Vitamin A problems in chameleons

Chameleons need vitamins, just like all animals. One important vitamin is vitamin A. Many chameleons do not get enough vitamin A in their diet. Just adding some vitamin A supplements is not a good solution, as a surplus of vitamin A can poison your chameleon

What is vitamin A and where can it be found?

Vitamin A is also called beta-carotene. It is found in all kinds of vegetables, especially in carrots. Vitamin A is crucial for healthy eyes, gums, teeth, skin and muscles. People and some animals can produce their own vitamin A from pro-vitamin A found in food. Veiled chameleons (and for example cats) are not able to do this, so need to obtain vitamin A directly from food.

Symptoms of vitamin A shortage

The symptoms of a long term shortage of vitamin A in chameleons are:

  • Slow growth
  • Bone malformations
  • Swollen mouth edges
  • Dying off the end of the tail
  • Poor grip, easily falling
  • Often getting upper respiratory infections
  • Not producing eggs or producing infertile eggs
  • Low appetite
  • Bad vision
  • Bulging eyes

Generally you will only start to see symptoms after a long period of shortage of vitamin A. The symptoms will get worse the longer the shortage holds. Some of these symptoms are reversible when feeding vitamin A again, others are permanent.

Symptoms of an overdose of vitamin A (hypervitaminosis)

Structurally eating too much vitamin A will cause the following symptoms in chameleons:

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  • Loss of appetite
  • Enlarged liver
  • Bone malformations
  • Swelling at the throat
  • Calcium deposits in soft tissue

An overdose of vitamin A can intervene with the update of vitamin D3, causing problems related to vitamin D shortage causing MBD or rickets.

Preventing vitamin A problems

The best way to prevent getting any vitamin A problems with your chameleon is feeding healthy feeder insects and vegetables to your chameleon. They will contain the right amount of vitamin A. The feeder insects should be well cared for and should eat some fresh food before you give them to your chameleon. An overdose is impossible in this way.

If your chameleon has a shortage in vitamin A, you could supplement artificial vitamin A to its food or water. This could cause an overdose though. Its hard to tell you an amount of vitamin A, a concentration of it in its water or how often you should supply it. I would advise you only to supply vitamin A supplements if your chameleon was diagnosed with a shortage of vitamin A.

Curing vitamin A shortage in chameleons

You can alleviate the problems caused by vitamin A shortage by feeding your chameleon more vitamin A. If your chameleon was diagnosed with a shortage, you could add vitamin A supplements directly into its mouth for 3 weeks. Ask your vet about the concentration. After this you can feed it healthy feeder insects and vegetables. The vet could also inject your chameleon with a mix of vitamins, quickly helping it to get some vitamin A in its system.

Some symptoms of vitamin A shortage are irreversible.

Curing a vitamin A overdose

Start with immediately stopping to supply any extra vitamin solutions, vitamin A drops or other food supplements for your chameleon. Your chameleon will only get an overdose if you supply vitamin A artificially. It could never eat enough vegetables to get too much vitamin A. Just wait for a while without supplying any vitamins, then after some weeks you can add a tiny bit of vitamin supplements to its food or water.

Some symptoms of a vitamin A overdose are irreversible.

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