Recently Deceased Veiled Chameleon. Why?


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I had my female veiled chameleon since April '05. Yesterday she passed away. I have no idea why, and it happened so fast that I didn't even have time to get her help.

Her housing was kept clean, and fully cleaned on a regular basis. She had fresh water sprayed into her housing 2X a day, and a waterfall system that I "dripped" into a pool at least once a day. She was fed 6-8 crickets (bought from an established pet supply store) every 2 days using gut-loading techniques and "cricket dusting" was done on every 2nd feeding. She had deep, and moist, enough soil to lay eggs when, and if, she had to. I had a UVb lighting system, a 75w heating lamp (both set on a timer to turn on and off) for her to bask in, and a under-housing heating pad to heat the housing from underneath.

Yesterday morning before I went to work I noticed that she was a little bit fat and her eye's were somewhat closed. The fat part kinda worried me, but her eyes being closed didn't worry me because her lights had JUST turned on and I assumed that she was just waking up. Her colouring was nice and green, and nothing was out of the norm.

Last night when I got home from work, I went to feed her and she was lying on the ground (of her housing), flat on her belly with her mouth open about 2mm. Her spine was a pale green, her tail was a pale green, her body was almost a black colour, and the sockets around her eyes were black. She was not opening her eyes and was unreceptive to me being near or touching her. She was still alive, but barely. Due to the fact that the vets around my area don't even know how to diagnose a cat and are completely useless, I chose to consult the internet. Of all the pages and forums I read, none of them described the symptons that she showed. Within the last few minutes of her living, she lifted her head from the ground and took big gasps of air (I could hear the breaths). Within 1 hour of me being home from work she passed away.

I have recently moved from one location to another, but I had done that twice already in her life, so I do not think that the stress of a new environment was the factor. She had been feeding and drinking without issues. She was having regular bowel movements, and her feces and urine looked normal. She had always been mobile and agile. If she had fallen, at most she would have fallen 14 inches.

This loss has been quite upsetting for me, and if anyone would be able to give me some help as to why she may have died so quickly, that would be greatly appreciated.

J - I am so sorry to hear this! You must be just devastated. I lost a 2+ year old female, she had ongoing issues, but it was still sudden the way it happened. I was there for her final gasps on our way to the vet.

The fact that you have had her for two years without any issues (that you know of) says something. Had she ever laid an infertile clutch? Is it possible she was eggbound (though she would likely have been showing other signs). The one thing you did not mention was what type of enclosure she was in - screen? glass? If you recently moved and she was in glass could sun have been hitting it and increasing the temp too high? Was her enclosure and feeding regimen still the same with the moves?

Chameleons will often (usually) not show symptoms of illness until it is too late. If she had not been to a vet (not a bad thing) but getting a fecal check for parasites (from feeders - crickets are carriers and buying from a pet store - well they often are not kept in clean conditions and are usually not fed quality food) 2x/year is pretty standard. But again, the suddenness certainly makes it difficult to know.

As for the discoloration it is just what happens when they die. Organs shut down so it is usually first noticeable in the abdominal area. It does not sound like there is anything you could have done.

You said there are no vets in your area - where do you live? I am asking only if you want to find one to have a necropsy done to try and determine what happened. Depending where you live the price will vary and not everyone has the means or desire to have it done. I live in NH and it cost $120. If you ARE considering a necropsy put her in the fridge (NOT freezer) and get her to a place ASAP. You might be able to find a herp vet in a reasonable distance. Here are some sites for you to try:

Also look for Herp Societies and post here where you live as someone might know of one.

Again, I really feel for you :(

First... let me say how sorry I am to hear your sad news. It affected me deeply, as I had the same thing happen to me on my birthday a couple years ago, and it gutted me. :{
Mine was on stick highway, her way to the window from her cage as she had run of my room. One minute she was fine and the next, she was grappling the stick, falling with her tail going around like a helicopters. She was a pale yellow, so I put my hand under her but she could not hold on, so she went into my hand and immediately turned black. Next few minutes and she was dead. SO FAST!!! I walked around with her in my hand, crying for over an hour. I could not believe it. To this day, I call it "Black Birthday." I went to my birthday party that night, looking like I'd gone rounds with Rocky Balboa. My eyes were puffy slits. They said, "Guess you don't want us to sing Happy Birthday, to which I agreed, looking downward. So your story has my gut and I am so sorry. My cham had a fat stomach too. I always wonder about this. Were her eggs impacted? Did I feed her too much for her temperature? Did giving her free reign on stick highway around my room prove to be too much in being to dry for her? What did I do wrong? She was really smart and very verbal. I miss her dearly. My vet said that females just have problems and are very touchy. Perhaps her eggs were impacted anyway. Your feeding seems flawless. You had a 75w bulb and I had a 100w. But then again, she cruised the place and maybe didn't get all the heat she needed? It's a guessing game unless you want her opened to find out. Could you do that? Maybe someone on the forum could? Put her on ice and send her? Just a thought.
Anyway... I'm terrible sorry... hope you feel better soon.
I don't want to hijack J's thread but just had to make note about how terrible your black birthday was! How awful!

Just a note in preparation of necropsy (autopsy) they should just go into fridge. Freezing turns tissue (and maybe organs, too) to mush and are then unable to be used in diagnosis. There's a cat story behind how I even know this...

Anyway, my heart goes out to both of you:(

Thanks guys for your sympathy. It's been tough going home and having nothing to take care of and talk to.

I live in Northern Ontario, Canada. So outside my house it is freezing cold! But inside her housing, it was between 78°-84° F. At night, it would (very rarely) get as low as 74° F. I looked for the closest herp vet to my area, and the closest vet is over 200km away (not sure of the miles conversion), so there was no chance of me getting her to a vet in time.

I had noticed her digging in the soil on the floor of her housing a few times, but when I cleaned her housing I would not "fish" through the soil looking for any eggs. I figured there was no way she could be laying fertile eggs, and just removed the soil, tossed the old soil, and added new soil to the floor of her housing.

Her housing was a big glass aquarium, and I was told to not put the housing near a window because she could get over-heated and "sun burnt". Not sure what the guy meant by "sun burnt", but I knew what he meant about not putting the aquarium near a window.

After my move(s), nothing was different in her housing or the way and times she was fed. Her housing was always kept up on the same stand, so, besides the new location, nothing was different for her.

I have already had a "funeral" for her and dug through the frozen ground and buried her. Me having her looking like the way she did was just too much for me and I wanted to put her to rest as soon as I could.

Thanks again everyone for your thoughts,
Is there any chance, that my chameleon was not dead, but playing dead and I froze her?
When I worked at the pet store, we were instructed to put everything in the freezer, even if it was alive but in pain and unfixable. So that's why I think I put my black veiled in my freezer.
After reading a recent forum story of a veiled that fell, went black and then was alright later, I've wondered if maybe mine wasn't really all the way dead? Should I have put her back into her cage, instead of walking around with her crying then putting her into the freezer?
Thanks about the Black birthday sentiment lele. Meant a lot to me. :)
I really doubt that you killed her by putting her in the freezer.

even IF you did, it would have been a humane way of putting her out of her misery.

But if you were carrying her around and notice any signs of her being alive then she was probably dead.
Freezing most reptiles is not considered a humane way to euthanize them. The freezing of the blood causes a lot of pain. Some methods are not acceptable because the ability of many reptiles to endure prolonged anoxia (absence of oxygen) precludes death.

Preferred methods
Sodium pentobarbital (60-100 mg/kg) can be administered intravenously or intraperitoneally.

Inhalant agents
Use of inhalant agents for euthanasia is acceptable for lizards and snakes, but not recommended for chelonians (turtles) as many of these species can hold their breath for extended periods. A physical method of euthanasia must be used after apparent clinical death to ensure that death has in fact occurred

Conditionally acceptable methods

Physical methods
Decapitation alone is not considered an acceptable means of euthanasia in reptiles because of the high tolerance of nervous tissue to hypoxia. Double pithing, or decapitation followed by double pithing, is required to ensure brain death. Ideally these methods should follow anesthesia, but stunning prior to decapitation or pithing is acceptable when the operator is well-trained and when scientific justification is provided. Pithing may not be performed on conscious animals.

Carbon dioxide
Like inhalant agents, carbon dioxide may be used in lizards and snakes but not cheloneans. Loss of consciousness usually develops rapidly, but exposure times required for euthanasia are prolonged. Exposure must be followed by a physical method of euthanasia.

Adjunctive methods

Perfusion with fixative may be used to bring about death in anesthetized animals when scientifically justified.

Cooling may be used to decrease activity in animals prior to euthanasia, but the temperature must be no lower than that normally experienced by the species. Freezing a conscious animal is not permissible, except when small animals are flash frozen in liquid nitrogen."
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