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The tank
The tank  

The chameleon itself
The chameleon itself  
I recently purchased a Yemen chameleon about 3 months ago.
She was doing well until a short while ago, seemingly until I fed her crickets. She has a swollen tounge and her mouth is open it is that swollen. She seems very weak, so weak Infact she is always asleep even of I am holding her. She also isn't gripping much on anything and is close to falling until I go to move her. I have a sunglo 40 watt exo terra basking lamp and a uv lamp 50HZ if that makes a difference. I bought her from a well known and reputable reptile shop. She has a moving water supply and the heat in her tank is just over 80 degrees Celsius. She also has not shed in the 3 months I have had her apart from when I got her, she was shedding then
I have included pictures
Thank you

Hi Sammy,

Thank you for the photos. She does look to be in a bad state and to be very frank I doubt her prognosis is very hopeful without some rather heroic veterinary intervention.

The suggestions I have may not help her but they may help your next chameleon if you have not been discouraged from keeping them over this experience.

Crickets are a staple diet for captive chameleons so the I think her condition is coincidental to you giving crickets. Don't blame yourself over that or hesitate to give crickets to your next chameleon.

The sunken eyes indicate dehydration. I would suggest that you cautiously try to drip some water or an electrolyte solution (such as Pedialyte for children) into her mouth. The condition of her tongue will obviously make swallowing difficult so just small amounts and slowly.

Tongue problems are not uncommon with chams. Injury through striking glass is one way it happens. Calcium deficiency can affect the small bones that are part of the projection mechanism in their mouth. That usually result is failure of the tongue to retract.

That inflammation that she has would suggest either injury or infection. You mentioned that her temp. was just over 80F. If that is the hottest area (ie. the basking spot temp) then that is too low for veileds. Veileds love heat and need a basking spot temp. that is right around 100F. Without that their ability to properly digest and metabolize calcium (important for females) is affected. That might explain her lack of growth and shedding since you have acquired her. The functioning of the immune system is also critically compromised which opens them up to opportunistic infection. It would be as if her entire metabolic system is trying to operate on a low battery.

Putting her under a hot light at this point would be risky with her lack of mobility but her situation does look desparate. Monitor her carefully and see if she perks up at all when exposed to the higher temp.

Glass tanks are generally not recommended for chams. They don't deal well with the concept of clear glass and the reflectiveness. Lack of ventilation is another concern. Screen cages are considered the better option.

I am assuming that the UV light that you mentioned was designed for reptiles since you dealt with a reptile shop. You also didn't happen to mention what type of supplements you were giving her. Veileds are a rapidly growing species and calcium deficiency is common with them so supplementation is critical. The initial signs of a MBD (metabolic bone disease) is often soft, curved limbs and the inability to climb.

Female veileds may be one of the more difficult reptiles to keep heatlhy.  In addtion to the usual problems of stress that chameleons suffer they also routinely produce eggs (without mating) and often run into trouble with that as well.

I would really suggest you get a male next time if you continue with chams. Even young hatchlings can be sexed reliably. Males are much less likely to break your heart or your wallet at the vets office.  


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I can answer questions on the proper husbandry and diet of Iguanas, bearded dragons, geckoes, skinks, chameleons, tortoises, box turtles, treefrogs, non-venomous snakes and tarantulas. Also the breeding of some species of feeder insects. I have no experience with venonmous snakes and only limited experience with aquatic turtles.


I have been keeping and breeding reptiles for over 30 years. In addition to my regular job in the medical field I also worked for several years in a pet store that specialized only in exotics. The job entailed both caring for and answering questions on innumerable species. It required constant, extensive research into a wide range of reptiles. I have been called to appear on televised national media (CBC, CTV and Life Channel) as well as CBC radio to discuss the proper care of reptiles and other exotics in captivity. I currently own one or more species of those listed under my expertise with the exception of chameleons. I owned chameleons for years but keep none currently. I keep over 20 snakes comprising 5 species, both Colubridae and Boidae. I bred corn snakes for several years. I have a particular interest in treefrogs and currently have 5 different species. I've raised redfoot tortoises for 10 years and have two iguanas, one for 12 years.

A small and now defunct local magazine called "Pet Vue"

Diagnostic medical microbiology with some parasitology experience.

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