Impaction (Constipation)

Impaction is the reason why most chameleon keepers don’t use substrate. Although chameleons are arboreal, if they see a bug on dirt, they will shoot their tongue out at the bug, ingesting some dirt in the process. With proper husbandry and access to a good basking area, this dirt is passed safely. However, in the presence of a high parasite load, large particulate substrate, dehydration, or low temperatures, impaction becomes a danger.


  • No poo for 4+ days, despite regular feeding
  • Straining to defecate, without result
  • Bloating/swollen abdomen
  • Refusal to eat
  • Paralysis of the back leg(s)


  • Dehydration
  • Low temperatures
  • Large-particle substrate (bark chips)
  • Feeder insects larger than chameleon’s head
  • High parasite load


If you suspect that your Jackson’s chameleon may be impacted, evaluate and correct your husbandry first. Make sure your basking temps are high enough, your chameleon is well hydrated (see Dehydration for treatment), and substrate is removed from the enclosure.

Aside from working to rehydrate your chameleon, using a syringe to administer a small dose of oral mineral oil/cod liver oil can help. Do not attempt this more than 1x/week.

If you do not see stool within a week, make an appointment with a certified reptile veterinarian.

Other chameleon health topics: