Hypovitaminosis A in Captive Anole Colony?

A bunch of our young captive born anoles are coming down with an illness that results in swollen eyes, blindness, inability to feed, and, ultimately, death.  The material that is causing the eyes to swell does not appear to be retained shed, but rather a membranous mass that gradually expands to cover the entire eye.  We sent some animals off for necropsy and the preliminary results indicate hypovitaminosis A.  At least one published study identifies this condition in captive green anoles, although the symptoms reported in that case were more widespread [pdf link].  We feed our anoles two types of crickets: Acheta and Gryllodes.  The crickets, in turn, are fed chicken mash and limited quantities of fresh vegetables.  We also dust our crickets with a calcium + D3 supplement during 2/3 of their weekly feedings.  We’ve been housing hundreds of adult anoles on this feeding regimen for the last few years without trouble (the putative hypoviaminosis A is cropping up only in our 6-8 month old juveniles).  We’re going to add a multivitamin to our dusting routine and will begin supplementing crickets with more fresh vegetables (including things high in vitamin A like sweet potatoes), but we’re also wondering if anyone else has had experience with hypovitaminosis A in anoles.  We’re particularly interested to know how treatable the condition is once diagnosed and whether it results strictly from a dietary deficiency or if other aspects of the animals environment may be contributing.

About Rich Glor

Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester and longtime anole enthusiast.
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5 Responses to Hypovitaminosis A in Captive Anole Colony?

  1. whyevolutionistrue says:

    This is a well-known condition in captive turtles (I’ve never encountered it in anoles). There used to be a commercially available treatment for it (eye drops). Although I couldn’t find any last time I tried to get them, a quick google search shows a number of brands on the market now, and they specifically mention vitamin A deficiency. Some drops contain vitamin A, others are merely cleansers/softeners. Here’s a web reference to the turtle condition: http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=17+1797&aid=2589

    Greg Mayer

  2. rglor says:

    Thanks much Greg. Did you have any luck treating your turtles? I’ve heard that treatment can be effective when the condition is caught early, but that turtles in an advanced condition generally don’t recover well.

    I’ll look into the eye drops. We’ve already started supplementing our anoles diet with more multi-vitamins and may experiment with injectable vitamin A as well.

  3. rglor says:

    Additional dustings of crickets with multivitamins and administration of baby food with vitamin A seem to be working for all but the sickest of our animals.

  4. Rich– sorry to be so long in replying. It did work in turtles. I found I still have half a bottle of the old eye-drops. The active ingredient is n-alkyl dimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride, in aqueous solution. I believe this treats just the eye symptoms; you still need to add vitamin A to the diet. Hope your anoles are better!

  5. Pingback: Evolution of a Lizard Room, Part IV: Crickets |

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