Pixel the Panther Chameleon is Sick :(


New Member
Hello all! My boyfriend is a reptile lover and has had many different species in his life. He always wanted a Chameleon but I always resisted because I detest bugs and other creepies and I was afraid one would get out of it's cage. Recently I caved and he purchased a beautiful and oddly vibrant Panther for his age named Pixel.

Fast forward to now, I've grown oddly attached to the little guy but he seems to be ill. I've been helping to take care of him during the day while my boyfriend is at work. See details below:

My Chameleon: 7month old, male Panther Chameleon, which we've had for about 2 months.
Handling: Not much at first but twice daily for the past 4 days (since he's shown signs of being sick.)
Feeding: The breeder said he was raised on wax worms so that's what he's been fed. We've tried to give him crickets a few times but he never ate them, so mainly the wax worms.
Supplements: Dust w ReptiCalcium w/ D3 about once a week.
Watering: He has a mister which is now going off every hour. We also use dripper for about 10 minutes every few hours.
Fecal Description: Usually brown with white but a few times lately it's been orange. I don't see much fecal matter anywhere but I know he went 2 days ago for sure because I witnessed it.

Cage Info: All screen aluminum enclosure, 36" tall x 18" long x 18" wide. We have closed 2 sides with plastic only since he has had orange urate, just in case too much humidity is escaping or the room is dry.

Lighting: 1 Reptisun 5.0 UVB lighting, along with 1 75Watt basking bulbs.

Temperature: lower cage around 75 top of cage around 85 degrees. Basking area is around 100. 2 days this week it was sunny in the 80's so we took his entire cage outside.

Humidity: It's usually around 30-40 degrees. Since we've had the 2 plastic sheets up, it's up to about 50 degrees. I put him in the shower today and although he seemed to hate it, I watched him for about 30 minutes in there.

Plants: 1 large natural ficus and a ton of sticks and branches for climbing.

Placement: on a 2 foot piece of media furniture in a room that doesn't get much traffic.

Location: New York Metro Area.

Current Problem:
OK, so about 3-4 weeks ago he shed. About 10 days ago we noticed he was sleeping during the day (which I later learned was a warning sign.) 5 days ago I noticed he really wasn't eating so we started taking extra care of him and researching as much as we could. First thing I did was take his cage outside to get some natural sun, in case it was the lighting. Then we were afraid of dehydration so we took him out and placed him in a shallow bath of Pedialyte mixed with warm water. He just ran around the whole time and hated it, hopefully some got into his system. We've been doing this every day since. He has been drinking off his leaves here and there but not really much.

Around this time he started opening one eye more than another. We also noticed that the side with the closed eye (right side) the eye is a bit sunken in and he also has some swelling around his mouth. Perhaps he fell of his branches at some point and injured himself? Who knows. I started rinsing his eye out with saline at that point just in case it was infected. It doesn't seem infected though, no oozing or discharge of any kind. He does bulge it out sometimes.

So 2 days ago we thought it was getting really urgent and took him to a herp vet in the area. Of course once he got in the carrier and was a bit stressed out he was much more lively, so it was hard to plead our case that he was lethargic! She thought he had a strong grip with good colors and a good weight, but was concerned about his eye. She gave us eye ointment to put on twice daily and carnivore mix to syringe feed him twice daily. We've been doing that since. As I mentioned, today we put him in the shower for about a half hour right before his feedng/eye care.

Any advice? Is he going to die? I'll be so sad if we've done something wrong, he's my buddy.
And diet of waxworms alone IMHO is not good....too fatty.

Also it should be getting a phos - free calcium powder dusted on the insects at most feedings and the calcium with D3 should only be used twice a month. I also dust twice a month with a vitamin powder containing a beta carotene source of vitamin A. If the pattern needs prEformed vitamin A kt can be regulated then by you.

What did the vet say about the swelling?

Can you post some recent photos please?
Thank you, kinyonga. I have some crickets in there right now. I hope he eats those instead but I don't have much faith in that! Do you think they carnivore mix that the vet gave us will help in that regard?

The vet seemed like she wasn't too worried about the swelling. I wouldn't call it swelling, per se...it's more like an asymmetry.

Here are some photos of Pixel's living space. When we take him out to syringe feed him later I'll try to get some photos of his eye/face other close-ups:


pictures can sometimes speak a thousand words so definitely post some of him. His whole body and close ups of the problem eye. Also, I would get a sturdy branch and position about 8 inches down below your basking light. From what I can tell in the pic, he only has a ficus to bask under and should have something that better supports his weight. I totally agree with Kinyonga about the waxworms. They are about the fattiest worm out there as far as prey and cannot be healthy to be fed as a staple feeder, especially soley. If he gets up to par again, I would not feed him those and leave him the crickets. He will eat when he gets hungry if that is all he gets. Gutload the crickets with fresh fruits and vegetables. A better alternative to waxworms would be silkworms.
Noted about the branch 8" from the heat, thanks a lot Carol. I took a bunch of pics during feeding time, which was a fail. He really didn't eat much at all and his eyes are just looking weird, but I was able to rinse them and put the ointment on. He clamped his jaw so shut, I could only get about half of the recommended food in.

In order of photo attachments:
1. see the assymetry of his face, his right side (our left) is a bit weird.
2. Closeup of his bad eye
3. This is his right before I took him out, was sleeping in that spot all afternoon.
4. Taken from above to show the sunken right eye
5. Another close-up of his right side.

Thanks everyone!


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So Pixel hasn't moved from his branch since last night. It's now noon! I'm afraid to take him out for his feeding/eye medication bc I feel like we are stressing him more and more every time we handle him.

I did take your advice carol, with the perch 8" down from the basking light. (See attached). There's Pixel sleeping in the background on the right, poor little guy.


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OK, I have a new update. I took Pixel out of his cage and managed to get a full dosage of food in him. I also cleaned his eyes and put ointment in both. When I put him back in he started to bulge and roll his eyes, is this good? Like is he moving the ointment around? Or is it bad, like his eyes are irritated?

Then he pooped twice! Which is a miracle bc he hasn't eaten much. The urate was a bit orange but much less than the other day. It also had some white in it. Is this a good sign? Or bad that it still has orange at all? .
Welcome to the forums btw! When they roll their eyes like that it's to clean them and spread the liquid around to flush out debris, so it's pretty normal.

The swelling of the mouth is definitely a problem. That's is not normal and unfortunately your vet did not identify it as a problem when she should have. It is most likely stomatitis, or mouth rot. Stomatitis or Mouth Rot is a symptom of serious infection in chameleons. It has a wide variety of symptoms but it most notably presents as cheesy yellow pus in the soft tissues of the mouth. Other symptoms include swelling of the jaw or lip or blackened teeth. If left untreated the condition progresses to bacterial infections of the jawbone and other cranial structures which weakens the bones causing fractures and teeth may become loose. Mouth Rot requires veterinary treatment with appropriate antibiotics and cleaning out the pus and infected tissue in the jaw if necessary.

It is good that you're getting some nutrition in him. The bath is most likely not accomplishing much because chameleons do not soak like other reptiles do. A better thing to do is shower sessions, which help him stay hydrated and also help flush out his eyes. https://www.chameleonforums.com/blogs/ferretinmyshoes/732-shower-sessions-hydration.html
Pixel is such a beautiful boy and I hope you can get him turned around. I am very concerned with is mouth. Have you looked at the inside of his mouth? Does it look black, or is there anything like oozing from it. I don't think that is from a fall. There is a thing called mouth rot but not 100% sure if this is the case here. As far as the poop, orange means he is dehydrated and ideally the urate should be white, but a good sign that it was somewhat white. What did the vet say about his mouth?
Thanks ferret! OK, good to know the eye roll is ok. Noted about the shower, I tried it yesterday and he hated it but will try again. And thanks Carol, yes he's so cute and awesome.

I'm super concerned now about mouth rot since both you both just mentioned it. The vet did get a very good look into his mouth with a flahslight and she found nothing remarkable. Maybe she wasn't as experienced in Chameleons as she let on. But I also looked in his mouth today and I didn't notice any oozing pus.

I will definitely try to get a photo of the inside of his mouth but he is so bratty when I try to feed him. He clamps his mouth down so hard and refuses! It was really good that I got the full dosage in today. I'll try to get a photo of the teeth area.
If he were my patient I would start treating him for the mouth even if I couldn't see pus from the outside. With that amount of swelling there is something going on inside the tissues to cause the lips to be distorted like that. It looks like the right lower lip is discolored as well. Abscesses form under the skin and then later burst through the skin because there's no more room for swelling inside. So you may not be seeing pus yet. An x-ray to look for any damage to jawbones would be a great idea too.
OK, terrible update. So today we took Pixel to a friend who is a reptile expert and reputable breeder. Sure enough, he confirmed what everyone here has been saying, stomatitis/mouth rot. See images of the inside of Pixel's mouth attached. He also thinks he has an eye infection, respiratory infection and perhaps even the beginnings of MBD. Basically everything the poor little guy could have, he likely has!

He proceeded to clean his eyes well and carefully clean the mouth area with hydrogen peroxide...there actually was a lot of pus. About 10 Qtips worth! After, he then rinsed his mouth out and fed him a worm covered in calcium. Pixel was very hesitant and kept trying to spit it out but eventually did swallow it.

I now have the name of a new vet but will have to wait until after the Holiday weekend to see him for antibiotics. In the mean time, we will add mouth cleaning to his twice daily regimen of eye wash and syringe feeding.

I wonder what about our husbandry caused this. I feel so responsible but we have tried so hard over the 6 weeks we've had him to do everything right! Tomorrow we're basically going to start from scratch with his enclosure: new plant, bottle water instead of tap. Any suggestions to revise his current living situation would be great.

I'm really beating myself up over this and I'll completely blame myself if he dies!


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After reading your post here is what I see. He needs a daily calcium without D3 dusted on feeders. If he does not go outside he needs the calcium with D3 twice a month and a multivitamin twice a month. Also wax worms are not a very nutritious feeder. He really needs a variety of well gut loaded feeders such as dubia roaches, crickets, horn worms, silk worms, butter worm etc. This will make a world of difference with his health. Also getting some outside time with natural sun is good for them.

Also, you don't want to see orange urate that indicates dehydration which can also lead to various health issues. You want pure white in addition to solid feces. A mister or dripper helps, but in cases of dehydration you might want tho give long showers.
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Thanks pigglett. He's definitely getting "all of the above" with mister/dripper/hot showers. There are currently crickets in his enclosure that have been gut loaded with vitamin A rich fresh fruits, but as he's not really eating right now it's of no use. Now he's being hand fed various worms dusted w calcium and carnivore mix given by the vet.

Hopefully the mouth rot situation will be improved by tomorrow. We'll be spending a good amount of time/money too on husbandry changes bc we have no idea what is causing the problem!
Thanks pigglett. He's definitely getting "all of the above" with mister/dripper/hot showers. There are currently crickets in his enclosure that have been gut loaded with vitamin A rich fresh fruits, but as he's not really eating right now it's of no use. Now he's being hand fed various worms dusted w calcium and carnivore mix given by the vet.

Hopefully the mouth rot situation will be improved by tomorrow. We'll be spending a good amount of time/money too on husbandry changes bc we have no idea what is causing the problem!

Hopefully the vet can get him straightened out. Once he is healthy you should be able to keep him that way with everything you will learn on this forum. You never know, he could have already had these health issues brewing when you bought him. Once a vet gets him on the proper treatment and you beat all of the infections you will have a chance to get him healthy.
Thanks for the encouragement pigglett. This morning Pixel's mouth rot seemed a bit better. Much less pus and less foaming when applying the H2O2. But his temperament was worse than ever before! He tried to bite us before we ever even touched him whereas in the past he'd walk on our hands willingly. Guess he just hates us now.

He pooped again and it's still orange. His humidity is up to 70 percent from the mister/dropper and we changed all the tap water out to Spring water. I'm thinking he's just not drinking at all. I managed to get a little pedialyte in him today a small drop at a time so as to not choke him, but I have no idea what good it'll do.
In regards to hydration and drinking - you could try taking a pipette or a syringe (without a needle, of course) and slowly dripping some water on the tip of his nose - for some chameleons it helps triggering the drinking reflex, and in this way you can actually make sure that he is drinking smth everyday. Just don't try putting the syringe (or pipette) directly in his mouth - if you do that and squirt too much water at a time your cham can easily aspirate!

Hope this helps,
Yes, sorry to confuse Chamoman...the basking area up high is 100 but on his perch it's more like 90. I shouldn't have even have mentioned it.

And thanks Julija for the tip. I tried your method of dripping some water mixed w pedialyte on his nose earlier today. He didn't drink though and just looked at e like I was crazy. Why is he not drinking?! At this pont, the on hydration he's getting is the water that's mixed w his prescibed food and and droplets that miraculously get into his system while misting. Ugh.
I am so sorry to hear your little guy is poorly. We went through a really bad patch with our panther 3 weeks ago due to something completely different but I do know how your feeling right now! Definitely recommend using a pipette for him drinking. I went out and bought like a child's bottle of paracetamol which came with the pipette, put warm de-chlorinated water in it and my panther would always go for it. After this he would drink from a running tap. Just drip it on his nose. Or drip it in front of him so he can watch it, he will soon pick it up :) Good luck!
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