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Daedalus & His Intestinal Prolapse

Graphic Photo Warning

Late last evening I came back home from work and found my 3 year old panther chameleon, Daedalus, suffering from a prolapse of some sort. I got him out of his cage to inspect it and saw that the red mass was somewhat translucent and looked like an enormous bubble, so I determined it was an intestinal prolapse vs. a hemipenal prolapse. They can happen for a few reasons, such as stress, parasites, dehydration (too much of a strain to defaecate when everything is dry), etc. It's not clear what may have happened in Daedalus's case, but the most  likely culprit may be parasites.

Because it was late I didn't have the option of going to a vet right away so I did plan B, which is to try to reduce the swelling yourself with a cool bath with a heavy sugar saturation. The cold water reduces swelling and the heavy sugar saturation should draw fluids out of the tissue, both of which should reduce the size of the prolapse and maybe help to push it back in. This did not work in this instance so I was left to pursue plan C.

The plan at this point was to keep the affected area moist, clean, and safe overnight until out appointment in the morning. I didn't want him to dry it out or to accidentally tear it on a branch or with a toenail so I came up with a quick idea for a chameleon diaper.

A view of the prolapse with the diaper on.
I took a rectangle of gauze I had in my first aid kit and cut it down the long size, so I would get a long and narrow strip just large enough to cover the prolapse. Then I cut two holes for his legs and wiped generous amounts of vaseline and lube along the inside of the gauze. I put his little legs through each hole and secured the two ends along the top of his tail with a tight bobby pin. This kept his intestinal prolapse in a moist, lubricated sling and kept it protected from branches, his own nails, or debris.

This morning he was still fine so I swapped out his diaper for a fresh, new one and headed to the vet.

Because it was an intestinal prolapse he needed to be put under so the vets could manipulate the tissue back in and then do a purse string stitch at his cloaca, to keep everything in for a few days. So I went to go get lunch and I got the call that he was ready a short while later. When they brought him out he was back to bright blue and red and looked as if nothing had happened! The staff were totally smitten with him and he, being the very relaxed chameleon that he is, posed for several photos!

So now we're home and I just have to watch his stitches and feed him wet food only until Saturday, at which point the vet will pull out the stitches (2 days).


And that's that! If all goes well his stitches will come out in a couple days and that will be the end of it. We'll check him for parasites and treat if necessary. But this goes to show that a prolapse is something usually easy to take care of if professional help is sought promptly and the prolapse is kept moist and clean meanwhile. After exactly $192 Daedalus is back in his cage, basking and happy to be home.

A few days later we went back to the vet to remove the stitches. The entire car ride he was pushing as hard as he could to defaecate, so I was sure that when we removed the stitches he would feel immediately better. The vet quickly removed the stitch and we left him to see if he would go on his own without problems.

About an hour and a half later he finally began to push again, and was straining extremely hard. At one point he was pushing so hard that both his back feet were in the air! The vet and I both worried he would prolapse again just from the effort. He did push out his rectum a little bit but when he was done it sucked back in without problems, thankfully! A few more days of mushy food and he was probably going to be ok.


It's been a few days and so far so good! I think Daedalus is probably going to be fine at this point. What little he did poop at the clinic was immediately tested for parasites and came back negative so we will recheck again in a couple weeks.

October 29, 2013 Update

I am sad to report that Daedalus, my favorite chameleon of all time, passed away about a week after getting his stitches removed. We don't know why, and we didn't see any signs at all of him being in any discomfort, but he was found dead in his cage tonight. It just goes to show how well chameleons hide any signs of trouble until sometimes it is too late. But he had been eating, drinking, and defecating so we did not expect there to be any complications from surgery. We chose not to perform a necropsy to see what had caused his death.

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