Over Supplementing Warning

UrbanChameleon

New Member
I wanted to post a warning to other keepers.

Last year my Ambilobe started displaying issues with his tongue. He could only shoot it halfway, and it kept getting worse by the week. I came to the forum looking for answers, and people tossed out a couple of possibilities. Some of those suggestions were injured tongue or possible MBD. His limbs and everything else were fine, but it was a possibility. I upped his calcium intake and saw no changes.

I took him to the vet to get checked out as soon as I could get in. Needless to say, the vet wasn't very helpful. She didn't have much (if any) experience with Chameleon's, and didn't address the issue I came in for. No blood work, didn't check the calcium levels, no x-ray, etc. So it was kind of a bust.

Fast track until now, and he still has this issue. His tongue only goes out about an inch, and shoots upward. Luckily he can still eat, and both of us have gotten used to his handicap.

Now.. to get to my point. I recently got a second Chameleon. Two days after he arrived I noticed he had this same issue! I had only supplemented with Exo Terra Calcium and fed well gutloaded crickets. I did some brainstorming, and decided to go the opposite route with this Chameleon. I stopped using supplements (not even plain calcium) for an entire week. He had well gutloaded crickets, dubia roaches, and silkworms. Guess what?

NO MORE TONGUE ISSUE! :D

Apparently, my problem was over-supplementing. Mainly with the plain calcium. I am so glad I figured it out, and wanted to share this with any fellow members that might run into this problem. I was too worried with making sure my animals got everything they needed, and in reality.. I was giving them too much. Lesson learned.

I read the Exo Terra Calcium over and over, I did not see that the product contained Phosphorus. I looked online, but got mixed information. I did some research and ordered Repashy Supercal NoD, which does not contain Phosphorus. I have no idea if phosphorus played a role in this, but I want to be on the safe side. I will now be supplementing lightly. I feel so horrible that I made this mistake, and couldn't fix it sooner with my first Chameleon. I tried to get answers, but ran into a brick wall. I'm trying not to beat myself up too hard, because I did everything I knew how to do. I hope this helps someone in the future.
 

carol5208

Chameleon Enthusiast
I always use phosphorus free calcium. Apparently some chameleons are more sensitive than others to supplementing. I am glad you were able to resolve the issue with your chameleon. I certainly wouldn't blame yourself though. Thanks for sharing your info.
 

jannb

Chameleon Enthusiast
Over supplementing can be an issue in adults and older chameleons but I doubt that it caused your guys tongue issue. My vets always say it's better to under supplement than to over supplement because under can be corrected but the damage that over supplementing does to the organs (it calcifies them) can never be corrected. Dr. Mader had me stop all supplements for my older males because they receive outside time and I gut load very well. I only supplement my babies regular and my females occasionally and more often if I know they are cycling eggs.
 
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Lovereps

Avid Member
Often the best place to look for product info is the manufacturer's website.

Looking there ,the Exo Terra Calcium is actually only about 36% calcium, the rest being other vitamins and minerals.
Details are here, for those curious to know specifics:
http://www.exo-terra.com/en/products/powder_calcium.php

As with many other "reptile products" , this may work just fine for many other species but not for chameleons.

Thanks for sharing your hard-earned knowledge with others, so that they can benefit from it. :)

It's the sharing of knowledge and experiences which makes this forum a worthwhile place.

As others mentioned, excessive plain calcium is typically not a problem.
Exo Terra "Calcium" is not a plain calcium supplement--as detailed above.
A calcium supplement with D3 if used too often, would also be expected to cause problems.
Exo Terra calcium with D3 contains a little more than twice the D3 of the Zoo Med Calcium with D3, for example.

Glad you've determined what was troubling your cham.
 
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kinyonga

Chameleon Queen
IMHO its very hard to overdo the calcium unless you are overdusting or providing too much D3 from supplements. It could have been the phos.
 

pigglett79

Avid Member
IMHO its very hard to overdo the calcium unless you are overdusting or providing too much D3 from supplements. It could have been the phos.

I agree with this. Calcium is water soluble and hard to over use. It is more likely that the other vitamins and/ or phosphorus were involved in the issue.

I am glad you were able to correct the problem and your chameleons are doing better.

Also be careful with over gut loading, you can also gut load with too many items that are too high in vitamins, such as vitamin A, and that could cause problems. This is why it is important to vary your gut load.
 
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ataraxia

Avid Member
(With your second chameleon)Two days of supplementation will not cause the same issues. This was just a coincidence. Plain calcium as stated, is super hard to over dose in a supplemented form. Please anyone reading this thread...Dont think plain calcium is causing this issue.

Short tongue cases are not always linked to nutrition. A injury may be the cause, infection, defect, hydration could be another. Again, please people dont read this and think plain calcium is causing this by itself.
 
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UrbanChameleon

New Member
First of all, I would like to thank everyone for their input. I'll try my best to address everyone's questions/concerns with this thread.

I always use phosphorus free calcium. Apparently some chameleons are more sensitive than others to supplementing. I am glad you were able to resolve the issue with your chameleon. I certainly wouldn't blame yourself though. Thanks for sharing your info.

I had searched all over town for D3/Phosphorus-Free calcium. I read the label on the Exo Terra Calcium, and it did not specifically say Phosphorus anywhere on the box. I may have had an older form of packaging, but I always read the labels.

I knew I needed D3 & Phosphorus free calcium. It listed off about 10 different things on the label, none of which were D3 or Phosphorus. It was literally the only Calcium (in town) that didn't contain D3. I'm not sure what I thought about the other ingredients. It didn't say things like Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin K. It was more along the lines of Moisture, Salt, Copper, etc. Most other Calcium brands listed that off on their products too, so I assumed it was just the minerals in the Calcium. Now I've gone and made myself look ditzy. :rolleyes:

Over supplementing can be an issue in adults and older chameleons but I doubt that it caused your guys tongue issue. My vets always say it's better to under supplement than to over supplement because under can be corrected but the damage that over supplementing does to the organs (it calcifies them) can never be corrected. Dr. Mader had me stop all supplements for my older males because they receive outside time and I gut load very well. I only supplement my babies regular and my females occasionally and more often if I know they are cycling eggs.

I completely agree Jann. Thank you for your input. I've started supplementing my adult Ambilobe sparingly since he's gotten older. This has definitely been an eye opener. You just have to find the right balance, and it's not all that easy.

Super informative! Thanks so much for sharing this!

You are very welcome. I hope it helps. :)

Often the best place to look for product info is the manufacturer's website.

Looking there ,the Exo Terra Calcium is actually only about 36% calcium, the rest being other vitamins and minerals.
Details are here, for those curious to know specifics:
http://www.exo-terra.com/en/products/powder_calcium.php

As with many other "reptile products" , this may work just fine for many other species but not for chameleons.

Thanks for sharing your hard-earned knowledge with others, so that they can benefit from it. :)

It's the sharing of knowledge and experiences which makes this forum a worthwhile place.

As others mentioned, excessive plain calcium is typically not a problem.
Exo Terra "Calcium" is not a plain calcium supplement--as detailed above.
A calcium supplement with D3 if used too often, would also be expected to cause problems.
Exo Terra calcium with D3 contains a little more than twice the D3 of the Zoo Med Calcium with D3, for example.

Glad you've determined what was troubling your cham.

Thank you for the information. I never really thought over-supplemnting with Calcium would cause such a problem. That's why I figured my Chameleon wasn't getting enough when others had suggested MBD. I followed the forums suggestion on supplements. Phos/D3 free Calcium regularly, Cal with D3 twice a month, and Multivitamin twice a month. I was always sure to lightly dust with the D3 and Multivitamin supplements, considering they could overdose. The only product I was heavy on, was the Exo Terra Calcium. I must have misunderstood the label on the packaging.

IMHO its very hard to overdo the calcium unless you are overdusting or providing too much D3 from supplements. It could have been the phos.

Definitely didn't overdue it with the D3. My Ambilobe would get sunshine during the summer, so it wasn't used much (if at all) during that time. The rest of the time, feeders were lightly dusted twice a month. If the package doesn't specifically list "Phosphorus" is there an ingredient I should be looking out for? In other words, which ingredient is commonly used to add Phosphorus?

I agree with this. Calcium is water soluble and hard to over use. It is more likely that the other vitamins and/ or phosphorus were involved in the issue.

I am glad you were able to correct the problem and your chameleons are doing better.

Also be careful with over gut loading, you can also gut load with too many items that are too high in vitamins, such as vitamin A, and that could cause problems. This is why it is important to vary your gut load.

I do think that gutloading was part of the issue. I use a variety of very good gutloads, and a variety of feeders. Even though I cycle through them, some of my pre-packaged gutloads use the same ingredients. I do think that could have played a part in this situation. Thank you for chiming in.

(With your second chameleon)Two days of supplementation will not cause the same issues. This was just a coincidence. Plain calcium as stated, is super hard to over dose in a supplemented form. Please anyone reading this thread...Dont think plain calcium is causing this issue.

Short tongue cases are not always linked to nutrition. A injury may be the cause, infection, defect, hydration could be another. Again, please people dont read this and think plain calcium is causing this by itself.

From what I've read in the past, the breeder he came from uses a more aggressive supplement schedule than the forum recommends. When he came to me, all I used was the Exo Terra Calcium. I coated them more than I should have. After two days, he wasn't shooting his tongue normally. I decided to stop using supplements all together and see what the result was. He was fed Crickets gutloaded with Dino-Fuel/Cricket Crack, Dubia Roaches with Bug Burger, and Silkworms with Mulberry. After exactly one week, his tongue was back to normal.

I'm not saying that absolutely pure Calcium would do this. I'm thinking I misunderstood the label. It could have been a combination of his aggressive supplement schedule before he got to me, and the fact that I coated the crickets too much. Especially if that brand of Calcium contained ingredients I was not aware of. Would any of this sound plausible to you?

The front of the box reads "Calcium". Here are the ingredients listed on the label:

Moisture, Calcium, Salt, Potassium, Magnesium, Sulfur, Iron, Zinc, Mangenese, Copper

As I mentioned above, most of the other calcium labels I read said the exact same thing. Only they included D3, or specifically mentioned Phosphorus. I feel dumb for not figuring this out sooner. I read the label multiple times, and it just never sunk in. I thought it was normal for those ingredients to be listed off on a Phosphorus/D3 free Calcium product.
 

UrbanChameleon

New Member
I would like to correct myself in the original post. In the second to last paragraph I stated that I was over-supplementing, mainly with plain Calcium. I should have worded that differently. I was over-supplementing with the Exo Terra Calcium (no D3). I apologize if I misled anyone by saying "plain Calcium".
 

Jish an speedy

New Member
Hi ppl
Great info
I have been using exo terra calcium without d3 an calcium with d3 for about 2 months now.
I wanted to know if use think I should change my supplements and if so what is the best ones to get.
I have a male veiled he's 7 months old.
Thanks for good info.
 

VigilantSpearIII

New Member
Hmm, good. I have been saying this for years. My brothers all ignored me, and I have even voiced the same opinion on other forums, only to be shot down by super-expert-internet-warriors. That being said, I completely agree with you. There seems to be this consensus on the net that chams need daily amounts of calcium. I believe a supplement is necessary, but don't exaggerate people! Excellent post and good info pal.
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Queen
I gutload with a wide variety of greens such as dandelions, collards, endive, escarole, mustard greens, kale, etc. And veggies such as carrots, sweet potato, sweet red pepper, squash, zucchini, etc. I don't use any commercial gutloads although I'm not saying they are all bad....i just prefer not to change what isn't broken.!

Vigilant....not sure what you are agreeing with.
 

djfishygillz

Avid Member
Hmm, good. I have been saying this for years. My brothers all ignored me, and I have even voiced the same opinion on other forums, only to be shot down by super-expert-internet-warriors. That being said, I completely agree with you. There seems to be this consensus on the net that chams need daily amounts of calcium. I believe a supplement is necessary, but don't exaggerate people! Excellent post and good info pal.

Yeah good post by the op.

And Brothers are like that man lol
 

Lovereps

Avid Member
I have been using exo terra calcium without d3 an calcium with d3 for about 2 months now.
I wanted to know if use think I should change my supplements and if so what is the best ones to get.

All that anyone can offer is their opinion.
If you are worried, Rep Cal calcium and Zoo Med Repti Cal plain calcium contain nothing besides calcium carbonate and are 2 brands used by a number of chamkeepers here. Both brands are available with and without D3.
If I were you, I'd replace the supplements because I would rather spend a few dollars rather than worry that I was making a mistake.
I would rather worry about things that I can't change, instead :D

VigilantSpearIII, you'll find that many longtime cham keepers stress a varied diet of well-fed insects with supplements only as "insurance" against deficiencies.

UrbanChameleon, I think you made an assumption that most of us would make.
How many people really read the ingredients on chameleon calcium powders?
For most of us, with D3, without D3 and phosphorus-free are all we look for.
Is it something in the supplement?
An excessive amount of supplement being used?
None of us knows for certain but it is great that your chams' tongue issues have cleared up.

The Exo Terra calcium contains: Calcium carbonate, oyster shell flour, salt, calcium sulfate, potassium chloride, ferrous fumarate, magnesium oxide, zinc oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate.

My suspicion is that it may be one of the other ingredients in the "Exo terra calcium" which appears to be problematic for these chams.

For example, my chams' multivitamin has 450mg/kg of Iron and this is dusted only 1 or 2x a month depending on the type of cham.

With the Exo Terra calcium, it is 240mg/kg of iron---multiply that by 30 days per month and it is many, many times more iron than an average cham would normally receive.:eek:

The Rep Cal calcium and Zoo Med Repti Cal plain calcium contain nothing besides calcium carbonate.

Strangely, the Exo Terra calcium with D3 contains: Calcium carbonate, oyster shell flour, dextrose, vitamin D3. Absent are the minerals which are added to their "plain" version and I wonder why they add sugar (dextrose) to their D3 version.

What is easy to forget is that the word reptile encompasses a broad variety of animals, each of whom has different nutritional requirements.
Think about just how different the diets of snakes, iguanas, geckos and bearded dragons are.

"Reptile" supplements have typically been formulated to meet the nutritional needs of Iguanas (herbivores) and Bearded Dragons (hardy omnivores), rather than for chameleons (primarily carnivorous).

What is a fantastic supplement for one type of reptile may not be very good for a more sensitive type of reptile, like chameleons.
 

ataraxia

Avid Member
Sticky tongue farms outdoor formula has many of the same ingredients as the exo terra brand. Some ingredients are in different forms and another factor could be the different ingredient amounts within the mixture.

I wonder how many others are using this supplement? A few post's up there is one using for the last few months. Personally, it would be best to see if others are having the same issues before pointing a finger at it.

Im really glad your chameleons tongue issue have resolved/
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
(With your second chameleon)Two days of supplementation will not cause the same issues. This was just a coincidence. Plain calcium as stated, is super hard to over dose in a supplemented form. Please anyone reading this thread...Dont think plain calcium is causing this issue.

Short tongue cases are not always linked to nutrition. A injury may be the cause, infection, defect, hydration could be another. Again, please people dont read this and think plain calcium is causing this by itself.

I 100% agree with this post! This is a dangerous road to walk to claim that you should stop using calcium. Correlation does not equal causation, and as ataraxia pointed out, there may be other factors at work here. Over supplementation with vitamins A, C, D especially and phosphorus can and does cause problems. Plain calcium should not cause problems as it is easily excreted when in excess. Mineralization of organs should only occur when both calcium and phosphorus are high in the bloodstream. Since your vet did not run bloodwork to look at calcium levels you do not have proof that calcium alone was the only culprit. Gutloading can cause imbalance of other minerals/vitamins in addition to supplementation. And as has been said, two days difference in supplementation with your new chameleon is not going to change anything. Their metabolism is too slow for that immediate of a response. Under supplementing calcium is more dangerous than over supplementing as hypocalcemia leads to MBD and other organ damage. As lovereps has pointed out, there are other minerals like iron in your supplement so you cannot say that calcium was the sole cause.

This is not a statement to be made lightly or without cohesive evidence and can seriously mislead others down a dangerous path. I do not agree with your conclusion and hope that others do not follow it blindly. I am glad your chameleons' tongue issues have resolved but there is much to be said about the many things that could have caused them in the first place.
 
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UrbanChameleon

New Member
I 100% agree with this post! This is a dangerous road to walk to claim that you should stop using calcium. Correlation does not equal causation, and as ataraxia pointed out, there may be other factors at work here. Over supplementation with vitamins A, C, D especially and phosphorus can and does cause problems. Plain calcium should not cause problems as it is easily excreted when in excess. Mineralization of organs should only occur when both calcium and phosphorus are high in the bloodstream. Since your vet did not run bloodwork to look at calcium levels you do not have proof that calcium alone was the only culprit. Gutloading can cause imbalance of other minerals/vitamins in addition to supplementation. And as has been said, two days difference in supplementation with your new chameleon is not going to change anything. Their metabolism is too slow for that immediate of a response. Under supplementing calcium is more dangerous than over supplementing as hypocalcemia leads to MBD and other organ damage. As lovereps has pointed out, there are other minerals like iron in your supplement so you cannot say that calcium was the sole cause.

This is not a statement to be made lightly or without cohesive evidence and can seriously mislead others down a dangerous path. I do not agree with your conclusion and hope that others do not follow it blindly. I am glad your chameleons' tongue issues have resolved but there is much to be said about the many things that could have caused them in the first place.

I completely agree with you Ferret. I'm not sure if you read the entire thread, but I retracted my statement. I was speaking about the Exo Terra Calcium in particular. By no means did I intend to imply that Calcium is bad. Calcium is a very important factor to raising a healthy Chameleon. I should have worded the post better.

I did not realize that the Exo Terra Calcium contained more than just Calcium. Not only that, but I was not dusting as lightly (with this product) as I should have been. I have no proof whatsoever that this was the cause. However, I had a positive outcome when I discontinued the product. I did the exact opposite with my older Chameleon, and the issue continued.

The reason I posted this was to help others. I looked and looked for answers, but found none. I apologize if I've done more harm than good, but that was not my intention. I was hoping that someone else in the same situation would come across this post once all other avenues had been explored.

This was pertaining to the Exo Terra Calcium, which has a multitude of other vitamins in the product. It does not contain pure Calcium.

Sticky tongue farms outdoor formula has many of the same ingredients as the exo terra brand. Some ingredients are in different forms and another factor could be the different ingredient amounts within the mixture.

I wonder how many others are using this supplement? A few post's up there is one using for the last few months. Personally, it would be best to see if others are having the same issues before pointing a finger at it.

Im really glad your chameleons tongue issue have resolved/

Yes there could be many things at play. The gutloads I used along with the supplementation, the over-usage of what I thought was just plain Calcium, the different amounts/forms used in said product, etc.

I can state that I have been using this product for well over a year. I would dare to say a little over/under two years. After about 4-6 months of owning my first Panther, this problem arose. I continued using that same product, thinking he wasn't getting enough Calcium. The issue never went away for him. My second Panther started showing the same issue two days after I got him. Could it be a coincidence? Of course. However, I did dust his crickets generously with the Exo Terra Calcium. I did not use anything else. I discontinued any supplementation and his tongue went back to normal after one week.

I am not telling anyone not to use Calcium, not to use Exo Terra Calcium, or anything of the sort. Everyone's husbandry is different. Another member could use the same product for years, and not have this issue at all. Not everyone uses the same gutloads, exposes their Chameleon to the same amount of UVB, etc. That's why there is no one way of doing things. I am only stating my experience. If anyone else's Chameleon is showing these symptoms, they should take the animal to the vet immediately.
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
Excellent advice Urban. :) Your initial post has evolved to include the many considerations needed for this type of issue. Unfortunately the original post has quite a different message and can be easily misinterpreted, especially if someone does not read the rest. Hopefully they will read the evolution of the idea and some of the good information that was presented on the thread.
 

UrbanChameleon

New Member
All that anyone can offer is their opinion.
If you are worried, Rep Cal calcium and Zoo Med Repti Cal plain calcium contain nothing besides calcium carbonate and are 2 brands used by a number of chamkeepers here. Both brands are available with and without D3.
If I were you, I'd replace the supplements because I would rather spend a few dollars rather than worry that I was making a mistake.
I would rather worry about things that I can't change, instead :D

VigilantSpearIII, you'll find that many longtime cham keepers stress a varied diet of well-fed insects with supplements only as "insurance" against deficiencies.

UrbanChameleon, I think you made an assumption that most of us would make.
How many people really read the ingredients on chameleon calcium powders?
For most of us, with D3, without D3 and phosphorus-free are all we look for.
Is it something in the supplement?
An excessive amount of supplement being used?
None of us knows for certain but it is great that your chams' tongue issues have cleared up.

The Exo Terra calcium contains: Calcium carbonate, oyster shell flour, salt, calcium sulfate, potassium chloride, ferrous fumarate, magnesium oxide, zinc oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate.

My suspicion is that it may be one of the other ingredients in the "Exo terra calcium" which appears to be problematic for these chams.

For example, my chams' multivitamin has 450mg/kg of Iron and this is dusted only 1 or 2x a month depending on the type of cham.

With the Exo Terra calcium, it is 240mg/kg of iron---multiply that by 30 days per month and it is many, many times more iron than an average cham would normally receive.:eek:

The Rep Cal calcium and Zoo Med Repti Cal plain calcium contain nothing besides calcium carbonate.

Strangely, the Exo Terra calcium with D3 contains: Calcium carbonate, oyster shell flour, dextrose, vitamin D3. Absent are the minerals which are added to their "plain" version and I wonder why they add sugar (dextrose) to their D3 version.

What is easy to forget is that the word reptile encompasses a broad variety of animals, each of whom has different nutritional requirements.
Think about just how different the diets of snakes, iguanas, geckos and bearded dragons are.

"Reptile" supplements have typically been formulated to meet the nutritional needs of Iguanas (herbivores) and Bearded Dragons (hardy omnivores), rather than for chameleons (primarily carnivorous).

What is a fantastic supplement for one type of reptile may not be very good for a more sensitive type of reptile, like chameleons.

Thank you for this post. You completely understood what I was going for with this thread. I also found it weird that the Exo Terra Calcium contains all of these other ingredients, yet the Calcium with D3 didn't. They also sell a Multivitamin, which contains the same ingredients as the Calcium, with a few more additional vitamins. Nothing against this product, but I would not have used it had I realized. I should have been more aware.

I appreciate the Iron comparison. That makes a ton of sense. It's crazy how some brands differ when compared to one another. My order from Repashy just came in the mail today. I will now have a Calcium product without the additives. I'm pretty excited to use it!

I have to say, I am thankful that more companies are starting to consider the "not every supplement fits every reptile" take. We have a long way to go, but things are getting better. I do respect Repashy for keeping this in mind, and continuing to improve/expand it's products. Maybe things will be much different 10-20 years from now.
 
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