I recently purchased a juvenile male veiled chameleon. He has small swellings on the back of his hind legs which I fear could be symptoms of metabolic bone disease.


Any help? I've seen a lot of chameleons which look just like this but otherwise exhibit zero symptoms of MBD. Also, if it is MBD, if I begin treating it now, is there any possibility that he could "outgrow" the symptoms when he gets older, or should I take him back to where I purchased him?Sourceenter image description hereenter image description here

  • Is he showing any signs of lethargy, anorexia, or inability to walk properly? – John Cavan Jul 2 '14 at 23:01
  • @JohnCavan No, I can't identify any other symptoms of MBD. He's plenty active and curious, no signs of stress, he seems well-fed, although I did notice that his grasp on my fingers is kind of weak, though that may just be in comparison to my full-grown female, who I'm used to tearing the flesh off of me. :P I'm not too sure but I think he's around 2-3 months old. – Jace Cotton Jul 2 '14 at 23:05
  • Also, I did notice that his veil (casque, crown, cone) lies somewhat low, and I know that male veiled chameleon's veil is supposed to be significantly longer than their female counterparts. It could just be because he's young, although I have seen chameleon's with MBD whose veil is either wrinkled, "deflated", or diminishing, so that also concerns me. – Jace Cotton Jul 2 '14 at 23:13
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    It's Chameleon Gout, he needs a vet right away. I'll have a detailed answer later. – Spidercat Jul 3 '14 at 1:09
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    I'm pretty convinced that Matt is correct, but do discuss both issues with the vet if you're having tests done anyways. If he wasn't properly handled in the pet store, MBD could be lurking anyways and you probably would want to know that. – John Cavan Jul 3 '14 at 3:47

I don't think what you have is Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD), but another serious illness called Chameleon Gout.

It's pretty easy to keep any reptile safe from MBD, as long as you provide UV light and occasional calcium supplements. MBD comes from months of without the proper lighting or supplements. Note: Be sure to change your UV lighting about every 6 months, as they will continue to give off light even though they aren't producing UV light.

Here is an X-Ray of two chameleons with MBD and one healthy chameleon. The first chameleon is still somewhat young, and his bones are still growing. But you notice you can't really see the bones as you can with the other two. That's because of the extremely low density of the bones.

Metabolic Bone Disease in chameleons (Source)

The chameleon in the middle is older, and while it's recovered from the low density part of the 'disease' you can still see the bones are bent horribly out of shape. Compare it to the healthy chameleon on the far right, you can see what the skeletal structure is supposed to look like.

If you follow the source of the picture to the forum, you can see more images of what MBD looks like on the outside. Generally you see more of a curve in the limb than swelling (although you will see some).

Chameleon with MBD

What I believe your chameleon has is Chameleon Gout.

Chameleon Gout is when there's a high level of uric acid in the chameleon's blood. Most often it's caused by a problem with the kidneys, where the crystal urates that are normally passed with the feces finds it's way into the chameleon's organs and around the joints.

The symptoms are pretty much the same as if they had arthritis, because of this, it's commonly misdiagnosed until the differing symptoms become clear.

You'll notice they have difficulty climbing, and won't like you touching their joints. Their behaviour will change due to the pain, commonly more aggressive to avoid handling.

The symptoms that set it apart from arthritis is a refusal to eat, excessive drinking along with dehydration which can be indicated by a low veil and/or shallow eyes, and swollen areas, usually the joints.

Here is an X-Ray of a chameleon with gout, the owner caught it pretty early on, so it's not so well defined in the X-Rays, but it give's you an idea of what you're looking at.

Chameleon Gout X-Ray

You will need to see a vet to get medicine that will dissolve the built up crystals and address the issues with the kidney's. Chameleon Gout is a complicated illness to treat and you can not do it on your own. However, there are some things you can do to help.

Start with encouraging them to drink in order to combat the dehydration and flush out their system and keep the problem from spreading.

Depending on their diet, you might want to lower their protein intake. Everything I've heard about Chameleon Gout mentioned that high protein diets increased the risk. I believe protein increases uric acid production.

If you're managing your own feeder insects, what I would do is feed them protein, and then switch them to vegetables a day before using them. That way there is still enough nutrients from the protein, but it is more balanced with the vegetables. If you're feeding your chameleon vertebrates like pinky mice or anoles, I would stop with those even just for the sake of their bones being difficult for chameleons to digest.

In the end, taking them to a vet to get X-Rays done can decide for certain what it is, and the proper medicines to use to treat it.

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    +1 in that I suspect you're correct about gout, but just as a note that there are two kinds: primary which is usually caused by excessive protein or amino acid failure versus secondary which, as you mentioned, is usually related to kidney issues. The former is much easier to treat. – John Cavan Jul 3 '14 at 3:31
  • @JohnCavan That's good to know. I was only aware of the one caused by kidney problems. – Spidercat Jul 3 '14 at 3:35
  • Technically both are related to urinary issues, but the reason differs a bit. Primary is often a result of excessive protein in their diet and secondary can be linked to dehydration issues. I would hazard that, if recently from a pet store, that excessive protein may be more likely given that a lot of the staff of "experts" are probably high school kids. – John Cavan Jul 3 '14 at 3:41
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    Thank you very much for your answer! He will be taken to a vet and I will have him inspected for any other complications as well (as he came from PetSmart, so illness is to be expected). Although he doesn't seem to refuse to eat, I put a single large superworm in there and he ate it immediately, so I gave him some crickets which he also ate. I have noticed excessive drinking, though. – Jace Cotton Jul 3 '14 at 13:46

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