Do Chameleons Lose Their Nails? {Will They Grow Back?}

Losing a nail hurts. Stress from losing a nail for a reptile could be disheartening for you and your chameleon companion.

I realized there I needed share my experience with you and research as well to explain, “Do chameleons lose their nails?”

This article will give you reasons, explanations and the next steps to help your chameleons who lose nails or claws.

Do Chameleons Lose Their Nails?

You or I can lose a nail in an accident. It can get caught, snagged and ripped. Ouch. Bruising or black spots can occur around this area. Chameleons are no exception to losing their nails in the reptile world.

Any screen mesh with holes wide enough to fit the tip of a chameleon’s nail could get caught inside. They could pull away frantically and lose it.

Broken nails can occur in chameleons in a few other ways we wish to share with you. We should also run through the next steps and whether or not it will grow back.

Do Chameleons Have Claws?

You say eggplant and I say aubergine. You say claw and I say nail. The two words are interchangeably used to describe the tip of the limbs in chameleons.

There is a split in their feet with two main fingers protruding from the front of their limbs. Claws emerge from the tip to help them maneuver their world in the wild for millions of years in elevated spaces.

Chameleons need to stay one step ahead of their target prey and use their claws (nails) to evade predators as well. They can also scratch off white spots on chameleons where you see dry, shedding skin.

Their mobility depends on moving across branches and dense shrubbery. If a chameleon is not moving well, they can be an easy target.

Unfortunately, it goes with the territory for chameleons to lose their nails from time to time, but how do chameleons lose a nail in captivity?

How Do Chameleons Lose Nails?

Chameleons breaking claws or reptiles losing nails happens in the wild and in captive care. I tried my best to create the safest possible enclosure, but every day I care for my chameleon is a learning process.

I’m going through the motions and realizing how chameleons lose claws like the rest of us do in this community of reptile caregivers.

Chameleons can lose nails by:

  1. Latching onto branches and unable to let go while their body weight pull them down or they fight to get their tangle claw out of the position where it is stuck.
  2. Fencing, cage walls, mesh and wiring may have gaps where nails of chameleons get snagged and pulled.
  3. Wooden objects that create crevices or imprints where nails can get stuck when hooked.

Do Chameleon Nails Grow Back?

Your chameleon has lost a nail or two in an accident and it’s up to you to assess how much damage this has caused your reptile companion. It happens and we shouldn’t blame ourselves.

The nail could get caught in wood, wiring, screens or through digging. In a matter of weeks or months, it may grow back. You may wonder, “Why is my chameleon’s nail not growing back?”

I was thinking the same thing and learned that if the nail was pulled from the root, the damage could be so severe that it may never grow back.

The process may take so much time and patience or may never occur at all. A definitive answer can be given when checking out a chameleon’s affected limb the next time you visit the vet together.

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How To Prevent Chameleons From Losing Claws

Your chameleon is bound to be in some pain after losing a nail. They may not walk properly or stop moving at all out of frustration or stress from the accident.

Screens or mesh wiring are unnatural and can be avoided or taken out of chameleon enclosures. Otherwise, the gap in each mesh wire hole should be as small as possible or can be covered with laminated paper.

There should be no damage to the screen where gaps have widened to make it easier for their nails to get snagged.

Do Chameleons Dig?

Yes. Chameleons dig especially when they are looking for a perfect spot to lay eggs. Sometimes a chameleon ends up at the substrate or ground level in the wild to search for a cool space when the weather is too hot to stay above ground where the heat rises and temperatures flare.

What if a chameleon digs and hits a hard piece of stone, pebble or clay? Their nails might break in the process of digging. Any rough surface material in the enclosure can cause a digging chameleon to hurt their limbs or lose a nail.

I have seen a chameleon who couldn’t stop digging after enjoying this learned habit in captivity. She ended up digging to search for an egg laying spot even when she wasn’t gravid. She dug so much that her nails looked like stubs, but they were not broken.

What Happens When A Chameleon Loses A Nail?

A chameleon goes through some trauma when they break a nail or get injured. They may shy away from you or their surroundings until they get over the initial shock.

They may not wish to perform the same activity that they were doing when they lose their nail in the first place. They also might:

  • Climb less often
  • Stop digging
  • Lose a digit
  • Suffer from a infection
  • Refuse eating
  • Excessively hide
  • Stop moving
  • Stop walking
  • Become depressed
  • Suffer from a suppressed immune system

At this point it’s best to make some changes to the enclosure, clean up a little and see if you can help your chameleon’s wounded area heal or recover with the aid of a vet, medicine or bandage.

An antiseptic ointment may be prescribed and you may also be recommended to supplement more calcium for the keratin in the nail cells to harden and grow back faster.

What To Do After A Chameleon’s Nail Breaks

We hope that your chameleon continues to enjoy exploration and it’s up to you to create different ways to do so. Think about:

  • Branch highways instead of mesh wiring.
  • Cover mesh with laminated paper or plastic dividers.

Adding pathways that are elevated with smooth branches gives your chameleon a new and exciting way of practicing mobility in their enclosure. Set them up in horizontal, diagonals and perpendicular lines.


Thank you for visiting for the best information to help you enjoy the life of your pocket pet companion in a fun, safe & healthy way.


My name is Anna and I work full time in my local pet shop where we sell many animals that I write about on this site. I love all animals and love writing about them.