My 8 month old chameleon has been sick and lying on the bottom of the cage. She is lethargic, won't eat on her own, and

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Customer: My 8 month old chameleon has been sick and lying on the bottom of the cage. She is lethargic, won't eat on her own, and weak - sometimes falling when she tries to climb branches. She has been to the vet and we have tried antibiotics, calcium shots, de-wormer but she is still weak. Have tried covering the basics - changed UVB bulb, maintained temps of 80-85 degrees at bottom of cage, misting several times a day. We are even using a warm humidifer near her screened cage. Going to try your Pedialyte soaking method. Any other suggestions? We are hand feeding her worms and a recovery food (powder mix) that we got from a vet. Also giving her Fluker's liquid vitamin A. Vet did not find anything wrong on x-rays. No signs of metabolic bone disease or any issues with egg production although she does look a little bloated.
Answered by Anna in 1 hour 8 years ago
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Anna
30+ years of experience
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17,038 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Reptile Veterinary, Herp Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Amphibian Veterinary

Hello and welcome. Thank you for requesting me. I apologize for the delay. I was not online at the time you posted your question, and just came on and saw it. Some additional information will be useful.

What is the temperature directly under the basking light?

What brand and size is your UVB light? Is it a spiral or a straight tube?

Prior to the calcium shots, how did you provide calcium?

Did the vet do any blood work? If so, what were the results?

Was the vet you saw an actual reptile vet?

Since beginning treatment, has Izzy gotten worse or stayed the same?

Thank you.

Anna
Customer

The temp under the basking light is about 90 degrees but since she can not climb up the branches, we have been trying to keep the area near the bottom of the cage warm using a humidifier next to the screen cage.

I replaced the UVB bulb last week with a Zoo Med Reptisun 5.0 UVB tropical bulb with a straight tube. We were using a spiral tube before.

Izzy was eating gut loaded crickets but then we switched to superworms and mealworms. I did buy some calcium powder, but she didn't seem to like the worms dusted with the powder.

I don't think that the vet did any blood work. We did see two different reptile vets.

Izzy got a little better but then got weak again when we ran out of meds so we went back to the vet and got a different antibiotic. She is still weak and prefers to sleep on the ground at night but will climb a little on the branches during the day.

A PetSmart manager suggested that we try Pedialyte mixed with organic baby food. We also purchased Zilla Caloric Supplement & Appetite Stimulant which she says we can mix with the Carnivore powdered food from the vet.

I would appreciate any additional suggestions. Thanks.

Thank you for getting back to me. Izzy is exhibiting symptoms of Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). It can take years for MBD to progress to the point where it causes symptoms, and once it does, it's very difficult to treat. MBD can result from too little vitamin D, lack of calcium, too much phosphorus, or an imbalance of these and other nutrients. There are two reasons I strongly suspect MBD. She hasn't been getting calcium. without it, all the UVB light in the world won't do any good. Second, the spiral type lights are inconsistent in their output. Sometimes, they emit so much UVB that it damages the eyes; other times so little that it doesn't prevent MBD. Finally a bulb that only emits 5% is not adequate for a chameleon. You need one that gives off 10% UVB. I recommend the Reptisun 10.0 in a straight tube. The bulbs continue to give off visible light for years after they no longer emit UVB (which is invisible to us). A UVB bulb emits adequate UVB for 6 months.MBD does not always produce symptoms in the bones right away - that can take years to develop. but whenever an arboreal lizard doesn't have the strength to climb, along with a history of insufficient calcium and UVB light, MBD is extremely likely. Chameleons are particularly prone to it.

You have been given incorrect information on temperature. With a top temperature of 85*, the cage is cold, and that alone will result in illness. Chameleons are adaptable to temperature extremes in their wild habitat, but there they can move around to find warmer or cooler spots. In a cage they have no choice. After months of being too cold, illness often develops. The coldest part of the cage should be 82.5*F. There should be a warm basking area that is kept at 89*F to 113*F. That sounds hot to us, but to a chameleon, it is just right. At night the temperature can be allowed to drop to 72*F to 79*F. Use a good digital probe thermometer to measure the temperature. You can adjust the temperature by raising or lowering the fixture or by changing the bulb to one with higher or lower wattage. If you have to lower the fixture, don't put it so low that Izzy can touch it and be burned.

Chameleons also need plant foods. One of the easiest ways to provide them is to grow live plants in the cage. Live plants also keep the humidity level up. This site has lists of safe and unsafe plants:

http://www.anapsid.org/resources/plants2.html

You can also feed collard greens and other purchased greens. This site has great information on what vegetables to feed, and how often:

http://www.repticzone.com/articles/lettuceandleavesstaples.html

The Pedialyte soaks are agood idea, and so are all the foods you are using. You also need to get some calcium into her. When you dot he Pedialyte soaks, add a big spoonful of calcium powder to the bath and stir it in. Make the water deep enough to cover the vent (where droppings pass out) because nutrients can be absorbed through it. Be sure to soak her for 20 to 30 minutes. Twice a day is best.

Also mix calcium powder into t he foods you are giving her. I recommend getting some calcium glubionate because it is absorbed more easily. It's in a liquid form and can be easily added to the bath and to foods. Here is an online source:

http://www.beautifuldragons.com/Calciumglub.html


Pet stores often give out incorrect information on care. Many vets are familiar with diseases, injuries, etc., but often don't remember the proper husbandry for dozens of kinds of reptiles. I suggest that you read the information on this site for more advice on care:

http://www.kingsnake.com/rockymountain/RMHPages/RMHveiled.htm

In summary, I recommend that you continue all the things you've been doing, begin twice -daily Pedialyte/calcium soaks, adjust the temperatures in the cage, exchange your 5.0 UVB light for a 10.0, and begin getting calcium into Izzy (preferably with calcium glubionate). Be sure to leave the UVB light and basking light on for 12 to 14 hours per day. If you can do so safely, it would also be a good idea to take her outside for 20 minutes or so in the sun. Before doing that, you have to make sure she is well supervised. We don't want her to crawl away or get caught by a predator. But if you can keep her safe, natural sunlight is a good idea.

If you have more questions, let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope Izzy will reach a full recovery.

Anna

My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!
Customer

Thanks for your suggestions. Question about the Reptisun 10.0 UVB bulb...is that sold only as desert bulb? I have not seen one online that was described for tropical reptiles.

You're welcome. The labels desert and tropical don't really mean anything. What matters is the percent of UVB emitted. I like to get the bulbs online because the are cheaper. Here is a reputable company that sells the Reptisun 10.0:

http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=15468

They are simply labeled reptile bulbs.
Customer

Hello Anna,

I have another question regarding our Chameleon, Izzy. She was responding well to the Pedialyte and calcium soaks as well as the other remedies. But when she gained the strength to start climbing again, she fell from a branch and injured her forearm and hand. We took her to the vet who said that there were no broken bones and there was still no sign of MBD. But the vet did feel her abdomen and thinks that Izzy might have a tumor although it did not show on the x-ray. Her stomach is a little bloated and she might have an obstruction. She also has developed some yellow marks / stripes on her body. Could this be related to symptoms of MBD or maybe a some other digestive problem? We are thinking about moving her to a shorter cage so that we can keep her warmer and will remove the branches to prevent any more injuries. Temps in her current 24" cage are about 95 degrees near the heat lamp but she can not climb up anymore. We are also using the Reptisun 10.0 UVB bulb now.

Hi,

Falling can be a sign of MBD, but the other symptoms you mentioned usually are not. If the condition is very advanced, it can affect the internal organs, but it does sound as if poor Izzy has more than one health condition. You may need to take her to a specialty clinic that is equipped to do ultrasounds to find out what is wrong.

Given that she is falling, the smaller cage would be a good idea. You'll need to set it up so she has a temperature gradient at ground level. The basking light can be on one side and lowered (not so low she could be burned by it) to make the warm side 95*F. Then, the temperature should gradually drop as you go across the cage, with the cool side being about 82*F. She can then walk to where she is most comfortable at any given time.

You can find specialists at your state's veterinary teaching hospital. This link will take you to a directory of them:

http://www.veterinaryschools.com/dvm-schools-colleges-programs.html

I hope you'll be able to find a doctor who can solve this mystery for you and help Izzy.

Anna
Hi Sandra, I'm just following up on our conversation about Izzy. How is everything going? Anna
Customer

Hi Anna,

The link that you gave me for veterinary schools did not work, but it encouraged me to look for another vet. We took Izzy today and the new vet confirmed bone loss (MBD) and some broken bones in Izzy's arm that were starting to heal. I was shown the x-rays this time. I can't believe that her condition was misdiagnosed by the other vet, but I'm thankful that we followed your first aid advice. We ordered the calcium glubionate and started giving it to Izzy by mouth - the new vet says twice daily. The x-rays did also show something in Izzy's stomach that the vet has not seen before. The vet said that she would research and confer with her colleagues, and even call the Texas A&M veterinary school. We are waiting to hear back, but we are hopeful that Izzy will make a full recovery soon. Thanks so much for your help.

Hi,

I'm so glad to hear that You got a second opinion. The symptoms were so classic for MBD that I couldn't believe it when the vet said no, but I didn't want to question your vet. I'm happy you're getting it taken care of. Thank you for the update.

Also thanks for letting me know that link didn't work - I'll have to find another one.

wishing Izzy a speedy and uneventful recovery.

Anna
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