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Seeking ideas to help my herp vet diagnose this odd and sudden issue. A few days ago, one of my CB 2yo melleri started having seizures at various times of the day. Then his brothers started, one of which seems to be OK now. I had bloodwork done to see if it was Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism. The Ca:ph came back 3:1, liver values, uric acid, etc. all good. The only things slightly high were protein and Potassium (used bananas in gutload this week). I have 10.0 ReptiSuns, ZooMed Reptibulb hotspots, also daylight compact fluourescents for variety of visible spectrum... reptariums, aluminum screen for one, all non-toxic live plants (schefflera, pineapple, lemon). Right before the whole thing started, they dropped male breeding color and went to normal aqua green resting color (which they retain during seizures, too). Oral mucosa look good, not pale. Seizures start with lights coming on or turning off, or touch, or the misters coming on, or spontaneous. Seizures can include most extreme lateral compression I've ever seen in chams. Anorexia in two, one of those two is still drinking on his own. Two worst affected are often found on cage bottom because the seizures make them fall. The better third had some potting soil on him indicating he'd fallen once.

No owners of sibling CBs have reported this.

I'm waiting for blood smear results to tell if filarials are causing it, and white blood cell count. Have yet to test water (mist system).

What else could cause seizures- or if not true seizures, what could cause loss of muscle control and make a cham loop to the side or vertically for about 15-30 seconds at a time, eyes locked in cross, turrets immobile? It makes me think of encephalitis, the looping... what can cause it in a cham?

This is time-sensitive, I don't want to have to put anyone down unnecessarily. Thank you in advance for your brainstorming, or if you've seen it before, your account of the condition's progress or cure.
Wow, sorry to hear about this Kristina. You’ve been working with this species successfully for so long and I guess my first question is have you changed anything in your routine? My initial thought is some sort of parasite. Sorry I can’t be of any help … at the very least I hope you figure this out. Good luck.

Have they been on any medications recently?

These aren't the same chameleons with the marks like a fungus on them are they?

It almost sounds like a form of epilepsy.

How many of them are there?
Have they been on any medications recently?

Nope. Have been on the same gutload for months, back on my original formula the parents were bred and the CBs were raised on.

These aren't the same chameleons with the marks like a fungus on them are they?

No, those were WCs and they recovered completely. They have no signs of neuro probs.

It almost sounds like a form of epilepsy.

How many of them are there?

I lost one WC to filarials, now have 5 total WC and 6 CB. Only 3 CB (2 now) are having seizures. The four newest WC have been here almost a year. All (except the runts) have nice, normal adult weights.

No change in watering system, no change mist or lamp timers' schedule, haven't been moved outdoors, no new meds, no new supps, no wild prey, no new pets in the household, nothing in fecals, no perfumes or sprays in house. Thank you for putting your brain to the problem, let me know if you have any other questions.
sounds bizarre....

Any chance they have taken a draft.. might be a URI???


and this is really reaching....

could it be electrocution from a lamp or mister or other electrical device that is sending a current through your cham via drip water or a vine with metal cable core??? Could even be the cage touching an external source if it is wire mesh??
sounds bizarre....

Any chance they have taken a draft.. might be a URI???


and this is really reaching....

could it be electrocution from a lamp or mister or other electrical device that is sending a current through your cham via drip water or a vine with metal cable core??? Could even be the cage touching an external source if it is wire mesh??

No signs of URI, nor any infection yet. They seem to be quite healthy from their bloodwork, not just outward appearance.

Not electrocution because they can go into seizures away from the enclosure, at the vet's office, and have live plants and natural perches without wire cores. Unless you're asking if electrocution one time could cause an ongoing condition? I don't know, but I did check all my cords, everything looks and works fine. I even checked the floor for mist drainage leaks that might have started mold... nothing.

Thanks for the ideas, though, all are welcome.
Yes, they are improving! The seizures are drastically reduced today. Last night on chat, Trace mentioned hyperkalemia, and since they did have elevated Potassium in the blood chem, it might have been that. It causes paralysis of skeletal muscles in humans. Until we get a better idea, I'm leaning towards that theory. Poisoning unlikely, since the liver and uric values were all good. Some of this was already posted on mellerichams today:

One of the problems of being on the cage bottom with seizures is that they abraded and infected their skins. Thankfully, these are clearing up with nolvasan solution dips, betadine gel, and natural sun to dry.

This afternoon, at the last feeding of the day, the worst off one even tried to shoot a bug! His tongue end couldn't quite suck around the bug, so I had to put it against his mouth that time. It is GREAT to see him try, at least! His eyes are tracking properly, but his body can't coordinate yet. In the space of a few seconds, he figured out the water-from-syringe thing and now he steadies one eye on it and laps at it with his tongue. I'm using a 3/10 cc syringe so he can't overdo it. He's already had a long shower today (and then a dip and natural sun bask for his skin), but is drinking heartily off the syringe anyways, go figure. He's staying near the cage door, maybe so he doesn't have to go far to eat and drink.

Wabi (the first to have symptoms) is MUCH better. As far as I observed, Wabi did not have a single seizure today. Wabi perched all night last night, and all day today, on a branch properly, didn't need the hammock to hold him. (I made a hammock of rubberized mesh for his enclosure, so he could rest without being on the bottom.) Today, he looked sharply at me as I passed his cage and smacked his lips. The sign for "hungry/thirsty", and boy, was he! He took three big bugs from my fingers by his mouth (no tongue shot, either). Since he's now able to be up closer to the lamps, his skin infections are already much improved.

For now, I'm cutting back on the bananas in the gutload until I talk to my vet about this twist. Today is his day off, so I couldn't share the good news.
I'm so glad to hear that they are doing better!

Funny...the bananas kind of made me think...but I thought you were only using them once and that the potassium level was just showing high temporarily.

Here's a site that suggests giving them calcium...but be aware that its a site for humans...
"Calcium supplementation (calcium gluconate 10%, preferably through a central venous catheter as the calcium may cause phlebitis) does not lower potassium but decreases myocardial excitability, protecting against life threatening arrhythmias."

Hope they will soon be back to normal! Meller's are such awesome but difficult chameleons...and you do so well with them!
Here's a site that suggests giving them calcium...but be aware that its a site for humans...

Their blood Ca:ph was very good, but I gave them Ca+D3 (human grade) on a bug each two days ago and Minerall O on their bugs yesterday, just as part of the schedule. The worst-off one, who got the Ca injection at the vet's, did not seem to recover any faster than the first one, until today. He's already more coordinated, has climbed up to bask on his own.

Here's a site that lists foods by Potassium level, a good place to start for gutload detective work if anyone else encounters this:

Yes, they sure are awesome beasts. It was so awful to see these two so helpless. I can't express how relieved I am that they are almost normal today. The day is sunnier, the birds are singing outside, the grass is greener! hee hee

Thanks for the compliment, but I think a lot of credit is owed to how naturally resilient these animals are when they are not stressed. And, I'm VERY lucky to have an enthusiastic herp vet (who used to own an old man of a veiled).
More info available now, though still narrowing down the sources of the problem...

The chams who were showing improvement mentioned in this thread immediately relapsed into seizures about 24-48 hours after those meals. That was their first time on the Harrison's High Potency bird formula that my regular vet suggested as a prey gutload. After doing some research on the ingredients of the Harrison's bird formula (the nutritional daily values is not printed on the bag), it turns out that it is high in K. The new gutload was no help at all in this situation. In addition, the natural progression of the ataxia in each successive patient started off with violent seizures which eventually petered out to none. What lingers is general lack of coordination, no basking response, and extremely limited tongue shot, if any at all. The foods we are instructed to feed for Vit A (combat hypo-A over a year ago) are also very high in K, which explains where all that came from!

My chams were referred to UT for more blood testing. The vet who took this case is known for work on small exotics and seizures. This case had her puzzled, even as she witnessed one go in and out of ataxia "seizures" in her hands. The chams looked too good, it made no sense. I showed photos of their enclosures/husbandry to help her troubleshoot any care or environmental issues I might be overlooking. No problem with husbandry. The blood tests confirmed high K (Potassium), and the Na (Sodium) off the charts. I fasted everyone for a week and then fed them bugs that were loaded with my original dry recipe with low-K fresh produce for moisture. There is improvement, though some seizures continue probably due to the water (read on). Sure would be helpful if melleri would just snort out the excess salts, like veileds do! So where is the huge amount of Sodium coming from?

The UT vet said that Reptivite should not be used for chameleons because it is a high Sodium supplement. I had been using it very lightly once a month since 9/06, and am no longer using it on that vet's advice. Since this set in so suddenly, with no warning, I'm switching to Nekton Rep to avoid the risk. Reptivite was used so lightly, and the Na tested so far off the chart, that it could not be the sole Na contributor in their environment.

My chams have always gotten tap water, and in the past few months, our tap water has changed for the worse. In December, it tasted so salty, I could no longer cook or drink it mixed in beverages. Could not even use it to make ice! My city water utility claims they add nothing to the water they buy from another city. One can see and smell the chlorine difference alone, from day to day, using a white sample bucket. I bought a PurTest home kit and it covered everything except Na. It showed our tap water is very high in acid and very hard.* Small changes to us are big in a small animal. We are having trouble getting a straight answer from the utility. We have gone over their heads and a state water expert is coming out next week to test our tap water, and compare with neighbors' wells and softened well water (softeners add Na). It is possible that the utility added Na to combat the high acid in their water (according to a different water expert). It will be interesting to see if the city water Na level is even within safe drinking levels for humans.

If the salty tap is considered safe for humans, but no changes can be made here, I will have to place my colony with other keepers with better water, and limit myself to academic and field research of chameleons. If our neighbor's well tests lower than the city tap for Na, as the expert predicts, we will invest in a well, and I will be able to continue the work with this species firsthand. The problem with doing Reverse Osmosis of either type of water is that these animals require showers during the Winter, and misted by
(drinking water safe) hose in their outdoor enclosures all Summer. An RO system can't provide that kind of volume in a practical household situation. There are no filters for Sodium for outdoor hoses, either. RO is the only dependable salt-removing filter, I am told. The filter on my sink, where I get their mist system water, doesn't reduce Na.

Sorry that some of this is repeated, particularly at length on mellerichams, but some of it is new as of today. In short, the ataxia was caused by too much K (hyperkalemia) and too much Na, not parasites or toxins. Moral of story: if everything else checks out OK, get your water tested. Twice. Or even three times!

*The UT vet mentioned that the tap water in her town (not the same utility as mine) smelled so chlorinated that she tested it with swimming pool strips, out of curiosity. Her tap water tested in pool water chlorine range. Imagine drinking pool water for life! Then imagine what that does to small animals...
I was just wondering how your chameleons were doing...and then you posted!
I certainly hope you don't have to give them up. There must be some way to solve the water problem.

I found this article...don't know if it helps or not....
"Reverse osmosis, distillation, and deionization remove sodium from water."

"Calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, desiccated liver, ascorbic acid, magnesium oxide, isoleucine, l-phenylalanine, l-serine, l-histidine, dicalcium pantothenate, choline bitartrate, lecithin, niacin, ferrous fumerate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, l-glutamic acid, riboflavin, dl-alpha tocopherol acetate, thiamine HCl, l-arginine, lysine, l-leucine, l-aspartic acid, folic acid, glycine, manganese carbonate, l-glutamine, l-cystine, pyridoxine HCl, fish liver oil, l-alanine, l-threonine, l-tyrosine, l-valine, l-methionine, cholecalciferol, biotin, cyanocobalamine, kelp."
I have had my chams on filtered and softened water now for a few weeks. This winter, they will be on R/O exclusively. Almost all of them have shown improvement. I lost one CB who never completely stopped having seizures. He seemed to give up, his immunity dropped and he spiraled. The first CB to start having seizures was housed in a modified baby cage. As an experiment to find the best recovery method, I made it into a hammock so he would not have far to fall during seizures. I highly recommend this technique for severely debilitated chameleons, I think this is what saved his life. I attached the soft rubber mesh liner (for kitchen drawers) to the interior of a 15x15x30" baby cage, pressure fit some perches and added artificial leafy vines for shade (he wasn't eating on his own, so not an issue).


As Wabi improved, I added a live schefflera and moved the cage outdoors for natural basking.


Today, he climbed out onto my arm when I opened his door. He seems to be recovering well. He is now in an outdoor adult enclosure to get his exercise, strengthen his grip. He will bear the scars of seizure abrasions to his lobes, rostrum, and crests for life, but the scabs are shedding.


If you water your chameleons with city tap water, read your annual water quality report (EPA requirement) from your utility. Compare it with other utilities who publish their reports online. Some utilities know they are among the nation's best, and they will go so far as to print their report in newspapers. Our utility isn't so great. It is one of the consistently highest in Sodium in this country. Surprise, surprise. As a result, it changes what supplementation and frequency can be tolerated as it fluctuates (they only get tested every 90 days, so there is a lot of room for spikes). I hope others can avoid going through what my colony went through!
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