Prolapses are not something very uncommon but it seems that lately there has been a surplus of prolapses in chameleons. The most common prolapse I have been seeing is intestinal prolapse and this is the one I will be talking about here. Unfortunately prolapses tend to be fatal if not caught on time and if not able to be corrected. Surgery seems to be the best option to correct prolapses but even this methode carries a low success rate due to the fragile nature of chameleons. The key questions here are; What causes prolapses? How to prevent them? The answer to both questions is, we don’t fully know. There isn’t 1 exact cause for prolapses in chameleons and the possible causes are many and vague in some cases. Parasites and stress are 2 potential causes that are high on my list. Stress is a hard term to describe in chameleons as most people expect to see a stressed chameleon as one that is dark, hiding, and not thriving. However this isn’t always true. Stress in wild caught chameleons is easier to determine because of WC chameleons’ natural aversion to humans, but in captive born specimens the story is quite different.
CB chameleons are relatively used to human interaction as they have been seeing humans since their birth, yet that doesn’t mean they always like us. Chameleons can dislike being handled, seeing other pets, seeing other chameleons, seeing their own reflection in a mirror, being in a cage, being in a high traffic area, strong noises or vibrations, etc. In essence, a CB chameleon would have to be REALLY stressed before it shows the classic stress signs we associate with WC chameleons. In the meantime, this constant stress can start causing issues with the chameleon’s systems (immune, digestive, reproductive, etc) which can potentially lead to prolapses.
When I was breeding Panther chameleons I very rarely see a prolapse and when I did, it was always in females that laid a large clutch. In many cases I was able to correct the problem but some cases were fatal. I never had a male, be it WC or CB, prolapse. I rarely interacted with my chameleons unless it was to feed and water them and the weekly checkups. They hated this but tolerated it. They also had a very hard time seeing each other unless I wanted them to. Was this the secret? I don’t know. I think I might have been lucky, but I can’t discount the possibility that low stress helped.
I don’t have an answer to definitely prevent prolapses but my advice is to have fecal exams done at least twice a year and aim to reduce stress as much as possible.