Gout is the buildup of urate crystals in the joints. It is most commonly found in the feet of humans and is seen often in the wrists and ankles of dragons. Uric acid is usually dissolved in the blood and passed through the kidneys where it will be excreted in the urine. However, if the body creates too much uric acid, the kidneys don't excrete enough, or if too much purine dense foods are eaten, there may be an increased level of uric acid in the blood. That is what causes the urate crystals to form. Many times gout occurs in reptiles that have been fed an insect-only diet.
Possible Gout Treatments:
- Milk thistle supplements taken orally is said to help the liver detoxify and better metabolize the uric acid in the blood so there isn't as much of a buildup.
- Avoid foods that are purine heavy. Most meats are known to cause gout flare ups, but because bearded dragons need some type of insects in their diet, go for the insects with the lowest amount of purine possible. A study done by Bednarova M., Borkovcova M., and Komprda T. on the purine derivate content of three edible insects found that mealworms and superworms have lower levels of purine and that crickets had higher amounts of purine, making them not the best option for those with gout.
- Keep your dragon hydrated. Being dehydrated increased the concentration of uric acid in the blood.
- In severe cases, a veterinarian may be able to surgically remove the urate crystals.
- A veterinarian may be able to prescribe a medicine to lower uric acid levels in the blood.
A severe case of gout may not be able to be reversed and treatment may have to be lifelong. There are low purine diets available for carnivores but should be matched with a good vegetable rich diet in bearded dragons.