction for sure ... you could feel what felt like a rock in her abdomen. But upon opening her up she found a mass in her large colon, with all of her food backed up behind it. Which was why her enima and barrium couldn't pass through. :( She also said that they didn't find any sand or anything that was in her, that shouldn't have been.
Poor Corey :( but at least you have your answer now. Thank you for letting us know the results. You are a caring keeper by getting to the bottom of why she died.
Sorry... :{ Mine died too. :{ It was the temperature changes, dehydration and impact all. I wish I would have known about the pedialite in time. Maybe that would have helped. I have a really good set up, but I gave her too much freedom and it went against me in this summer to winter change. :{ Anyway... I know how you feel. I cried for 3+ days. She died on my birthday. Black birthday, I called it. I'm still not really over it. I've done tons of reading since. I'll be very ready if I'm lucky enough to get another. Take care. You're not alone :{
New to this... could use a lil' help!

I bought a veiled cham 2 days ago and all is well right now. He/she (can't really tell yet) is active and enjoys basking under the UVB light. The temperature is about 80, and humidity is about 70%. I mist everything down about 5 times a day, but he/she hates it when I mist him/her. Is that a good/bad thing? The lights are on from 8 am - 8 pm, and he/she is in a 55 gallon aquarium with a screen top and a ton of plants. I dusted the crickets with calcium dust and I was told to only do that 2 times a week, and I've only fed crickets so far, but I'm going to try mealworms/waxworms. The only problem with the little bugger is that the tip of its tail looks like it got smashed. It looks kinda like its hangin' on. Also the cham won't curl its tail like most chams do. Is this a problem that needs medical attention? Thanks! Tell me if theres anything that I can do that I might need to know!

P.S. Sorry about your cham dying! I think I started another thread about that! (I'm new to this so I'm confused!!!)
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hey im back!

OH and sorry about your chams dying! that really sucks... But if you get another one, best luck with them!!!
Chin up, cham girl said alotta good points! Alotta cham experiances is trial and error due to lack of information. I am sorry for your loss! Truly! I am leaning towards stress and dehydration. glass aquarium could be respitory, any coughing? or hissing? " and not when handling " and mentioning handling is another, chams are not really supposed to be handled often but, many do

Good luck next time, I hope before you get another, you stop by again and read off your setup and we can tell you what you need and the perfect settings! There are so many people blessed here with knowlege with these amazing creatures!

I would definitely take your chameleon to the vet. They are the experts. I would do it asap. The smallest issue to us can actually be a big deal to the pets health. I have found when I try to correct the problem first it is usually too late by the time I take the pet to the vet. Also, it's great that you have lots of plants, but the fact he/she is in an aquarium is not good. I would strongly advise going to an exotic pet shop or online and buying an all screen enclosure. This is very important to the health and well being of your chameleon. Although you have a screen top, it doesn't provide enough air circulation and fresh air that chameleons need. I have read of lots of chameleons deaths because of health problems that arose because of being kept in aquariums. I would purchase some books on chameleons for your specific type. Amazon is good. Good luck :)
I would definitely take your chameleon to the vet. They are the experts. I would do it asap. The smallest issue to us can actually be a big deal to the pets health. I have found when I try to correct the problem first it is usually too late by the time I take the pet to the vet. Also, it's great that you have lots of plants, but the fact he/she is in an aquarium is not good. I would strongly advise going to an exotic pet shop or online and buying an all screen enclosure. This is very important to the health and well being of your chameleon. Although you have a screen top, it doesn't provide enough air circulation and fresh air that chameleons need. I have read of lots of chameleons deaths because of health problems that arose because of being kept in aquariums. I would purchase some books on chameleons for your specific type. Amazon is good. Good luck :)

First post and you bump a 4 year old thread? :confused:
LOL!!! tigerjinx, thanks for the laugh man! I needed it. Good to know you used the search tool. Anyhow, I also hope that more than one that stopped to read this learned something from past experiences. Good Luck!
Veiled Chameleon Care

First of all, congrats on the new chameleon. I'm also the proud owner of a veiled chameleon, and it is a rewarding experience for me to take care of her. Here are some tips that might help you...

I'm not sure how old your veiled is, but usually you can determine the sex by looking at the back feet and the veil or "casque" on top of their head. If it is a male, the back feet with have small spurs on them. The males are also known to have taller, straight, and more pronounced casque on their heads. Females do not have any spurs on their rear feet and their casques are shorter and not as straight.

The temperature during the day for basking should generally be between 90 to 95 degrees F. I also recommend having both a basking and UVA/UVB bulb. The UVA/UVB should be on for at least 12 hours a day, which it appears you are already doing. Make sure the UVB light is suited for the tropical and sub-tropical species like veiled chameleons, because some UVB lights are meant purely for desert reptile species. The humidity for veiled chameleons should typically be between 50% and 60%. Your humidity also seems to be higher and is sufficient for your cham.

You definitely want to have a complete screen sided terrarium as opposed to an aquarium with a screen top. These chameleons require plenty of ventilation and those aquariums do not provide that. They also have half glass and half screen walled terrariums that are good to use as well. Crickets are usually the primary source of their insect based diets, although mealworms are good as well. Be careful not to feed wax worms on a regular basis as they are higher in fat content. Those should be fed as a once in a while part of the diet. Maybe once a week at most.

I usually dust my crickets every other day, which some say might be too much, but it works for me and my female cham. I would preferably dust more than twice a week.

As for the tail, I would definitely see an exotic vet. That is not normal, as veiled chameleons love to use their tails as a climbing appendage (curled and uncurled). They should be able to curl the tail.

Hope this helps.
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