Chameleon have seen a steady increase in their popularity in recent months with more and more reptile keepers choosing to add a chameleon to their family. In addition to this, a large number of first time reptile keepers have also chosen to go with a chameleon as their first reptile of choice too.
With there being so many people out there who are new to keeping chameleons, even if they do have prior experience with keeping other reptiles, it is only natural that we would also see a spike in the number of people asking questions about caring for their chameleon.
One of the more common issues that we have seen people asking for assistance with is their chameleon puffing up and opening its mouth.
We decided to publish a dedicated article on this as there are actually a number of potential reasons that your pet chameleon may be puffing up and opening its mouth. It really is not a one size fits all issue
In some cases, it will be better to just book a video call with a vet to have them quickly assess your chameleon via your smartphone.
Is It Normal For A Chameleon To Puff Up And Open Its Mouth?
The quick answer to this is yes, it can be quite normal for your chameleon to puff itself up and open its mouth from time to time but doing this consistently is not normal and usually a sign of a potentially serious issue.
There are two primary reasons that your chameleon may do this that are considered normal and natural. The first is as a way of thermoregulation and the second is as part of their natural self-defense.
All other causes of a chameleon puffing up and opening its mouth are not considered normal and usually need intervention and in some cases, medication to help your chameleon.
What Causes A Chameleon To Puff Up And Open Its Mouth?
The majority of problems that can cause your pet chameleon to puff up and open its mouth are based around thermoregulation but there are actually a number of issues that can cause problems with thermoregulation in your chameleon.
There are also a number of less common causes behind this behavior in your pet chameleon too so we want to offer a quick overview of them all below to try and help you narrow down the potential issues.
The biggest and most common reason behind your chameleon puffing up and opening its mouth is due to thermoregulation issues. Chameleons are ectothermic animals which means that they rely on external sources of heat to maintain their internal body temperature.
They will often basking in direct sunlight or using a basking lamp to help them warm their bodies up to the temperature that they need.
Chameleons will also puff themselves up and open their mouths as a way of dissipating excess heat. By doing this, it helps increase the surface area of their bodies that is exposed to the air which in turn helps them to cool down more quickly.
It is important to make sure that your chameleon has access to both a basking spot and a cool spot in their enclosure so that they can thermoregulate effectively.
If your chameleon does not have access to both a basking spot and a cool spot or if the basking spot is not warm enough, it can cause your chameleon to start puffing up and opening its mouth as they try to regulate their body temperature.
The Chameleon Is Scared!
The second most common reason behind your chameleon puffing up and opening its mouth is that it is scared. This is their natural way of trying to make themselves look larger and more intimidating in an attempt to scare off whatever is causing them to feel scared.
It is important to try and minimize the amount of stress that your chameleon feels on a daily basis as this can have a significant impact on their health and well-being.
There are a number of different things that can cause your chameleon to feel scared or stressed including:
- Changes in their environment.
- Loud noises.
- The presence of other animals.
- Being handled too much.
If you think that your chameleon is feeling scared or stressed, it is important to try and identify the cause and remove it if possible.
Another common reason behind your chameleon puffing up and opening its mouth is dehydration. Chameleons are desert dwelling animals and as such, they have evolved to be very efficient at conserving water but a lack of water can cause issues with thermoregulation.
If your chameleon is not getting enough water, it can cause them to start puffing up and opening their mouths as they try to regulate their body temperature.
Dehydration can also cause a number of other health problems in your chameleon so it is important to make sure that they have access to fresh, clean water at all times.
Another potential reason behind your chameleon puffing up and opening its mouth is humidity issues. Chameleons come from tropical climates where the air is warm and humid and they have evolved to be able to thermoregulate in very specific levels of humidity.
If the air in their enclosure is too dry, it can cause problems with thermoregulation which can lead to your chameleon puffing up and opening its mouth.
It is important to make sure that the air in your chameleon’s enclosure is not too dry as this can cause a number of other health problems in addition to thermoregulation issues.
The best way to achieve the correct level of humidity in your chameleon’s enclosure is to use a humidifier. Keep in mind that not all chameleon species require the same humidity levels and the optimal humidity levels for the same chameleon can change at different times too.
Another potential reason behind your chameleon puffing up and opening its mouth is internal parasites. Internal parasites are a relatively common health problem in some chameleons and they can cause a number of different symptoms including weight loss, lethargy, and poor appetite.
If your chameleon has internal parasites, it can cause them to start puffing up and opening their mouths. The puffing up is usually due to the additional volume inside the chameleon from the parasites and the open mouth can be due to the chameleon trying to vomit the parasites out.
There are a number of anti-parasitic treatments on the market that can be used to treat internal parasites. It is important to consult with a veterinarian before starting any treatment as some of the medications used to treat parasites can be harmful to your chameleon if they are not used correctly.
An Unsuitable Diet!
Chameleons are very specialized eaters and they require a diet that is high in protein and calcium while also being low in fat and fiber.
If your chameleon is not getting enough of the right nutrients in their diet, it can cause a number of different health problems including stunted growth, weight loss, and bone deformities and in some cases, bloating and the chameleon opening its mouth to try and vomit due to side effects of its food.
The Chameleon Is Sick!
There are a number of different illnesses and diseases that can cause your chameleon to start puffing up and opening its mouth. these can be very difficult to diagnose and we would always recommend you seek assistance from a veterinarian if you do think your chameleon is sick.
Summary of The Causes of A Chameleon Puffing up And Opening Its Mouth!
- Temperature Problems!
- Humidity Issues!
- Internal Parasites!
- An Unsuitable Diet!