WARNING: This health chapter is written in hope to educate new chameleon owners to recognize early symptoms of sickness. Many of the pictures shown in health chapter are an advanced case of the disease. If your chameleon exhibit symptoms like these, it is HIGHLY advised for you to bring your chameleon to an exotic veterinarian as soon as possible. This article should NOT be used as a substitute for a vet visit. Please be a responsible pet owner. The author cannot be held responsible for any abuse or form of misused of the post. The identity of the sick chameleon's owner(s) is kept hidden to respect their privacy.
Chameleon with Respiratory Infection often produces excess mucus as apparent in the picture.
Respiratory Infection is a common health problem encountered in captivity. In the simplest explanation, RI is basically an infection in the chameleon’s respiratory track.
When the infection occurs in the lung (Pneumonia), it is known as LRI (Lower Respiratory Infection). On the other hand, when the infection occurs in nasal sinuses and mouth, it is known as URI (Upper Respiratory Infection). This disease can be caused by several numbers of reasons but mostly stem from improper caring (low temperatures) and husbandry issues (cage is too wet or too dry).
RI should be treated aggressively to prevent fatality. A chameleon owner has to be alert if his/her chameleon starts to show the symptoms of RI. It is very imperative for you to go to the vet as soon as you suspected that your chameleon might contract this disease. The longer you wait, the more likely your chameleon will die.
The best way, as usual, is by prevention. This is where your thermometer and hygrometer play important roles to keep your chameleon happy. Here are some prevention methods that you can take:
- Avoid having too low temperature in your chameleon’s cage. Play around with different wattages bulbs to see which work better to maintain the recommended temperature for your chameleon (please see the veiled and panther chameleon care 101A).
- Avoid creating a constantly wet cage condition with no air ventilation. Allow a complete drying time in between misting. Too much stagnant humidity, as well as not enough humidity, can lead to the case of RI (refer to care 101C).
- Avoid using enclosure that promotes poor ventilation such as an aquarium. In order for a cage to have proper ventilation, it needs to have at least 2 screen sides. An all screen cages is a very good enclosure for your chameleon.
- Practice good hygiene habits when caring for anything that related to you and your chameleon. A dirty stagnant water source and insect cultures can increase the risk of RI.
- The presence of increased mucus in the chameleon’s mouth.
- Weird noise accompanied with breathing (popping, crackling, purring, or cat-like sounds). Try to keep your ear closed to your chameleon and listen carefully for these sounds.
- Labored breathing by gasping and opening its mouth even in the low temperature range. In the morning, chameleon does yawn like human. Such activity is normal.
- Lungs often overly inflated.
- Some swellings the forehead (between eyes) and even eyes (looked puffy) can occur.
- Snoring during sleeping.
Early detection plays an important factor. Since the cure process requires aggressive antibiotic treatments (such as Baytril or Fortaz), DIY treatment should be HIGHLY discouraged. An exotic vet’s expertise is definitely needed in this case. The vet will be able to pint point the cause (fungal, bacterial, secondary to nutritional or environment). Treatment can last to a month and need to be followed by an after care for another month to prevent the disease from coming back.
Be aware that Baytril is a strong antibiotic and might prove to be too harsh for your chameleon's body. To avoid kidney and organ failure, I recommend to watch out for your chameleon's hydration status.
Meanwhile, the enclosures should be corrected (if this is the case). The temperature should be kept to an optimum range for your sick chameleon. Maintaining the POTZ (Preferred Optimal Temperature Zone) will rev up your chameleon's metabolism allowing him to fight the infection more effectively. Furthermore, humidity should also be reduced or added depending on the case.
GENERALLY (not always the case), adding humidity would be a proper choice as the extra humidity will allow the excess phlegm to move loosely.