Chameleon thermal burns
Thermal burns
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An adult female that received a nasty thermal burn from screen climbing.
Thermal burns occur when a chameleon can get too close or come in direct contact with a heat source, like any basking bulb or ceramic heater. Chameleons do not have the same reactions with excessive heat as mammals and will remain still even if in direct contact with the bulb. This is a common occurrence in captivity and can result in severe burning of the skin and muscle tissue, this may lead to the animal’s demise if prolonged exposure has taken place.

To prevent this from happening it is always better to keep any light or heat sources outside of the enclosure where ever possible, also if using screen or mesh cages the basking spot should be elevated off the cage by at least a few inches, as it is quite common for chameleons to receive burns when climbing on the top of screen enclosures. The height in which you suspend your basking spot will depend on what wattage bulb you are using, the higher the wattage the higher your basking spot will need to be, if you are not sure then place the back of your hand on the inside of the mesh directly under the bulb and hold it there for one minute, if you have to pull your hand away within that time it is to hot and will need to be raised a little to be safe for your animal. If you have to have your heat source inside the enclosure then it is paramount that the chameleon cannot get near it, make sure there are no vines or plants that may enable the animal to gain access to the area where the fitting or the bulb itself is positioned. Be warned, the chameleon does not have to come in direct contact with the bulb to be burnt.

 

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An adult male who has suffered severe tissue loss from getting too close
to a badly positioned bulb.

Unfortunately, once a chameleon has been burnt, the scarring will be permanent. The first signs of a burn will be the area turning white and at this point it normally doesn’t seem too bad and the animal may carry on its usual habits, don’t be put at ease by this and a visit to the vets is a must to receive immediate treatment. Over time, the affected area will turn black and scab over, eventually the necrotic tissue will peel and fall off leaving a pink coloured scar underneath. Some severe burns across the back can leave large amounts of tissue loss and care must be taken to ensure the area does not become infected.

If you suspect your chameleon has a thermal burn you must seek the advice of a qualified reptile veterinarian as soon as possible.

High levels of UV-B exposure can also burn your chameleon similar to the way we humans get sunburn, never use very high UV-B sources and always provide full shade within the enclosure even when using the usual 5% or 10% bulbs. (See heating and lighting).
Also if you put your chameleon outside in the summer then it is very important to provide cover to prevent them from getting burnt from the sun.If you suspect your chameleon has a thermal burn you must seek the advice of a qualified reptile veterinarian as soon as possible. High levels of UV-B exposure can also burn your chameleon similar to the way we humans get sunburn, never use very high UV-B sources and always provide full shade within the enclosure even when using the usual 5% or 10% bulbs.

 

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