Chameleon Medical: Closed Eyes

Closed Eyes


The eyes are, perhaps, the most complicated apparatus in the chameleon body and they serve as a rich communication tool as to how the chameleon feels. There is a lot that can go wrong and monitoring the eye every day can give us valuable check up information. Included here is a list of standard eye conditions you may run into and what they mean.

The healthy eye is alert and scanning the area at the end of a bulbous turret. When you are looking for your chameleon, the healthy chameleon will have had its eyes locked on you from the moment you stepped in the room. The only time a chameleon will not have its eyes open is when it is sleeping. If your chameleon has its eyes closed during the day this is an immediate warning sign. Chameleons do not nap. And healthy chameleons do not fall asleep on you. This is a sign of an overly stressed or sick chameleon.

Eye Conditions to Observe

Healthy Eye

healthy eye veiled chameleon

The healthy eye is active and alert. The eye turret is full. A healthy chameleon does not close its eyes during the day. They are on full alert as long as there is daylight.

Emotional Stress

Chameleon sleeping on hand

Closed eyes are a major warning sign of something wrong. Unfortunately, different causes can have the same outward signs. One of the most common in captive husbandry is a chameleon so stressed out it shuts its eyes while on your hands. Unfortunately, humans mistake this final emotional stress shut down as trust and affection. Chameleons do not see the world as we or our dogs do and have a completely different outlook. Do NOT hold your chameleon to the point where it closes its eyes. It is not resting or sleeping comfortably. It is shutting down because it is so stressed.

Internal Distress

female panther chameleon in egg binding distress

The eye is a great indication of the chameleon’s stress levels not only emotional, but physical as well. When the pain and discomfort get so great that they do not bother opening their eyes you know the situation is absolutely serious and a vet visit is needed as soon as possible.

Vitamin Deficiency

panther with eye issue

Eyes can also be closed due to a medical reason that can include vitamin A deficiency, a scratch, or a foreign body stuck in the eye turret.


chameleon with its nose in the air

Sickness is another form of internal distress. Respiratory infections are the most common sickness that causes a chameleon to close his eyes during the day. This can also be from a parasite load which has gotten out of hand and is causing major discomfort in the digestive tract.


Meller's Chameleon sleeping

The only time a chameleon should have its eyes closed is when they are sleeping at night. Chameleons do not nap so if they have their eyes closed during the day it is a medical situation. Note that captive chameleons adjust to the sudden lights-off darkness we subject them to by settling themselves in for the night 30 minutes or so before the lights turn off so this is the one exception to the rule. They can have their eyes closed during the last part of the day if they are settling in for the night.


Like many of these general symptoms, it is critical to determine why the eyes are closed. treatment for each of the various conditions will be completely different. This is where it takes quick observation and thinking to get to the next step.