Strange behavior from Veiled Chameleon while laying eggs, please advise!

FathomsBelow

New Member
Hello,

About a week ago, our 15-month-old chameleon, June, started showing signs of laying eggs. She would dig test holes, and spend long days on the ground, that sort of thing.
About 3 days in June meticulously dug and reburied a hole overnight before returning to basking. After not going down to the floor for a day, I investigated and unearthed a clutch of 36 eggs.

About a day after I retrieved the eggs, she decided to climb down to the bottom again to dig a little more. This time spending roughly 6 hours down at the bottom. At this point, she dug a few more holes and stopped.
I would say we are about 8-10 days since she started this process and she continues to venture to the bottom, she revisits a hole that was dug a few days ago, makes no further progress, doesn't cover it up, and climbs back up.
The time spent below seems to be getting shorter, spending roughly 3.5 hours down today.

In all of our research, we have not found similar examples of this behavior, and we would otherwise be worried but she continues to have a very healthy appetite, eating, drinking and acting like normal.
She does show increased thirst but will quickly refuse water when she's had enough. Her eyes, veil, color, and personality all seem happy and healthy. Just today she has even started trying to climb onto us again when we open her cage door. Absolutely no difference except for the visits to the bottom.

Some info on her enclosure:
Dimensions 4.5 ft tall, 2 ft wide, 2 ft deep with screened walls and top.
It is a bioactive cage with living plants.
The bottom 12" is a lightly planted substrate designed for her to burrow in, even has fake tree roots which is where I found the clutch.
Originally the substrate was peat moss, topsoil, and bark. However, I changed half the cage to a topsoil sand mix when she continued to dig. My fear was her tunnels were caving in.
We fully cover her cage and avoid the room as much as possible when she goes down to avoid spooking her.

We have two plant lights, a basking light and a UVB bulb. Her cage gets to a max temp for 84f, but usually hangs around 80f.
Her lights run from 7 in the morning to 6 at night. We try to match the outside light cycle as close as possible.

There is an automated mister in the cage which collects water droplets on all leaves throughout the day. She will also drink from a handheld mister bottle as we water her cage during feeding.
All water is dechlorinated.

Her diet every day consists of 6/8 medium-sized gut-loaded crickets or 4 super worms in the morning. At night she gets a few small pieces of greens, and a small very thin sliver of apple.
She receives calcium with NO D3 5 days a week, on the 6th day we rotate every other week with reptivite or calcium WITH D3. On the 7th day she receives no supplements.

I'd be more than happy to provide any other information.
My wife and I are kinda at a loss, is this a sign of something very wrong or possibly a more normal behavior than we would have thought.
Any help is really appreciated!! While were not extremely concerned this second, we know this behavior isn't ideal.
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
Please post a photo of her from today. I'm wondering if she might have retuned eggs.

36 eggs is a lot. You might want to slow her down by controlling her diet and temperatures.
 

FathomsBelow

New Member
Sure thing her she is from just a few minutes ago.
 

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kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
She still looks to fat to me to have laid all her eggs. A vet visit is likely needed...xray to see what's left inside.

If she has retained eggs, then she will eventually show signs of decline such as lethargy, sitting low in the cage, eyes shut during the day and eventually die. By the time she starts showing those signs it will be too late to help her.
 

FathomsBelow

New Member
Hmm, I understand.
Looks like I will be calling vets this morning.

Do you know if they ever have recommendations to help with this or does egg binding pretty much require a c-section?
I'm nervous for her, I've always heard if they have surgery it can make things more difficult the next time they lay eggs.
I don't know if that's true, just what I've seen in some research.
 

Kaizen

Chameleon Enthusiast
Hmm, I understand.
Looks like I will be calling vets this morning.

Do you know if they ever have recommendations to help with this or does egg binding pretty much require a c-section?
I'm nervous for her, I've always heard if they have surgery it can make things more difficult the next time they lay eggs.
I don't know if that's true, just what I've seen in some research.
There are non-surgical options for your female, but the vet will need to help.
 

FathomsBelow

New Member
Of course, we wouldn't even entertain the thought of self-treating our pets.
It is nice to know that this vet visit doesn't necessarily mean surgery though.

kinyonga, You mentioned restricting feeding and temperatures to help make this easier. Would you have any recommendations?
I've always just based her diet on what others have done and searching google told me their clutch size could be anywhere from 30 to 60 eggs, I just thought this was all normal.
I would want to make this process as easy as possible so any information is very appreciated.
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
IMHO you need to get through this first.
What I usually do is, after they lay a clutch, feed them well for a couple of days be then cut the diet back to 4 or 5 crickets every 2 or three days sand put the basking temperature down at 80F. This should at least lower the number of eggs she lays but it usually takes a clutch or two to get it really low or even cut out the reproduction altogether.you don't want her to starve and look thin but you don't want her to be fat at all. What my aim has always been is to make her react as though it's a lean year so her system won't want to produce a big clutch.
 

FathomsBelow

New Member
Alright, a bit of an update in case anyone is interested. I just wanted to add this here since I don't see a lot of talk about this.
We took Juniper into the vet on Saturday for a checkup and Xrays (since Friday she has not climbed to the bottom). Overall she is very healthy, she currently does not have any developed eggs, but does still have some excess fluid in her abdomen from when she did have eggs. There is a slim chance for more eggs to develop, saying they can see what they're referring to as "follicles" which show a hint of egg development, nothing calcified yet. If it is in fact egg development, the eggs could continue to get fully developed and laid, be reabsorbed back into the body, or be halted due to infection/calcium deficiency.

They're ruling out a calcium deficit since her bone density looked superb.
There could be the possibility of infection but since she is showing no other behavior out of the normal, they do not want to add stress by drawing blood just yet.

The best guess diagnosis at this point is due to her inexperience she may have split her cycle, meaning that by the time she laid these eggs, she could have been getting close to developing more.
We've been asked to keep a close eye on her, make sure she continues to eat, drink, look, and behave pretty much normal. If she continues to do so then the odds of it being an infection are low.
If anything does change, we will need to get bloodwork asap.

What we can do to help her would be warm water soaks if she will allow us to do so. This could help her pass the extra fluid if need be.
Also, if her interest in traveling to the bottom dwindles, then we need to cover up her substrate and remove the option to dig. Having access to the substrate 24/7 (since it is designed into the enclosure) may only add to her being indecisive. Of course, if she insists to start digging again then we would need to remove the barrier let her try and lay again. If she avoids climbing down again today I believe we will put a barrier in place tonight.

So we'll continue to feed her like normal for the next few weeks, monitor closely, and see what happens. She'll either have eggs, or she won't and in the worst case, we may need to follow up with the vet if things decline. But let's knock on wood that doesn't happen.

Regardless, as the others have recommended, we will need to limit her food in the future to help reduce her clutch size.

Total vet costs were
130 for the Xray
70 for the basic checkup

I wanted to document this because in most of my research any sort of issue with egg binding is followed up immediately with a conversation about surgery. Which is terrifying for a pet owner.
We are lucky so far but I cannot stress enough to just go to the vet and be sure of the situation.
 

AmandaS

Moderator
Staff member
When you say warm soaks, please note that warm water to us can be scalding hot to the reptiles. So just make sure it is appropriate temps.
 

FathomsBelow

New Member
Of course, I believe the general rule of thumb is slightly warm to the touch is about all they can handle. But we'll be refreshing ourselves with more research before proceeding.
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
You said..."We took Juniper into the vet on Saturday for a checkup and Xrays (since Friday she has not climbed to the bottom)"...
That does not surprise me.

You said..."Overall she is very healthy, she currently does not have any developed eggs, but does still have some excess fluid in her abdomen from when she did have eggs"...the fluid concerns me.

You said..."There is a slim chance for more eggs to develop, saying they can see what they're referring to as "follicles" which show a hint of egg development, nothing calcified yet. If it is in fact egg development, the eggs could continue to get fully developed and laid, be reabsorbed back into the body, or be halted due to infection/calcium deficiency"...I'm not a vet. What I say is from experience and what I've learned over the years.
If there are follicles, they will either remain as follicles or ovulate (become eggs). If they stay as follicles, she will likely develop follicular stasis and no eggs will be produced and she will die unless spayed. If they become eggs, other will have to be laid. If she can't lay them, then she will need to be spayed. In all my years I've only seen one case of a veiled chameleon resorbing eggs. It's very very unlikely. Infection (if there is one) will have to be treated or she will die.


You said..."They're ruling out a calcium deficit since her bone density looked superb.
There could be the possibility of infection but since she is showing no other behavior out of the normal, they do not want to add stress by drawing blood just yet."...see above.

You said...."The best guess diagnosis at this point is due to her inexperience she may have split her cycle, meaning that by the time she laid these eggs, she could have been getting close to developing more"...I've never heard of this happening. They don't split cycles IMHO.

You said..."We've been asked to keep a close eye on her, make sure she continues to eat, drink, look, and behave pretty much normal. If she continues to do so then the odds of it being an infection are low.
If anything does change, we will need to get bloodwork asap."...Be aware that if she goes down hill too fast it might be too late to save her.

What we can do to help her would be warm water soaks if she will allow us to do so. This could help her pass the extra fluid if need be.
Also, if her interest in traveling to the bottom dwindles, then we need to cover up her substrate and remove the option to dig. Having access to the substrate 24/7 (since it is designed into the enclosure) may only add to her being indecisive. Of course, if she insists to start digging again then we would need to remove the barrier let her try and lay again. If she avoids climbing down again today I believe we will put a barrier in place tonight...As I said, I'm not a vet, but I've never heard of warm so a,is getting rid of fluid. Why would you cover up the egg laying substrate?

So we'll continue to feed her like normal for the next few weeks, monitor closely, and see what happens. She'll either have eggs, or she won't and in the worst case, we may need to follow up with the vet if things decline. But let's knock on wood that doesn't happen.

Regardless, as the others have recommended, we will need to limit her food in the future to help reduce her clutch size.

Total vet costs were
130 for the Xray
70 for the basic checkup

I wanted to document this because in most of my research any sort of issue with egg binding is followed up immediately with a conversation about surgery. Which is terrifying for a pet owner.
We are lucky so far but I cannot stress enough to just go to the vet and be sure of the situation.
 

FathomsBelow

New Member
kinyonga,
Regarding...
Fluid: It was a concern for the vet as well, just the amount of fluid was not too alarming, since the scans showed there isn't enough to distort other internal features which apparently is a sign for a large amount of fluid buildup. The idea behind the soak I suppose was to relax the muscles a bit to pass the fluid.

follicles, infection, split cycle
Yes, she may have follicles, it's tough to see but they believe they may be there. Again though, they see no reason to be immediately concerned which makes them hesitate at bloodwork. Speaking briefly with another vet over the phone they recommended the same since the act can be very stressful to the creature. I can't speak much for the split-cycle, like yourself this is a term I'm unfamiliar with.

Substrate: The vet thought that having access to a constant digging substrate may be too tempting for her to keep trying. I suppose this stems from the idea that most chameleon owners do not have this as a permanent feature of the enclosure. I don't know if I fully understand the reasoning behind it but if she slowly stops going down I don't see any reason to not try. I'm open to opinions on this though.

Unfortunately, as the situation stands, two vets do not seem concerned by infection just yet without any other symptoms.
Best guess, maybe she lays another clutch soon? I could request that bloodwork be done or keep trying to find a vet who will do this on their own accord. But to me, it feels like I'm throwing the vets opinion out the window just to be over precautious. This certainly is a touchy situation to judge but as of right now I suppose with stick with close monitoring, probably take her back to the vet in two or three weeks for another xray.

I'm assuming that if this exact situation were happening to you, you would request bloodwork?
I'm not sure why but in my mind that question could come off as rude, it's not. I'm generally curious.
 

FathomsBelow

New Member
Alright, so another brief update.
Still no real changes as of today. Juniper is still eating and drinking, her color is staying green.
She has not gone to the bottom of her cage again but her size isn't changing much so I'm assuming she still has excess fluid in her.
With it being just shy of a week with no changes I'm going to be taking her to the vet again, I have a 730 appointment tomorrow morning.
We've decided to go ahead with blood work to confirm whether or not there is an infection.

@kinyonga, If you have any other recommendations Id be interested to hear them. I'm wondering if the bloodwork comes back negative if I should do another x-ray, I'm not sure if that would benefit in some way.
Two days ago I switched her light so we're staying closer to 80f now, I'm assuming if all seems well from the vet then I should start trying to get her on a leaner diet and proceed as usual?
 
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kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
You said..."Fluid: It was a concern for the vet as well, just the amount of fluid was not too alarming, since the scans showed there isn't enough to distort other internal features which apparently is a sign for a large amount of fluid buildup. The idea behind the soak I suppose was to relax the muscles a bit to pass the fluid"...I'm not a vet so I can't say that a soak won't help...but in my experience it's not something that would be done usually. I think it would be good to know what the fluid was even if it's not an infection.

You said..."follicles, infection, split cycle
Yes, she may have follicles, it's tough to see but they believe they may be there. Again though, they see no reason to be immediately concerned which makes them hesitate at bloodwork. Speaking briefly with another vet over the phone they recommended the same since the act can be very stressful to the creature. I can't speak much for the split-cycle, like yourself this is a term I'm unfamiliar with,...follicles would look like a bunch of small round grapes. Once they ovulate, they should form a line or row I believe....and become oval. I understand the term split cycle...it just doesn't happen.

You said..."Substrate: The vet thought that having access to a constant digging substrate may be too tempting for her to keep trying. I suppose this stems from the idea that most chameleon owners do not have this as a permanent feature of the enclosure. I don't know if I fully understand the reasoning behind it but if she slowly stops going down I don't see any reason to not try. I'm open to opinions on this though"...keeping a female veiled from digging will not solve the problem if she has more eggs or even feels that the fluid is eggs and needs to be laid. The reason for the digging needs to be addressed. Why is she continuing to dig?

Most people I know who have knowledge of female chameleons do keep egglaying bins in the cage so they don't have tomworry about missing the subtle signs that the female need to lay eggs and having to put the bin in then.

The reason not to try to stop her from digging is that she is doing it for a reason. Stopping it will only hide the fact that she is in trouble IMHO.

You said..."Unfortunately, as the situation stands, two vets do not seem concerned by infection just yet without any other symptoms".. If she has an infection they should be concerned...so is it that they don't think it's an infection? Could eggs have ruptured inside her and that's what the fluid is?

You said.."Best guess, maybe she lays another clutch soon?"... There have to be eggs there to lay, in that case, and didn't you say that the X-ray didn't show any?

You said..."I could request that bloodwork be done or keep trying to find a vet who will do this on their own accord. But to me, it feels like I'm throwing the vets opinion out the window just to be over precautious. This certainly is a touchy situation to judge but as of right now I suppose with stick with close monitoring, probably take her back to the vet in two or three weeks for another xray"...don't know if that will that be enough.

You said..."I'm assuming that if this exact situation were happening to you, you would request bloodwork?
I'm not sure why but in my mind that question could come off as rude, it's not. I'm generally curious"...I wouldn't ask for blood work...I would go with what my vet said because my vet would be good chameleon vet. I'm not a vet as I said...so I can't tell you what to do. You're going to have to decide.
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
You said..."Two days ago I switched her light so we're staying closer to 80f now, I'm assuming if all seems well from the vet then I should start trying to get her on a leaner diet and proceed as usual?"...I'm not sure. I'd want to get her through whatever is going on now.
 

FathomsBelow

New Member
Latest news.
I don't know if these updates are necessary, I just hope it may help someone out.

Her habits and health still seem normal. The vets were unable to draw blood after a few attempts and were unsure of proceeding so they took an ultrasound.
There is no free-floating fluid. She does have follicles, and she has put on slightly more weight.
The best guess now is that she is continuing to develop the eggs.

They do worry about her calcium levels after just laying so I've been given a liquid supplement to replace her powdered one.
I'm also to give repetitive and calcium powder with d3 once over the next month.

They believe she will either lay the eggs or they will be reabsorbed.
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
Just my opinion...but the eggs are extremely unlikely to be resorbed.

Are the follicles in the ultrasound round?

Since she just laid eggs, unless she was with a male, she should not lay another clutch for over 100 days.
 

FathomsBelow

New Member
Yes, based on what you had mentioned I'm not anticipating for them to be reabsorbed.
Our vet didn't mention anything about them being round and from what my untrained eye could see they looked a little more on the oval side.
What would a round egg be a sign of?
 
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