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
The eye turret is filled with liquid and can get infected. This is quite dramatic and needs to be looked at by a vet with antibiotics administered if it is an infection. Distended eye turrets can be caused by more than just infections, so make sure there is confirmation that that is the problem. Note the green pus in the mouth of the Jackson’s Chameleon above which confirms the nature of this swelling.
Closed eyes are a major warning sign of something wrong. Unfortunately, different causes can have the same outward effective. One cause of chameleons keeping their eye closed is a vitamin A efficiency. This shows itself by the chameleon having difficulty opening its eye or using it. The chameleons shown here have vitamin A deficiency. The solution, if it is a deficiency, is to give them vitamin A to replenish their vitamin stores.
Sometimes the eye turrets will sink in as a sign of exhaustion or dehydration. In this case, the female panther chameleon spent great effort to lay eggs and is exhausted and probably dehydrated. In a case like this you see the sunken eyes, but they are still alert. This means you have a non-life threatening condition and the chameleon just needs some water, food, and rest. This is the time for a spa day.
If the eyes are sunken in and are not alert and responsive then it could be a sign of internal distress. In this picture the female is egg bound and is having trouble getting the eggs out. Her body is saying to get them out, but something it blocking the process. This is a life threatening situation. Other forms of distress are parasite loads which have grown beyond what the chameleon’s body can handle, organ stress, or infections. Most things that are hurting the chameleon internally will show up in the eyes.
Obviously, there are a wide range of issues that could cause an eye problem and the treatment will vary depending on what the problem actually is. A veterinary visit is appropriate even if you only suspect there is an issue. Catching things early dramatically increases the chance of a full recovery.