WARNING, GRAPHIC PHOTOS—i inadvertently caused the death of one of my Carpet chams

Dr O

Veterinarian
i am so heartbroken. it was a freak accident and was even designed to protect her from harm, but it wound up being Lemon's demise.

Lemon was a WC F. lateralis that i have owned for about 7 months. she came with Solo, a male WC, and my carpet collection was rounded out by beautiful little Gem from Dooley1. she actually did not come in gravid, which is unusual for a WC carpet. after giving her 6 weeks or so to acclimate, she mated with Solo and gave me 11 eggs that are doing nicely thus far.

as female carpets cycle so quickly, their appetites tend to wax and wane rather quickly as they are going though their various phases of breeding. in general, she was always a great eater, running down prey in her cage. but there were times when her appetite was a bit more sketchy, and i worried about leaving any feeders behind that might have bitten her. so i thought that i devised a great strategy by placing a tiny portion of a Fluker's Orange Cube Cricket Diet in the bottom of the cage to try and draw any insects away from her. this was a system that i used in several female panther cages as well for the same reasons. and when i say tiny, i mean tiny. not because i am frugal, but since they dried out within a few days and i was cleaning out the botom of the cages regularly, it just made more sense to replenish with a small fresh piece when needed. even though she did dig some "test holes" in her nesting box, she still always dropped the eggs around the cage. she had dropped some recently; some of which i was able to find quickly enough to save, and some that were too dried out already and aren't going to make it. in the past week or so, she had dropped about 5 eggs. palpation revealed some more eggs to come, but nothing that felt obstructive.

yesterday, she was found dead after being seen alive about 3 hours prior. i truly did not believe her to be eggbound and of course i could never really know her age since she was WC. and since she seemed a little quieter in the past week or two, i told my wife that i thought that she just must have been older and it was her time. but necropsy revealed a different story........

upon removing her ribcage (lateral approach is used for a chameleon necropsy), there was a very large mass seen in her mid-abdomen. it was soft on palpation, but was occupying the area where the small intestines and liver typically should be and was pushing those organs aside. additionally a few fully formed eggs were noted.

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removing the mass from its position revealed it to be within the gastrointestinal tract, which was twisted upon itself quite tightly. after loosening some adhesions, i was able to display the entire GI tract.

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palpation of the mass showed an enormously distended small intestine with a soft yet firm, gelatinous feel to the obstuctive object. and that's when it hit me.......she had apparently eaten that tiny, maybe even somewhat dried piece of Fluker's Orange Cube which then swelled, and swelled, and swelled until it compressed and blocked the blood supply to that portion of the intestines and there was a tiny perforation that was the cause of the tightly adhered, twisted GI tract. anyone who has used any of these water gel compounds know how much they expand, and her body just kept contibuting the fluid that was necessary for it to expand to a fatal size.

below is a photo of the removed gelatin, a typical piece that i would place in the bottom of the cage, and a typical chunk that is in the Fluker's bottle.

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i don't know how long this was in her, probably just a week or two. the orange dye obviously faded away. and she's had these pieces in her cage for months but just apparently decided to try one. who knows, maybe a cricket was eating it and she missed the cricket and grabbed this instead. i'll never know. but i am very surprised that the gel did not break down more quickly in her body, that's for sure. i would have thought that with enough growth it would have liquified more and dissipated enough to fit the contours of the GI tract, but this just exemplifies how incredibly thin the walls of a lizard's intestine are when compared with mammals. there just wasn't any resistance to keep it from growing and growing.


i am so sorry, little Lemon. you were among the first carpets that i ever owned which fulfilled a childhood dream. you were incredibly sweet and beautiful, entertaining and amusing. and for a WC cham to just walk onto my finger without hesitation from day one really showed who you were. i hope that i can keep your eleven four-month old eggs healthy and see your babies. and perhaps, with a little luck, these other 6 taken from your deathbed may be the real miracle babies of the year.

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Carlton

Chameleon Enthusiast
So sad to hear this! And, I commend you on a careful, thorough exam to find the cause instead of assuming anything, and sharing it with us. Sorry you lost her, but this post is going to be a wake up call for many others who use the cricket cubes. I'm glad I never put them in the cage directly. Like you, I make sure there is some sort of gutload in my cages, but I usually stick to a small container (a small prescription bottle on its side) of powdered food just in case.
 

Kerbie

New Member
I'm so sorry that this happened. Thank you for sharing it with us to help prevent it from happening to others. Hope you do get some babies from her eggs so you can always remember her.
 

HolyToledo

New Member
Oh, doc. So, so sorry to hear about Lemon. Hopefully some of the babies will be little miracles for you. I will keep my fingers crossed for them.

And, thank you for letting her passing be a lesson that may save many others in the future. I have already taken out the cricket catcher food that I had in Poppi's viv.
 

DanSB

Avid Member
I am very sorry for your loss, but thank you for turning it into something we can learn and grow from.

She may have saved many more lives than you know by just sharing it here.
 

BriAlme

Established Member
Sorry for your loss. A very sad outcome for someone trying to take precautionary steps to protect your cham from potential cricket bites.
Hope you are successful with the incubating eggs.
I would suggest an orange slice for crickets left in cage rather than gel cubes.
 

jannb

Chameleon Enthusiast
That's so sad. I am so sorry that you lost your little Lemon. Loosing one of these guys is never easy. I still miss the ones I've lost everyday. This is the second death I've seen on here in the past week from a Cham eating one of these cubes. When I'm helping members to set up for a new Cham I always recommend not to overfeed and to remove any uneaten crickets from the enclosure.
 

carol5208

Chameleon Enthusiast
Awe that is so sad. We just never know what these guys are going to eat and that is why we always stress about no substrate to new members. Same scenerio of shooting for prey and getting a piece of substrate to go along with it. She may have injested it intentionally or maybe she shot at the cricket and got both the cricket and the cube as you suggested. A lessoned learned for you and now for all of us. Atleast her death is not in vain if you can save one of us from the pain of losing a chameleon in this way. Thank you for sharing your experience and I am sorry for your loss.
 

clarkrw3

New Member
I am SO sorry for your loss!! I am very thankful for the photos and the description it is wonderful to learn from others trials and tribulations. I have done something very similar to you on more than a few occasions and have left a baby carrot in the bottom of the cage...so you were surely not alone in your thought.
 

lysinlight87

New Member
I'm sorry for your loss, it's horrible have an accident like that. I did a similar thing with my hamsters- i used inappropriate bedding, thinking it was ideal- which they ate & I lost them as a result.
Thank you for the photos and descriptions, as a first time chameleon owner and a 1st year zoology student I've found them useful.
 

Zen Reptiles

Avid Member
Sorry to hear about this.

I always figured those crystals were an insane product to have around pets. Glad I never used them, I was afraid something like this could eventually happen.
 

ataraxia

Avid Member
sorry to hear this. It is very unfortunate. A learning experience that will hopefully save animals in the future.

Flukers orange cube: What holds its form and consistency? Did it draw moisture and dehydrate the animal?
 

Trillian

New Member
I'm so sorry for your loss, but I'm glad you were able to share your experience and remind us how vigilant we need to be.
 

Olimpia

Biologist & Ecologist
Oh no Kevin, I'm so sorry! And poor Lemon, that's terrible.

I'd be curious to run a little experiment with a tiny piece of bug burger and see if it does the same thing. I always imagined these gelatin products would dissolve in the intestines, but I guess not.
 

Carlton

Chameleon Enthusiast
Oh no Kevin, I'm so sorry! And poor Lemon, that's terrible.

I'd be curious to run a little experiment with a tiny piece of bug burger and see if it does the same thing. I always imagined these gelatin products would dissolve in the intestines, but I guess not.
There is probably no reason not to use it in your cham's cage as long as your cham's tongue can't reach it. I like using a narrow prescription bottle on its side. The insects can get to the gutload but no one else.
 

coldbloodedAL

Avid Member
Doc, I am so sorry you lost your little girl... But I would like to thank you for sharing this, definitely something learned by all of us here on CF...
 

ph34r

New Member
sorry for your loss, but id like to thank you for the great information will make sure to never let those cubes get anywhere near my cham
 

Dr O

Veterinarian
sorry to hear this. It is very unfortunate. A learning experience that will hopefully save animals in the future.

Flukers orange cube: What holds its form and consistency? Did it draw moisture and dehydrate the animal?
looking at the label makes me think the carrageenan is the binding matrix.

they were fairly dried out already and this was their only use (nothing against Fluker's– i wouldn't be here right now if it wasn't for them!). so osmosis would have certainly occurred in a big way. she was dehydrating to death in addition to making the gel larger. and ironically, she had been in the new GOC that I just moved them into (need to write up that thread as well), and they were being watered completely differently than ever before. so she also had tons of water to drink if she wanted it, and I wasn't able to notice it as I would have just prior. it's a pretty sucky way to christen your new GOC, thus the reason I'm not finding the energy to write that post up just now.
 

Slug

New Member
Sorry to hear this. I do have a question though...are the orange cubes safe to even give the crickets? I just bought my first jar of them a couple of days ago and we have been feeding the crickets that have been eating them to our new red-eyed tree frogs and our blue dumpy frog. I just want to take precautions for the future. I asked my girlfriend if she has been putting them in the tanks with the frogs and she told me no and asked me why I asked. I showed her the pics you posted and she was shocked at what happened.

I have no problem discontinuing use of a product if it is going to harm our animals, and I am more than willing to take other suggestions for gutloading.

Again, sorry for you loss, and thank you for preventing the potential loss of our pets as well.

Slug
 
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