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Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 816
Experience:  dasdasd
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My chameleon has had black scales around her mouth which I

Customer Question

Hello, my chameleon has had black scales around her mouth which I assumed it was burnt front being to close to her heat lamp. However today I notice it’s looking as more of a gap around her mouth which I can see her teeth through.
JA: Hi there. I'll do all I can to help. Have you used anything to treat the burn so far?
Customer: no I have not. I wasn’t 100% sure it was a burn so I’ve been checking more regularly that she’s not pressing against the mesh near the lamp section.
JA: What's the chameleon's name and age?
Customer: Bebo, 3 I believe
JA: Is there anything else the Vet should know about Bebo?
Customer: i don’t believe so
Submitted: 4 days ago.
Category: Vet
Customer: replied 4 days ago.
File attached (31T5TTZ)
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.

Hello and thanks for posting your question on My name is***** and I have been a licensed and accredited veterinarian in the US for over 22 years, specializing in aquatics, reptiles, amphibians, avian and other exotic species. JustAnswer is a question-and-answer service, not a veterinary telemedicine or emergency service. On this platform veterinarians can provide insight and advice based on the information you provide, but as this is not considered a legal client-patient relationship and we cannot examine your pet, we are unable to provide definitive diagnoses, prescribe medications, provide medical records or sign documents for your specific pet. For any of those you would need to make an in person visit with a local veterinarian. If your pet has a serious illness or life-threatening emergency, I strongly recommend you obtain hands-on veterinary care with a local veterinarian or veterinary emergency service as soon as possible. I am happy to chat with you via the JustAnswer app via text. For US based clients, 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.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.

I am sorry to hear that your chameleon Bebo is under the weather and has black scales around her mouth. I am wondering if you could provide a closer image of the area of concern? Thanks. I cannot see this well in the provided image. While a burn may be possible, the more common cause of darkened scales around the mouth is mouth rot, an infection inside the mouth.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.

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 type of chameleon is Bebo (they appear to be a veiled chameleon)?

-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?

-Have they been eating normally? What do you normally feed them?

-Do they receive any calcium or vitamin supplements? If so, which ones and how often?

-Any other signs such as weight loss, bloating, sunken eyes, wrinkled skin, lumps/bumps, open mouthed breathing, discharge from eyes/nose/mouth, etc.?

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.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.

While you are typing in some history information, I will provide some additional information. But please take your time, there is no rush. JustAnswer alerts me when/if you add new comments to our conversation.

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.

-For a veiled chameleon, you'll need to maintain a temperature gradient of 72-80°F (22.2-26.7C) with a focal basking spot that reaches 85-95°F (29.4-35C). They do not tolerate warm temperatures well, so do not keep the main portion of the enclosure above 84F (29C) for any length of time (though providing a focal basking spot is recommended). You should provide a drop in temperature at night that ranges from 65°F (18.5C) to the low to mid 70s followed by asking to a warm basking spot in the morning. Chameleons require higher humidity than other lizards, 50-60% during the day but even higher, up to 80% at night (it will naturally rise as the temperature drops at night).

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.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.

As mentioned, discoloration around the mouth is more commonly associated with mouth rot, that thermal burns. If it were burns you would expect to see darkening or peeling of the skin of the face, not just the scales around the mouth.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.

“Mouth Rot” or infectious stomatitis is a bacterial infection inside the mouth which can affect the jawbone, teeth and gums. It can present as redness in the mouth, darkening or discoloration or crusting around the mouth, swelling of the gums or jaw, increased oral mucus or discharge from the mouth or nares (nostrils), and pocket of infection or abscesses in the mouth that may be filled with off-white caseous material (the drier, reptile equivalent of pus).

Chameleons with mouth rot may show signs other signs such as poor appetite or weight loss because it is painful or difficult for them to eat. Mouth rot can be related to poor diet or periodontal disease that leads to build up of calculus, gingivitis (gum inflammation), gum loss and infection of soft tissue and bone.

If you suspect your chameleon has mouth rot, you should make an appointment for an evaluation by a veterinarian experienced with reptile medicine. They will perform an examination and may recommend imaging, such as x-rays. If an oral lesion is found it will be cleaned of debris and samples collected for testing.

Treatment depends upon cause but may involve flushing and topical care of the mouth wound, systemic antibiotics (oral or injectable) and oral care, which might include a dental cleaning and oral antiseptic for you to use at home to keep the mouth clean. Proper husbandry such as appropriate diet, housing, temperature, cage cleaning/cleanliness and lighting are all important to prevent underlying conditions that can lead to mouth rot.

Mouth rot typically involves the teeth and jaw bone, so it is not easily treated at home without first having veterinary evaluation and treatment to clean out the infection. Once treated by the veterinarian, your animal may be placed on antibiotics and the vet may ask you to flush the infected area with a disinfectant solution, such as diluted povidone iodine (Tamodine solution) or chlorhexidine. Flushing without first cleaning out the diseased tissue will likely not be effective at clearing the infection. However if there is a delay in your ability to take your lizard to the vet, you can try gently cleaning or irrigating the affected area 1-2 times per day with a dilute solution of povidone iodine. You can purchase this over the counter as Tamodine Solution. Dilute with tap water until it is a light tea color. Gently flush the area or wipe the are with a soaked cotton tipped applicator. Try to avoid getting much of the solution inside the mouth and you might tip the lizard gently to its side to encourage the solution to run off rather than in the mouth.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.

If this is not mouth rot and it truly just discoloration limited to the skin around the mouth, you can also use the diluted Tamodine solution to cleanse the affected areas. Dip cotton buds into the dilution antiseptic and clean the discolored areas 2-4 times per day for 3 days. But if there is no improvement, worsening of signs or any signs of systemic disease such as loss of appetite or weakness then a hands on assessment by a local reptile experienced veterinarian is recommended.

To help find a local veterinarian with reptile experience, here is a useful website you can use to search for a local reptile veterinarian. These veterinarians are active members of the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians, which means they have interest and experience in treating reptile patients:

(please note this site may not work on older browsers like Safari)

Please note that since you are outside the US, you will need to choose Advanced Search.

Advanced Search: Step 1 of 2, Member status

Select/toggle honorary member, life member, new grad, active veterinarian, and associate.

Press Continue.

Advanced Search: Step 2 of 2

Use the drop down menu in Country to select your country. Press Search.

Here is another good online resource for finding hands on veterinary care in the UK. You can search by location or practice name and if you choose Advanced Search (in parentheses below the “enter a name or location” field), you can choose the types of animals treated at the practice. Enter your town name in the search filed, then on the lower right click on “Animals Treated” and in your case for a bearded dragon, choose “Exotic/Wild”, then hit “SEARCH”.

Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.

I should be notified if/when you respond with additional information or photos so we can connect further about your chameleon Bebo but, in the meantime, I hope this information is helpful and I wish you the best. Thanks again for posting your question to Sincerely, ***** *****

Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Hello, I will be gathering all of the info over tomorrow and will get back to you with it + a picture as soon as possible. Thank you
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.
Thanks very much. Take your time. Just Answer will alert me when you reply with additional information or photos and I will respond as soon as I am available to do so.
Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Hello, response to questions below.Temps : baskin spot 28C & floor temp 22C.Diet : morioworms & wax worms (dusted in calcium once a week)Humidity: 45% during day 85% at nightUVB bulb changed every 6 months ish (last bulb changed 4 months ago).Just eaten two worms now, used her tongue well.
Customer: replied 4 days ago.
File attached (5VV5Q24)
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.
Thank you for the photo and information. The darkened area of her mouth is unfortunately not in focus in the provided photo but from what I can see, this is definitely not a burn injury. The gapping of the mouth and internal dark discoloration are more consistent with mouth rot.I would be happy to look at additional photos if you are able to send any, thanks.
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.
I do also recommend more frequent calcium supplementation (2-3 times weekly depending upon how frequently she is fed) and the additional of multivitamin supplementation. Chameleons require vitamin A for proper skin, eye and overall health and can develop changes in epithelial tissue that predisposes them to infection if they do not get sufficient vitamins.
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.
ZooMed Reptivite with D3 is an excellent brand. I recommend supplementing with it for 1/4 off her feeds so with an adult that is usually once weekly.You can also further boost the nutrition of her feeder insects but gut loading with a good brand of insect gutloading diet. Mazuri and Repashy both make excellent options.
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.
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 very good options for gut loading are:-Mazuri Better Bug Gut Loading Diet-Repashy SuperLoad Insect Gutload Formula
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.
But I do suspect what you are seeing is likely mouth rot which will require hands on veterinary care.
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.
while your ambient temperature gradient is fine, you do need a slightly warmer basking spot at the top of the enclosure.For a veiled chameleon, you'll need to maintain a temperature gradient of 72-80°F (22.2-26.7C) with a focal basking spot that reaches 85-95°F (29.4-35C). You do want a large enough enclosure so there is about 6-8 inches of headspace between the basking spot and the basking perch, this will help avoid the risk of thermal burns, and yet you are still able to provide the gradient from cool (22c) to warm (27c) inside the enclosure.
Customer: replied 4 days ago.
Hello, thank you for all this information and we’ll be trying to implement all the changes you have stated. We have now also booked to go see an inperson vet about the possibility of Mouth Rot.
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.
Thanks, ***** ***** that is the best course of action, glad you were able to book an in person evaluation. I do hope Bebo feels better. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.You are most welcome. My best to you both.Sincerely, ***** *****
Expert:  CarynP625 replied 4 days ago.
Have a nice day.