A few years ago I was given a chameleon, ‘Rexie’. At the time I didn’t want a lizard pet as I was pretty much scared of them, but my friend and colleague was returning back to Brazil and no one else wanted him. So my sister and I decided to adopt my friend’s chameleon.
It took us a while to get used to having a lizard in our home, but that little, green, cute guy become part of our family really fast. We did our best to take care of him, but since this was our first time caring for a chameleon, you can only imagine how many things we had to learn about chameleons in order to be able to provide him with a happy, healthy life.
We really enjoyed having him in our lives for 3 years, but then something terrible happened. One day we noticed he was eating less, drinking less, and he wasn’t moving very much anymore. If he was a human, I would have said he suffers from depression, but that was not the case.
We decided to pay our vet a visit as soon as possible, so we took him to the vet immediately, but he told us something we couldn’t believe. It seemed like our Rexie was suffering from MBD [Metabolic Bone Disease] to the point were nothing could have been done to save his life, so the vet said it’s better to prepare ourselves for the inevitable.
Knowing there’s nothing we could possibly do to save Rexie’s life, we had to be strong and be there for him until the end, but more importantly, we wanted to find out ways to make him feel better and more comfortable, hoping this will ease his pain. In this article, I would like to share with you 5 ways you can use to keep your chameleon comfortable while he/she approaches the rainbow bridge.
1. Keep Him At An Optimal Temperature
As a chameleon gets older, or if they are sick or dying, they are most likely to struggle more than usual to regulate their body temperature. You need to ensure they benefit from proper temperature during the day as well as during the night. To prevent your chameleon from not being able to benefit from proper temperature, you should keep in mind the following:
- During the day, the cool area should be anywhere between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit [20 to 28 degrees Celsius]
- During the day, the warm area should be anywhere between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit [27 to 30 degrees Celsius] for Jackson’s chameleons or 90 and 100 Fahrenheit [32 to 40 degrees Celsius]
- During the night, the overall temperature in your chameleon’s cage should be anywhere between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit [18 to 22 degrees Celsius].
- The humidity in your chameleon’s cage should be anywhere between 65% and 80%. Check the humidity level in your chameleon’s habitat with a humidity gauge.
- Almost all reptiles, including chameleons, require a 12-hours light/dark cycle. Use a UVA/UVB fluorescent bulb to provide your reptile with a light/dark cycle as it will help them absorb calcium, and therefore, feel a bit more comfortable.
You should always track the temperature of both areas [warm and cold] in your chameleon’s cage with two separate thermometers to make sure you keep proper temperature at all times.
In case you’re dealing with the death of other reptile pets such as snakes, bearded dragons, leopard geckos, iguanas, etc., you should be aware that each individual species have different requirements in terms of light and heat, so make sure to adjust those numbers based on your particular situation.
2. Give Him Attention
Even though chameleons are solitary creatures by nature, they can indeed grow attached to their human companions. Remember your chameleon’s behavior the first day you brought him into your home and than think about his behavior one year later. You are most likely to conclude that they indeed learn to feel more comfortable and have “feelings” of attachment for you.
As death approaches, they may feel a bit more secure and comfortable having you around. If you try to handle your chameleon and he tries to escape or tries to bite you, than you should be aware that this is its way of telling you that he needs some time alone. Give him enough space when you feel like that’s what he needs, but try to stay around for when he will feel like he wants to be handled.
And of course, depending on its sickness, you may actually do more harm than good if you try to handle them, so be aware of that as well. There are other ways to be there for your pet even when it is recommended not to try to handle them. In some instances, you being there next to him may be just what he needs the most.
3. Keep Him Hydrated
The best way to keep a chameleon hydrated is by giving them a 30-45 minutes “shower” for intensive re-hydration. Dehydration can make him feel more uncomfortable and can lead to a more painful death.
4. Provide Pain Management Medication
If your chameleon was diagnosed with MBD, which is a very painful diseases, make sure to consult a veterinarian specialized in reptiles and ask for a treatment that will help ease their pain. In most cases, they will suggest that you give your chameleon calcium injections and UVB light therapy.
5. Provide Him With A Comfortable, Clean, Soft To Lean Against
As your chameleon approaches death, he/she may in fact be in need for more sleep/rest to preserve the little energy they have left, and so, make sure you provide your chameleon with a nice, comfortable, clean spot to do just that.
If you feel like you need additional help, always talk to a veterinarian.
How To Tell If Your Chameleon Is Dying?
One thing you should always remember is that chameleons have the ability to mask their illness until their condition is extremely serious, therefore, make sure you pay your vet a visit if you notice any change in behavior [not eating enough, signs of lethargy, not moving around its cage as much as he used to, etc]. Here are some common signs that tell you your chameleon is dying:
- Sunken eyes
- Sagging skin
- Weight lose
- Unusual skin color
None of these symptoms will tell you that your chameleon is dying, in fact, I highly suggest that you consult a vet before drawing any conclusions, so make sure you do so immediately if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above.
What Causes A Chameleon To Die Suddenly?
Believe it or not, chameleons are not as easy to care for as the majority of people may think, and a wide variety of health problems can arise when not cared for properly, in some instances leading to sudden death.
Here are a few things that can cause your chameleon to die suddenly:
I know this sounds weird, but stress is a common cause of death not only in chameleons but in other reptile pets such as bearded dragons, leopard geckos, and so on. Chameleons are VERY sensitive to stress. They need quite some time to get used to and comfortable around their owners, and therefore, they do not like change and they get anxious pretty easily.
When chameleons are exposed to stress generating situations, their immune systems, reproductive systems, and blood flow to the skin are all put on hold, meaning that if a chameleon is under a huge amount of stress over a long period of time, it will eventually die.
It’s common for pet chameleons to die from stress, but it’s even more common for pet chameleons to die from dehydration. In fact, dehydration is the #1 cause of death in pet chameleons. Therefore, it’s very important that chameleon owners learn how to spot signs of dehydration in their pet before it’s too late.
Metabolic Bone Disease [MBD]
The second most common disease affecting pet reptiles of all kinds, including chameleons, is Metabolic Bone Disease, also known as MBD. If not caught early enough and treated properly, this can lead to a very painful end. If you notice any broken bones, signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, twisted looking joints or muscle spams, you should go to the vet as soon as possible.
Parasitic Infestations occur more often in wild-caught chameleons. While this is something that occurs in most reptiles, rodents and so on, and can be treated easily, combined with a stressful environment or unhygienic conditions, can indeed lead to a unfortunate sudden death in chameleons.
Burral VS Cremation
Losing your dear chameleon friend is not easy at all, but being ready for every scenario and organizing your mind as soon as possible will help you cope with the pain and will allow you to say good bye to your friend the best way possible. Therefore, while it might not seem like a very important aspect, but deciding beforehand on whether you want your friend buried or cremated might be a good idea as you don’t want to make this decision on the last minute while you are grieving and under a lot of stress.
So do you want your chameleon to be buried or cremated? Do you want communal or private cremation? Do you want an urn that you can keep in your home or do you want one that you can bury? Let me share my thoughts and answer all these questions for you real fast.
- A major pro of burial is that it provides you with a place for you to visit and honor your chameleon. Burial may be at a pet cemetery, or even at your home, but you need to check the law in your state/area/country and make sure it is legal to bury your pet in your backyard.
- If you’re a spiritual person, then you should be aware that cremation will allow your pet to return to his natural state faster, in theory. You can spread your chameleon’s ashes in your backyard or you can simply keep it in your home.
- If you go for communal cremation, you should be aware that in this particular case your pet will be cremated at the same time as other pets, which basically means you will not be able to have your pet’s ashes back.
- Private cremation means that your reptile will be cremated individually in a cremation chamber and the ashes will be returned to you. Private cremation, however, will cost you up to 100% more than communal cremation.
Whatever you decide to do with your pet, it’s good to be aware of the options available to you but also make sure you know the law in your state or country to make sure that if you decide to bury your reptile in your backyard you are allowed to do so.
Choosing A Pet Urn
There are a few things you should consider when considering to buy a pet urn online. Here are a few aspects I believe you should take into consideration before the actual purchase of a pet urn:
- The price of the urn: Pet urn can widely vary in price from as little as $30 to as much as $1,000 for more extravagant urns.
- The size of the urn: The easiest way to determine what size urn you need for your pet is: for every pound [454g] of your pet’s total weight, you will need one cubic inch [2.5 cm] of space, plus 10 cubic inches [25 cm] for proper measure. For example, if your chameleon weighs 150 grams, you will need an urn that is 2 cubic inches [18 cm] or larger.
- The use of the urn: If you want to keep your pet’s ashes at home, it’s best to go for Pet Figurine Urns, Wooden Pet Urns, Pet Photo Urns, Natural Stone Pet Urns, Metal Pet Urns, and so on. If you choose to bury the ashes in a cemetery or in your backyard, it’s best to go for a biodegradable or nonbiodegradable pet urn.
If you’re looking for high quality biodegradable pet urns, I highly suggest that you consider the Biodegradable Urn [Calla Lily]. This is a very nice urn made of clay and cotton. It is designed to bury your dear pet in water or land. Click on the link above to check the price on Amazon.
Memorializing Your Chameleon
There are many ways to memorialize your chameleon/reptile. Taking into consideration your personal bond with your pet, you are the best person to know how your pet should be memorialized, but I will give you a few ideas to start with:
- Take the time and write an obituary
- Hold a small, nice memorial service
- Create a photo/video journal
- Create a memorial garden/place
It doesn’t even have to be a memorial garden. You can simply choose a nice, little spot that you can call a memorial garden. This is a great way to create a place of peace or you can go reflect on the great memories and experiences your dear friend left you.
Saying Good Bye
Saying good bye it is a very important thing we all need to learn how to do properly. I have seen so many people being affected by the lose of their pets. I strongly believe that learning how to say good bye it’s a definite must. The best way to say good bye, in my opinion, is to get your chameleon a treat on its last few days of life, but even more important, spend as much time as you can with him because he needs you around to feel comfortable.
Grieving For Your Chameleon
I know how difficult it is to lose a pet, but the truth is, the grieving process is different for each individual. Some people find it very difficult to see any positive things during the grieving process, some people want to be alone and isolated, while other people want to be surrounded by friends and family and not think about what just happened.
I’m not a therapist and I should not give any advice whatsoever on this matter, but I highly believe that you should take your time and think about what happened. Allow yourself to feel sad, it’s normal. But do that only for a while and get back to your normal routine and try to feel better.
Find ways to remember your pet but do it with happiness in your heart rather than sadness. If nothing seems to work and you’re having a really difficult time trying to get over the loss of your pet, the ASPCA has a Pet Loss Hotline [1-877-474-3310] with a grief counselor at the other end.