Understanding the Causes of Gout in Bearded Dragons
What is Gout in Bearded Dragons?
Gout is a painful and debilitating condition that can affect bearded dragons as well as humans. In bearded dragons, gout is a common health problem seen in the US, and it is caused by the accumulation of uric acid crystals in the joints, organs, and sometimes mucus membranes.
Factors that Contribute to the Development of Gout
Several factors can contribute to the development of gout in bearded dragons, including a diet high in animal protein and/or purines, dehydration, starvation, obesity, kidney disease/failure, and genetic predisposition. To prevent gout, it is important to take steps to help your bearded dragon's body process uric acid effectively.
How to Prevent Gout in Bearded Dragons
One of the best ways to prevent gout in bearded dragons is through proper nutrition. A balanced diet of insects and vegetables appropriate for their age is crucial. Hatchlings should receive 60-80% of their diet from feeder insects, juveniles 60%, and adults 15-30%. To avoid nutritional imbalance, it is recommended to use a rotation of as many different types of feeder insects as possible.
Gut-Loading Feeder Insects Correctly
To gutload your feeder insects correctly, provide them with plant-based foods that have a low protein content of 12% or less. Avoid high-protein foods such as dog food, cat food, fish flakes, or carnivore/insectivore meal replacement powders at all costs. Instead, consider using low-protein insect gutloads such as Got Feeders Chow, Arcadia InsectFuel, or Repashy Bug Burger.
The Role of Obesity in Gout Development
Obesity increases the risk of gout in bearded dragons, so it is best to avoid overfeeding and provide a healthy balance of insects and vegetables. It's also important to monitor your bearded dragon's weight with a kitchen scale. Adult bearded dragons should not consistently gain weight unless they are cycling eggs.
If you suspect that your bearded dragon may have gout, it's important to get them to an experienced reptile veterinarian for formal diagnosis before taking further action. The vet visit will likely involve x-rays, a blood test, and/or a biopsy of fluid from the affected joint. If your dragon is diagnosed with gout, they will receive a prescription medication that will help mitigate the symptoms.
Once gout has taken hold in your bearded dragon, however, there is no cure. You can only take measures to reduce discomfort and slow the gout's progress. Eventually, they will likely need to be euthanized when the pain becomes unmanageable.
In conclusion, the best way to deal with gout is to understand how it happens and take measures to prevent it through good husbandry. If you suspect that your bearded dragon has already developed gout, get them to an experienced reptile vet as soon as possible to help ensure the best outcome possible.