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  • Cause: inflammation due to deposition of uric acid crystals in intra-articular, peri-articular and visceral tissues, secondary to hyperuricemia. The hyperuricemia can be due to a number of etiologies, most commonly renal disease.
  • Signs: lameness, joint swellings, pale deposits within oral mucosa, neurological signs, lethargy, anorexia.
  • Diagnosis: persistently elevated blood uric acid levels, demonstration of crystals and tophi in joints or tissues.
  • Treatment: pharmacological reduction of blood uric acid levels, analgesia, husbandry changes, euthanasia if refractory.
  • Prognosis: potentially very guarded, depending on underlying etiology, however some animals may do well long-term with palliative care.

Presenting signs

  • Animals most commonly present for lethargy, anorexia Anorexia, dehydration and lameness.
  • Owners may notice articular and periarticular swellings or changes to the oral mucosa.
  • On occasion, neurological signs are the reason for presentation.

Age predisposition

  • Most often seen in older animals but can be seen in animals of any age.

Breed/Species predisposition

  • No specific predisposition however often seen in:
    • Herbivorous animals fed on high protein, especially animal protein, diets.
    • Desert dwelling or arid species that may be more uricotelic combined with owners that do not provide a constant water source in the mistaken belief that it is not required.

Cost considerations

  • Gout is a chronic condition and regular monitoring and blood testing is required following initial investigations.

Special risks

  • Underlying renal disease increases anesthetic risks.
  • Underlying renal disease may restrict drug choices.



  • Although primary gout is seen in humans and in some dog breeds, in reptiles it is generally secondary.
  • Hyperuricemia occurs secondary to renal disease, chronic dehydration or excessive or inappropriate protein intake .
  • Uric acid crystals (monosodium urate) crystals are deposited on articular, periarticular and visceral surfaces eliciting a marked inflammatory response.

Predisposing factors


  • High protein diet, particularly excessive purine intake.
  • Chronic dehydration.
  • Renal disease Renal disease.
  • Inappropriate administration of potentially nephrotoxic drugs, eg gentamicin Gentamicin.


  • Uric acid is the primary waste product of protein metabolism in terrestrial reptiles.
  • Purines are broken down to xanthine which is converted to uric acid through the action of xanthine oxidase. Uric acid is then excreted through the renal tubules.
  • Increased uric acid production, eg due to a diet high in animal protein in a herbivorous species, or decreased excretion, eg renal disease, chronic dehydration, leads to hyperuricemia.
  • Prolonged hyperuricemia leads to the precipitation of insoluble urate crystals in the form of monosodium urate in articular, periarticular and visceral tissues. Accumulated microscopic crystals coalesce to form grossly visible tophi.
  • The presence of crystals and tophi elicits a marked inflammatory response which is painful.


  • Chronic over weeks, months and years, however clinical signs are often only noticed and animals presented late in the course of disease.



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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Reavill D R & Schmidt R E (2010) Urinary tract diseases of reptiles. J Exotic Pet Med 19 (4), 280-289 VetMedResource.
  • Zwart P (2006) Renal pathology in reptiles. Vet Clin North Am Exotic Anim Pract 9 (1), 129-159 VetMedResource.
  • Hernandez-Divers S J (2004) Endoscopic renal evaluation and biopsy of chelonia. Vet Rec 154 (3), 73-80 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Klaphake E, Gibbons P M, Sladky K K & Carpenter J W (2018) Reptiles. In: Exotic Animal Formulary. Ed: Carpenter J. Elsevier Saunders, USA. pp 81-166.
  • Duncan M (2015) Gout in Exotic Animals. In: Fowler’s Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine. Eds: Miller R E & Fowler M E. Elsevier Saunders, USA. pp 667-670.
  • Mader D R (2006) Gout. In: Reptile Medicine and Surgery. Elsevier Saunders, USA. pp 793-800.
  • Johnson J D (2004) Urogenital System. In: BSAVA Manual of Reptiles. Eds: Girling S J & Raiti P. BSAVA, UK. pp 261-272.