Self Mutilation??


New Member
Hello everyone! I posted this on a different forum, but somebody suggested I post this here too.

Here is a copy of my first post from yesterday:

Just a couple minutes ago I found Lucutis, my 1.5 yr old male Veiled chomping on his own tail! His tail tip is now badly mutilated. Should I take him to the vet, or just put some neosporin or some other anit-biotic on it?? Of course this has to happen on a Fri evening, because now the vet is closed and I'm not sure if they are open weekends. I'll have to call them.

Why would he do this? He gets fed regularily, so I cant imagine he's hungry. Also, he is going through a shed right now. Might he have had some skin on his tail, and got carried away removing it? Gosh, I can't believe this has happened to my beautiful cham!

Any help much appreciated!



And here is the update that I posted today:

Hello everyone, and thank you all for your responses!! I am sorry I didnt respond to them sooner.

I found out that my vet was open today so I called them early this morning. Unfortunately they were extremely busy and referred me to an emergency clinic.

The tip had to be amputated, and was stitched closed. They gave me a prescription of Endofloxacin (sp??) to give orally twice daily. They kept the tip in some sort of chemical that would preserve it, because I can't afford to do the biopsy right away. So, hopefully by next paycheck I can have them do it so I know what might have caused this.

Now he's back in his cage with the lights out and covered up so he can rest. I just really hope that he doesn't continue to chomp on it, or it becoming infected.

Thanks again for your responses, I really appreciate the support!

Does anyone have a clue why a chameleon would do this? The vet's only thought was that he might've gotten a fungal infection, but I never noticed anything on his tail.

Contact Kristina Lucas Francis ( studiocham AT yahoo DOT com) of the Melleri Discovery ASAP. You should corrospond with her via phone if at all possible. She is experiencing the exact same thing right at this moment. You might be able to provide information to each other, as Kristinas case is a repeating one.
Hi Will,

that's interesting - not in a good way. Has she had any luck in figuring out the cause?

I never heard of this happening, that's really wild. I too am interested in how this happens and why? Very interesting, not in a good way just in a curious way.
The topic has been going for a few days now since she first reported it to us, but I'll let her reply in full or let her post a copy of what shes told so far.
Here is what I just replied to a private email about this veiled:

No idea, which is why I was asking the melleri group for ideas. The animal in question here is a melleri acquired as a subadult. He lived happily in a large cage with my same-size small CB melleri for over a year. Then one day, he attacked two CBs' tails. I don't mean hunted- he didn't shoot- I caught him climbing over and savaging one. Both CBs had their tail tips surgically removed and he was moved to a separate enclosure. He's been in solitary for months, seems happy as a clam, same as ever. Then this week, he chewed his own tail and had the end removed, again by my vet.

My vet also has no idea why he's self-mutilating, or any causes. The melleri is a great eater, drinker, pretty, but sadly, very puzzling. This melleri won't be bred because he is clearly mentally defective.

Can you tell me how you are housing/feeding your veiled, in case we have similarities?
Here is a pic of the melleri's self mutilation, post-surgery and with surgical glue:


He is under observation in case he continues. If it does, he will need his tail amputated for his own safety (?). The other option, if amputation doesn't stop the behavior (ie, he switches to a foreleg), is putting him down. The vet said bitter apple doesn't work on dogs with this problem, and that it would probably cause stinging while his wound is healing.

If someone has a solution, please post or email privately.
I have never heard of this sort of behaviour before.
Just an idea, could it be a boredom response? In the same way that some parrots remove their own feathers?
I hatched out a clutch of Quadricornis one time and there was one specific Quad baby that kept biting other babies tails. He would aggressivley charge after and bite them. He wouldn't shoot his tongue just go around chewing on tails. I didn't know at first what was going on. I removed that specific baby and gave him away to be kept as a solitary animal. His tail was chewed by himself I suspect as well. I had no other problems after that.
Could this possibly be some kind of mental disoder in certain chameleons or in every other odd chameleon?
He seems to be doing just fine today. I haven't seen any more tail chomping, or even any interest in his tail at all. I was really worried he'd start chewing again and I'd have to go back to the vet. I know he still could, and I'll definetly be watching him closely.

I'm not sure if he has a mental disorder or not, he always seemed like a normal cham to me. He even learned that I am the food giver, and will "run" over when I open the cage to see what I have.

And as a response to DrewNYC, I didn't notice any actual eating... just chewing.
A friend asked her cham vet about this, and had this info to offer:

"This type of self-mutilation is most often the result of Encephalitis/Neurological disorders or impaired vision. These two can be caused by five possible things - a bacterial infection/abcesses, a viral infection, parasitism, metabolic disturbances, or toxins. The impaired vision as a result of any of these can cause the chameleon not to recognize the fact that it is chomping on its own tail. It may think that it is chomping on food I remember that the little guy didn't come to you in the best of health if memory serves me. I told [the vet] that I thought you'd had him for over a year or more so why would it happen now? She said it could have taken that long for the damage to the brain to get to the point to where the symptoms (tail-biting) would show up. She said there's not a lot you can do about it. If it was parasitism that caused it, the parasites may have gotten to the brain before you got him."

I realize this doesn't help the affected animals, but may help other keepers identify possible causes or avoid the condition.

My WC melleri has not tried biting his own tail again. In my cham's case, he just chews/tears but doesn't eat tails. I have heard of WC melleri that attack other melleri tails (Biters), but this was my first experience with a Biter and a self-mutilator.

Someone mentioned boredom as a possible cause, but if that were the case, I'd expect to see typical chameleon stereotypy (pacing, rostrum rubbing, etc.) before a cham would resort to compromising itself so severely by biting its own tail, its fifth limb.
Interesting topic indeed. Animals self-mutilate a lot when face with stress, boredom. I can see why some members automatically think that may be the case. What is strange though is that some of you have reported chams chasing and biting another cham's tail (not their own).

I would think that if self-mutilation was caused by boredom or stress, the damage would be focused on the individual and not a cage mate. One of those quarky things we may never come to understand.
Animals self-mutilate a lot when face with stress

I'm going with this too ... I've seen it with dogs. My GTP is a pretty cranky critter and likes to bite me when I tend to it's enclosure. I've gotten pretty good at avoiding the strikes and one day after it missing me a few times it just decided to bite itself - which I attributed to stress. I've since toned down the amount of time I spend cleaning the enclosure and try my best to keep it to a minimum.

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