Alternative Foods  
Chapter 5:
General Care


A veterinarian may advise you to use alternative foods if your chameleon is severely ill or on a prolonged hunger strike. It must be stressed however, that force-feeding any animal, is extremely stressful and unnatural. We may be prolonging the animal's life, but, are in fact only treating a symptom and must strive to uncover the source of the ailment.

I believe alternative food items should be used as a last resort only, or as a supplement. No matter how hard we try to replicate the natural diet of a chameleon, we are certain to fall short. Alternative foods are not nutritionally balanced and have an improper calcium/phosphorous ratio. So be cautious, and ALWAYS consult with your veterinarian before trying any of these recipes.


FORCE-FEEDING vs. MANUALLY FEEDING

First off, let me clarify between "force feeding" and what I define as "manually feeding". Force-feeding is rather invasive, characterized by "tube feeding", where liquid nutrition is channeled directly into the stomach through a tube. It can also be defined as forcing your chameleon's mouth open and squirting one of the liquid meals listed below into his mouth. If your chameleon is very ill or quite simply does not want to swallow the food, he will usually let you know! If your vet has opted to tub-feed your chameleon (this can only be done by a veterinarian) your chameleon may vomit afterwards. If you force your chameleon to eat a bug or baby food for example, if he does not want it, he will spit it out. Realistically, we cannot FORCE feed a chameleon unless it wants the food on some level, and we are gentle enough in our methodology for him to accept it.

Manually feeding is what I would define as "offering" your chameleon an alternative food due to some inability on its apart to obtain it himself. For example, many chameleons suffer from tongue dysfunctions" (see medical red flags), which can be caused by straining or tearing the muscles in the tongue or an inappropriate level of calcium and UVA/UVB lighting. In cases such as these, the chameleon has little control over its tongue and cannot "shoot" or extend sufficiently to acquire a prey item on its own. Other examples would be when dealing sick chameleons or a chameleon who is on a hunger strike, and who is not responding to different varieties of insects.

Some people supplement their chameleon's basic "prey insect diet" with these "alternative" meals, to bulk them up during the winter or as a means of adding variety. I would stress you consult a vet before offering your chameleon anything other than the basic diet. Meals other then insects contain an improper calcium/phosphorous ratio that is not good for your chameleon! So you may have to increase the calcium intake in your chameleon's diet by giving him a liquid calcium supplement (calcium sandoz). You may also get him hooked on the alternative foods and he may refuse to eat prey items in the future! Many ill chameleons who recover loose the use of their tongues as they get out of practice, and few owners will wait to see if they will regain its use before they starve!


Recipies

You can use a combination of the below ingredients to create a nutritional slurry for your chameleon that can be administered through an eyedropper!

  • Ensure Plus - found at any drug store (the "plus" version has extra calories)

  • Pulverized dried flies - found at any pet store

  • Liquid calcium (calcium sandoz)

  • Pedialite

  • Baby food - use high protein varieties only (veal, & lamb!)

  • Carrot baby food, apple sauce (for hydration)


Feeding Method

Place a drop of food on your chameleon's mouth and gently tug on your chameleon's gullar crest. It may take a moment, but he will open his mouth and get a taste of the food. It takes coordination, but with practice, you will be able to drop food in his mouth between chews!

NEVER drop food down your chameleon's throat. You want to place it in his mouth or tongue. Doing anything else can cause your chameleon great stress or to choak!

 

Previous Section:
Female Chameleons