Rickets used to be a common disease in humans at some point. It is still a quite common problem in pet chameleons. Rickets shows itself as underdeveloped and malformed bones. This is especially noticeable on the legs and crest of the chameleon. Rickets is caused by a lack of calcium in the body. But this lack of calcium can also occur when you feed your chameleon enough calcium! To absorb calcium from its food, a chameleon needs vitamin D. If it lacks vitamin D the calcium in its food will just pass through its digestive tract without being absorbed, resulting in a shortage of calcium in the body.
Rickets is most common in young chameleons, as they need a lot of calcium to grow their bones. If they are growing but lack enough calcium, their bones will not form properly or become very weak.
Rickets in chameleons is very similar to Metabolic Bone Disease and has pretty much the same cause and treatment.
How to prevent rickets in chameleons
Rickets can be caused by a lack of calcium or a lack of vitamin D. Both should be supplied to prevent rickets.
Calcium is easy to supply to your chameleon by feeding it food supplements with calcium. How to administer them and how much to use can be read at our page Supplements. You won’t easily overdose your chameleon with calcium.
Vitamin D can be given to your chameleon in two ways. A chameleon can produce its own vitamin D when it receives UV-B light on its skin. In nature it will get plenty of UV light from the sun. As a pet you have to install a UV light in its terrarium to supply it with UV-B light. You can also feed your chameleon food supplements with vitamin D3 inside. This will make sure that it will ingest vitamin D, but it is possible to overdose your chameleon with vitamins.
How to cure rickets in chameleons
Unfortunately rickets cannot be cured. When the bones of your chameleon are misshapen, broken or too small it will not be possible to make them healthy again. Prevention is the only way to make sure you have a rickets-free chameleon. When a chameleon is in the beginning stages of rickets, you can limit the damage by providing vitamin D and calcium. This will stop the progression of the disease and allow the bones to get stronger.