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What is Gout?

Gout is a metabolic disorder that occurs when the level of uric acid in the blood is greater than the ability of the kidneys to remove it from the body. As the uric acid and uric salts build up in the blood, it crystallizes. When this occurs in the animal’s tissues, it forms tophi which are small white nodules. These can frequently be seen in the mouths of affected animals. Gout can be either be a primary condition, or it can be auxiliary to a few different diseases, disorders, or environmental deficiencies, and it generally attacks either the joints or the internal organs.

Gout is a serious metabolic disorder in lizards that results in the overabundance of uric acid in the animal’s blood, which causes crystalline structures to form in the blood and tissues.

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Symptoms of Gout in Lizards

In both kinds of gout, tophi are often found. Tophi are deposits of uric acids that form crystals in the membranes, sometimes found in the mouth of the animal. Articular gout will have swollen and painful joints. The affected animal may be reluctant to move, and the enlargement of the joints may be quite apparent to the naked eye. The kidneys in lizards with visceral gout may be enlarged to the point where they are palpable or even visible.

Types

  • Primary - With primary gout in lizards the high uric acid is caused by an abnormal breakdown of proteins 
  • Secondary - When an acquired disease causes problems with the metabolism of the uric acid it is considered secondary gout; secondary causes of gout can include medications, chronic illnesses, chronic dehydration, and improper diet 
  • Articular Gout - This form of gout is when the excess uric acid crystallizes in the joints, interfering with their movement 
  • Visceral Gout - When the uric acid gets deposited on the reptile’s organs it is referred to as visceral gout; areas that may be affected by gout include the spleen, liver, membrane around the heart, kidneys, lungs, and mucous membranes

Causes of Gout in Lizards

The causes of gout in lizards are still somewhat mysterious, particularly in the case of primary gout. Some factors that may contribute to the development of gout may include:

  • Dehydration - Lack of proper hydration allows the uric acid to stick together, triggering crystal formation 
  • Dietary factors - Low-quality reptile food or high protein food may contribute to the formation of uric acid crystals 
  • Kidney trouble - When they kidney is unable to properly metabolize wastes this can also instigate the formation of crystals

Diagnosis of Gout in Lizards

In most cases, the diagnostic visit will start with a physical examination, which will include evaluating and recording the patient’s weight, mobility, and its overall general appearance. The examiner will also go over information about the reptile’s living environment, including humidity levels, heat, feeding schedule, and access to fresh water to ensure that the problem isn’t environmentally driven. 

A fecal analysis will help to determine if there are any internal parasites present, and blood tests such as a biochemical profile and complete blood count (CBC) will assist in determining if any infections are existing or if any imbalances in the enzymes in the blood. The biochemical profile will most likely show high urea levels which may lead your veterinarian to request an x-ray of the animal which will typically show the crystals if they are deposited with calcium. In some cases, a biopsy will be taken of any of the lumps caused by the crystal growths and of the kidneys.

Treatment of Gout in Lizards

Treatment for acute cases of gout in lizards will likely start with providing fluid therapy in order to combat dehydration, possibly followed by phosphate binders combined with a low protein diet until the initial danger has passed. If the reptile is suffering from arthritis due to articular gout, surgery is sometimes needed to remove the crystals from the joints in order to reduce pain and increase mobility. Medications designed to treat gout are available; some of these might include allopurinol, colchicine, probenecid, or sulfinpyrazone. 

The main difficulty with prescribing these medications is that they were not specifically designed for lizards, so the correct dosages have not been defined, and the long-term safety in lizards has not yet been evaluated. This kind of treatment for lizards with gout is usually lifelong, and if treatment is stopped gout will quickly return. The best treatment plan for gout, however, is usually by determining either the nutritional or environmental origin of the disease and correcting the circumstances that are leading to the disorder. 

Recovery of Gout in Lizards

The prognosis for lizards with gout is poor, and recovery rates for these animals are very low. Usually, by the time the patient begins to show symptoms, the disease has been present for quite some time and has caused permanent damage to the joints. In addition, most of the medications that are used for this disorder are actually designed for humans, and full scientific studies regarding long-term efficiency and dosage amounts are not available. It is better to try and avoid the disorder from developing in the first place by ensuring your animal has a proper diet for its species and sufficient access to fresh water.