My chameleon paced around her cage for the past 20 minutes or so while opening her mouth and making a gagging noise. She

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Customer: Hello, my chameleon paced around her cage for the past 20 minutes or so while opening her mouth and making a gagging noise. She kept sticking her leg and butt out, and then finally passed fecal matter. However, she passed quite a bit of it (more than she normally does) and had a small bit of blood on her bottom. Overall the feces looks healthy, although it is a bit runny. I was just wondering if I should be concerned.
JA: Hi there. The Expert will know how to help with this bleeding. I'll connect you ASAP. What's the chameleon's name and age?
Customer: Her name is ***** *****’s about a year old. There’s not a lot of bleeding, it’s almost just a smear on her bottom.
JA: Is there anything else the Vet should know before I connect you? Rest assured that they'll be able to help you.
Customer: I got her earlier this month, but she’s been completely fine and happy in her habitat.
Answered by Dr. Caryn – Vet in 7 mins 9 months ago
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Dr. Caryn – Vet
Pet Specialist
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2,238 satisfied customers

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

I am sincerely ***** ***** there was a delay in someone responding to your question. (Experts are independent contractors and as such are online based on their own schedules.) However, I am available now and can assist you if you still need veterinary advice.

Hello and thanks for posting your question on JustAnswer.com. My name is***** and I have been a veterinarian in the US for over 21 years, specializing in aquatics, reptiles, amphibians, avian and other exotic species. You may already be aware, but on this platform veterinarians can provide insight and advice, but as this is not considered a legal client-patient relationship, we are unable to prescribe medications, provide medical records or sign documents for your specific pet. For that you would need to make an in person visit with a local veterinarian. I am happy to chat with you via text but if you are interested in a phone call instead that is an option you can choose for an additional charge. In the meantime, I am putting together some questions and/or suggestions to help with your pet’s concern.

I am sorry to hear that your chameleon Pink is under the weather. What kind of chameleon is she?

Sounds like she might have been a bit constipated, though if the open mouth and gagging behavior continues, I would be concerned that this suggests either nausea or a respiratory infection.

If it was bright red blood passed with the large fecal this could have been from irritation from a large BM though sometimes blood tinged or runny stools can be signs of an internal parasite infection.

So there is a lot that is potentially going on.....without a hands on assessment it would be difficult to diagnose what the underlying cause is and the best course of therapy would be.

Customer
She's a panther chameleon. The gagging stopped immediately after I noticed her poop. There wasn't any blood in her feces, just a small smear at the base of her tail, and it wasn't bright red. She seems to be relaxing now, but it seemed like a weird thing for her to do.

Thanks for the additional information, that's helpful. I have some questions that will help me get a better idea of your pet’s environment and what may be going on with them:

-What is the current tank set-up, e.g., temperature (basking temp, low range, high range) and humidity?

-Do they receive any access to UV light? When was the UVB bulb last changed out?

-Do they have access to dripping water or frequent misting as a water source?

-What do you normally feed them? Do they receive any calcium or vitamin supplements?

Thanks very much for providing additional information, it is very helpful for me to try and figure out what is going on with your chameleon and the history information will help me to do that.

With any sick chameleon, it is always a good idea to start by checking that their environment and husbandry are proper for their species. Taking a physical measurement of the temperature gradient within the enclosure with a reliable thermometer and measuring humidity with a hygrometer are a good idea. Making sure the UVB bulb is appropriate for the size of the space and has been changed regularly. Even if they are still producing visible light, UVB bulbs have a limited lifespan and need to be changed every 6-12 months, depending upon bulb type. Making sure diet is varied and the insects have been gut loaded with a nutritious gut-loading diet as well as dusted regularly with calcium and multivitamin powder. Therefore, I am attaching a chameleon care (husbandry) reference sheet that I put together. Please review it at your convenience and let me know if you have any questions.

For example, if the environmental temperatures are too low or too high, since chameleons are cold-blooded, this will negatively affect their metabolism, appetite, digestion and immune function. So start by checking the temperature gradient in the enclosure and, if it's outside their ideal range, adjust your basking light distance from the enclosure (closer for warmer, farther away for cooler) or change the wattage of the bulb (higher for warmer temps, lower for cooler temps) so you are achieving the proper environmental temperatures. Also providing access to dripping water and appropriate humidity are vital in preventing dehydration.

In the meantime, I will give you some information about what may be causing these signs, a care sheet with recommendations about environment and diet as some common medical conditions are unintentionally caused by improper husbandry (such as improper temperatures, humidity, UVB lighting or calcium and vitamin supplementation) and some suggestions for home care and support of your ill chameleon while you are awaiting a visit to the veterinarian.

Customer
Her basking temperature is high range, and the humidity is about 60%.
-She's currently under her UV light, and it was last changed earlier this month.
-I mist her multiple times a day and currently her fogger is on. -She's currently eating mealworms, but she hasn't eaten the past couple of days.
-I dust the mealworms with repti-calcium twice a week.

So I have often seen agitation in animals that are constipated, so that may have been what you were seeing. That could be why the odd behavior stopped after she was able to pass the large poop (it might have been uncomfortable to pass).

What are the actual temperatures in the enclosure, basking, main (warm) and cool (near the bottom)? 60% humidity is fine and it will probably be higher in the evening when the basking lights are off, that's fine, too.

I don't recommend feeding all or mostly mealworms.....that might be part of her problem. They are high in fat which can interfere with calcium metabolism, but they also have a rather indigestible exoskeleton which can lead to constipation or even GI impaction.

Customer
Petco was out of crickets the last time I went, so I had to get mealworms. She's been eating them for about a week and a half, could she possibly be tired of those already as well?
Customer
The basking area is 94°, the main part of her enclosure is about 82°, and the bottom is 73°.

So first make sure temps are in the ideal range:

temperature gradient for adults of 75-85°F (23.9-29.4C) with a focal basking spot that reaches 90-95°F (32.2-35C) and for juveniles a cooler gradient of 75-80°F (23.9-26.7C) with a focal basking spot of 85-90°F (29.4-32.2C) is recommended. Nighttime temperatures can be cooler but should be at least 70°F (21.1C) or higher.

Next, change up or vary the insects:

Nutritional insects include black soldier fly larvae (soldier worm larvae), Dubia roaches and cockroaches and the occasional wax worm, superworm, mealworm or silkworms (limit them due to their high fat content). Crickets are so-so and can be fed but should always be calcium dusted and gut loaded. In fact I recommend gut loading all feeder insects.

To boost the nutritional value of the feeder insects it is recommend to "gut load" them for at least 24-48 hours prior to feeding them out. That means to feed the insects a nutritious food so that the chameleon gets the benefit of that nutrition. Some options for gut loading are:

Mazuri Better Bug Gut Loading Diet

Mazuri Hi Calcium Gut Loading Diet

Repashy SuperLoad Insect Gutload Formula


And lastly, if she might be constipated, warm bathes can help with hydration and to stimulate GI motility and defecation. Soak them in warm (75-80F) water for 15-30 minutes twice a day. Shoulder-depth and monitored during the bath so their head doesn't submerge. You can place sticks on the bottom of the bath for them to grasp onto. And if they might be constipated and they aren't too stressed by handling, you can give them a gentle tummy massage, stroking from front to back a few times, every 5-10 minutes during the bath to encourage GI motility and defecation.

Those temps are fine for a year old panther chameleon, thanks.

Customer
Okay, thank you so much! I'm keeping an eye on her for now and I'm going to get her some crickets for tomorrow, but if she continues to behave like this I'll take her to the vet tomorrow.

Sounds like a good plan. Especially if you do see any more blood around her vent or passed with poop as this might mean an internal parasite infection. Also, I don't know if your chameleon likes to eat and fruit or veggies, some do (though not typically panther chameleons), but these add water and fiber (and some extra vitamins) to the diet, just in case she will accept any as treats.

Some chameleons will eat fruits and vegetables offered as treats in small amounts a couple times a week, others will ignore them. Options include as dark leafy greens (dandelion, parsley, endive, escarole, chicory, watercress), beta carotene rich vegetables (sweet potato, squash, carrots, bell peppers) and limited amounts of fruit (cut pieces of apple, melon, berries, pears). These are a supplement or treat and do not take the place of their main insect diet but can offer enrichment, vitamins, water and fiber. Some vegetables to avoid are those high in oxalates like swiss chard, mustard greens, spinach, beet or carrot tops because they can interfere with calcium metabolism and the cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage because they have compounds that can interfere with thyroid function. Also, avoid fruits like avocado, tomatoes, figs or apricots or any piece of fruit with seeds. Just like with insects, the size of the pieces of fruit and vegetables should be small and manageable; a good rule of thumb is thin pieces shorter than the space between the chameleons eyes so they don’t choke. You can hand feed or place in a feeder cup but due to the warm temperatures in the enclosure, don’t leave fruits and vegetables out for more than 30 minutes or so because they will start to spoil and attract pests.

There are a number of reasons why a chameleon may fail become constipated. Some underlying factors that may contribute to constipation are poor diet, insufficient dietary calcium, inappropriate temperature (too cool), dehydration (lack of access to or insufficient intake of water, trauma or stress from changes in the environment such a recent move, unusual activity in/near the cage, or the presence of new tank-mates. However, there are a number of conditions that may cause similar signs which include, but are not limited to, parasite infection, dehydration, impaction or foreign material in the GI tract, metabolic bone disease, infection/abscess or cancer (though I think your panther chameleon is a bit young for cancer).

If your chameleon is continuing to eat and act normally, it’s a good idea to look at husbandry practices (e.g., temperature, humidity diet, UVB lighting, calcium supplementation, etc.) to make sure they are appropriate. Re-examine your tank to rule out our environmental causes, e.g., using a good quality thermometer and a hygrometer, or even better a data logger than records current, minimum and maximum temp and humidity over time, so tank conditions can be accurately measured and monitored. These animals require a fairly high humidity, so a misting system is recommended.

As aleady mentioned, at home, you can help with hydration by soaking them in warm (75-80F) water for 15-30 minutes twice a day. Shoulder-depth and monitored during the bath so their head doesn't submerge. You can give them a gentle tummy massage, stroking from front to back a few times, every 5-10 minutes during the bath to encourage GI motility and defecation.

If they are eating and you feel they may still be constipated, dusting their insects with up to 1/8 teaspoon per day of methylcellulose fiber (“Citrucel”) for a few days may help loosen stool so it will pass. If you can’t get methylcellulose fiber you can use an alternative such as psyllium husk powder (Metamucil or generic) or Ispaghula husk powder (Fybogel Hi-Fibre Ispaghula husk). I recommend only trying the fiber supplementation in concert with the warm bathes as hydration is very important for fiber therapy to be helpful.

If your chameleon is showing any other clinical signs, such as decreased appetite, weight loss, lethargy, etc. or if they continue to be constipated, then scheduling a physical examination with a local reptile veterinarian is recommend so they can try and find the cause for the abnormal elimination and the clinical signs. They will likely do a physical examination and may also do a fecal analysis to look for parasites and might do some imaging (x-ray or ultrasound). They can also give your chameleon fluids and medications to help the underlying cause and to treat any secondary symptoms they may have.

You are most welcome. My sincere best to you and Pink. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance. Thanks again for using JustAnswer.com

Sincerely, ***** *****

Customer
Okay, thank you so much for the information. I’ll try to offer her some apple later this afternoon and give her a tummy rub tonight & a soak tomorrow. If this behavior continues I’ll get her to the vet. Thank you so much for your help.

You are most welcome. My best to you both. :-)

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