Chameleon Medical: Nose/Skin Rub

Nose and Skin Rub


The condition where the chameleon rubs its nose or skin raw is common in imports that are not well cared for before being shipped. The chameleon will relentlessly try to escape its enclosure or bag and will rub itself raw doing so. Nose rub is the chameleon trying to get out and rubbing his nose on the rough surfaces of the cage or bag until and beyond it being raw. This can be as serious as rubbing through the jaw bone.

Skin rubs all over the body are a result of rubbing against the shipping bag. These show up as black marks and, if an open wound was created, a scab may be present.


The tell tale symptom of a skin rub is a dark black patch on the sides, elbows/knees, dorsal crest, and especially the nose area.

Nose rub on a female quadricornis chameleon

This imported female Trioceros quadricornis (Four-horned Chameleon) rubbed her nose to the point where she rubbed through her jaw bone.

nose rub on quadricornis chameleon

Luckily, most chameleons will stop before rubbing their noses so raw that an infection may take hold.

female deremensis chameleon nose rub

This female Trioceros deremensis shows a snout that was rubbed raw. This must be watched carefully to ensure infection does not set in.

nose rub on a Trioceros deremensis chameleon

Here is another picture of the female Trioceros deremensis that rubbed her shout raw.

knee rub on a chameleon

Rub marks on the skin are usually from rubbing against a shipping bag. These will show up as black marks just about anywhere around the body.

dorsal crest rub on deremensis chameleon

The dorsal crest is a prime location for rubbing to the point of open wound. This Trioceros deremensis dorsal crest is now scabbing over. Skin and nose rubs are often cosmetic in the damage they do, but an open wound can easily turn deadly if infection sets in.

rub marks on quadricornis chameleon

This male Trioceros quadricornis has rub marks all over his body and head. Just look for the black marks all over. These are unsightly rubbed areas. The good news is that these are not dangerous and there is a very high chance of complete recovery once they are put into appropriate caging.

quadricornis with dorsal rub

This image is just more practice identifying rub marks. This female Trioceros quadricornis has rubs across her back.

quadricornis chameleon with rubbed off horns

The nose rubs can be as traumatic as rubbing the horns off. This is rare with chameleons that have hard horns, but it can happen, especially in younger chameleons where the horns are just starting to grow in.

Meller's Chameleon with horn rubbed off.

Meller’s Chameleons actually have a nose horn! But this is a weakly anchored horn and the horn is connected to the body by skin. Thus very few imported Meller’s Chameleons have their nose horn intact as they have had it rubbed off in the importation process.

meller's chameleon horn

One joy of raising up captive hatched Meller’s Chameleons is being able to enjoy observing the single rostral horn which is literally rubbed off adults during the importation process.


Since rub damage usually only happens in the importation process the wounds on the chameleon that arrives are often already scabbing or scarring. There is not much that is left to do unless there is an open wound. In this case, a veterinarian will be able to clean and treat the wound.