Sick Jackson's: Looking for Community Input


Established Member
Good Afternoon All,

So the takeaway to the attached novel is that I'm looking for some community input on my chameleon's health issues. I have taken him to an experienced exotics veterinarian and I am a veterinary student myself. That said, chameleons are unique animals, and it can be tough to find good chameleon specific information through the official veterinary channels I am aware of. If anyone here has had a similar experience and is willing to provide some input, I would be grateful.

Unfortunately my Jackson's Chameleon Pig seems to be having some serious health issues. I have taken him to my local exotic vet twice in the past two weeks. The issues started with general lethargy and a small growth on his foot. I was worried about an infection or maybe gout, so I took him in to the vet and she ran a CBC (blood analysis) and chem panel.

The results weren't great but weren't terrible either. He had an elevated white count indicating an infection, and high uric acid levels, along with a couple of other elevated markers suggesting dehydration (not unexpected - due to the lethargy, I was having difficulty getting him to eat and drink). I was given fortaz injections (broad spectrum antibiotic) and lactated ringers to keep him hydrated. I also started feeding him hornworms from my local reptile shop to try and entice him to eat and ensure his hydration stayed up to hopefully reduce the number of shots I'd have to give him.

Long story short, I gave him the shots and a couple of small hornworms which he voraciously ate. I gave him another two hornworms the next day and he ate those too, but then he just got periodically sicker over the next week. Most noticeably, he stopped eating and pooping and in the last day or two has essentially stopped using his hind legs. His tail appears to be fully functional and his hindlegs are not paralyzed. He'll respond to pain and can grip weakly, but doesn't seem to want to use his hind legs. I have found him dangling from his vines with his forelimbs once or twice in the last couple of days.

So, back to the vet for an enema and radiographs. The radiographs showed a lot of poop in his bowels but nothing particularly abnormal. The enema got him to defecate, and he passed some normal poop and normal urates and a big chunk of orange goo that was crusty on the outside and gelled on the inside (see attached picture). Examination for parasites was negative, with the exception of a few sporadic flagellates that the vet told me were an incidental finding and nothing to be worried about. The vet wasn't sure what to make of the orange crud, my belief is that it's a result of dehydration and inability to pass the feces.

I have him back at home now, but he's still dragging his hind legs. I have read that severe constipation can cause hindlimb dragging. However, some sort of weird neural damage could also cause difficulty passing stools, so it's a chicken and egg kind of deal as far as I'm aware. I'm hoping for an improvement but I'm not super optimistic.

Does anyone have any thoughts or similar experiences they'd be willing to share? I know these forums are used by a lot of dedicated chameleon keepers and a few vets with a specific interest in chameleons. I'd appreciate any relevant accounts/suggestions.

I will also attach the husbandry information below, but I have consulted folks on this site before when setting everything up so it should be up to snuff so to speak.





Chameleon Enthusiast
There was an anecdotal thread here on a chameleon that died of an intestinal blockage of the orange cricket gel food. I'm sorry I don't recall all the details maybe someone else does. Your story reminded me.
I can tell you from the couple rehabs I've worked with that improvement comes slowly. Don't give up hope.


Established Member
Chameleon Info:
  • Your Chameleon - Male Jackson's Chameleon. Age unknown, estimated 2-3. He has been in my care one year.
  • Handling - Never handled unless necessary (ie, to weigh, administer medication, or occasional showering)
  • Feeding - He eats mostly crickets and dubia roaches. Superworms and waxworms are occasionally provided but he doesn't seem to like them. I give him hornworms when available, which is infrequently. It is tough for me to know how many he eats as I let him free feed. I just try to make sure there are insects available to eat, and I monitor his weight to ensure he's eating. Dubias are fed primarily fruit and carrots (whatever I have at the time). Crickets are fed scraps of whatever produce I am currently eating. I'll give them a tiny bit of oatmeal once in a while too.
  • Supplements - calcium minus d3 (exo terra), reptivite minus d3 (zoomed) and the occasional calcium with d3 (repcal). I don't use many vitamins, just once or twice a month. I'll usually dust feeders each feeding because he won't catch them right away and they seem to clean the dust off pretty quickly.
  • Watering - I mist the cage once a day and ensure the humidity is high enough. He also has a dripped, though I don't think he's used it since getting sick. He's currently getting subq (under the skin) fluids that I inject.
  • Fecal Description - No detectable parasites. See above images of stool sample.
  • History - See above.

Cage Info:
  • Cage Type - Combo screen/glass. It's the largest size exo terra that folks like to use for montane chameleon species. I can't recall the dimensions offhand but I know that model is specifically used for Jackson's.
  • Lighting - I'm using a light your reptiles hood with an arcadia bulb and a grow light for his plants. I switched out the bulb in March.
  • Temperature - The ambient temperature is usually in the low 70s. Basking spot of mid to high eighties. I have a dimmer on the basking light so I can keep it within the ideal range. He gets a temperature drop at night because I like my room cold.
  • Humidity - The enclosure usually stays between 50-70% humidity. I try to keep it above 50.
  • Plants - Scleffera (or however you spell that) and pothos.
  • Placement - The cage is about five feet off the floor in a low traffic area. No drafts or anything strange I am aware of.
  • Location - Sacramento California.

Current Problem - please see above.


Established Member
There was an anecdotal thread here on a chameleon that died of an intestinal blockage of the orange cricket gel food. I'm sorry I don't recall all the details maybe someone else does. Your story reminded me.
I can tell you from the couple rehabs I've worked with that improvement comes slowly. Don't give up hope.
Thanks, I appreciate that. No cricket gel that I'm aware of, though my feeders do occasionally get carrots.


Chameleon Enthusiast
I don't see any photos of the foot. What foot is it on?
Sometimes they can lose the use of there back legs if they are constipated you suggested. I would have thought if it was neurological the tail would have been inbvolved too...I'm not a vet...just my thoughts.

If the growth on the foot is an infection it won't go away without being cleaned out and the medication won't penetrate it...their pus is like cottage cheese.
Top Bottom