Chicken Gout
Researched By Lisa Vaughn

When you hear the word Gout I bet your pet chicken isn't the first thing that pops into your mind. Well, guess what...Chickens can get gout and it kills.

So what is gout?
Gout is a chronic and progressive disease. It is caused by too much uric acid in the body. The excessive uric acid leads to the formation of tiny crystals of urate that lodge in the tissues and joints. When these crystals lodge in the joints they cause lots of pain and joint destruction. They can also lodge in the kidney, reducing kidney function and in poultry; it can lead to rapid death.

How does gout happen and affect my birds?
Birds excrete nitrogenous waste as urate bound with mucus in their urine. Renal disease decreases the amount of uric acid removed from the blood causing an acute or chronic increase in uric acid in the body. Most cases of gout in poultry are a result of dehydration, eating laying feed before laying age (>3% calcium content), renal infection by renal damaging strains of infectious bronchitis or infection by a
Avian nephritis (causes inflammation of the kidney) virus. Chronic disease is less common, but is seen in cases with chickens with hereditary defects in uric acid metabolism or that are fed excessive protein.

Gout and Kidney Stones.
The same excess urate acid crystals that cause gout can also build up in the kidney and create kidney stones Kidney stones are common in older laying chickens. Most cases are due to feeding high-calcium laying feed to hens not in egg production, infection with infectious bronchitis virus, or severe Vitamin A deficiency. If the kidney stones cause a complete blockage in both ureters the birds will die. If the blockage is incomplete or only affects one ureter the birds will survive, but in a compensated state,
suffering with renal failure and chronic urate deposits in the joint spaces.

How do I know if my chicken has Gout?
The symptoms of gout are pretty vague and could be similar to many other diseases. Most birds are depressed and lose weight. I have been told by some breeders that their birds would crouch or sit and
their combs and wattles would be pale. These birds usually died within hours of the onset of these symptoms. The only way to know that your bird has gout is to have them tested after they die with a necropsy. Some birds will develop malformed toes and feet from the buildup of urate crystals in the
joints of the feet.

Prevention
To prevent gout in your flock wait to feed your birds laying feed until after they have started laying. Don't start your birds on layer feed before they begin laying, it's not necessary; it won’t make them start laying any sooner and is potentially very dangerous. If possible, don't give your roosters laying feed. Don’t give your birds extra protein. Feeding things like canned cat food or game bird feed, both of which are very high in protein, can be very dangerous for your birds. Try to keep your birds secure and always quarantine any new birds. You don't want to introduce any virus or disease, some of which are damaging to the kidneys. Make sure your birds always have access to clean, fresh water. Dehydration, especially during these hot summer months can be very damaging to the kidneys and result in sudden losses or chronic kidney disease.

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