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Visceral Gout, Articular Gout, Renal Gout, Urate Deposition

Gout is an inflammatory disease caused by the accumulation of urate crystals in the joints or throughout one or more organs in the duck's body. Urate deposition occurs as a result of impaired kidney function, impaired excretion of uric acid, and/or by overloading the kidneys with too much uric acid for the kidneys to handle. There are two forms of gout that differ depending on the location of the deposition of uric acid within the duck's body.
  • Articular gout: Articular gout is the accumulation of sodium urate crystals in the joints and synovial sheaths. Once deposits begin to develop at a particular location, they will continue to grow over time and form tophi (an accumulation of urate crystals).
  • Visceral gout: Visceral gout occurs as a result of the accumulation of sodium urate crystals within one or more organs, such as the kidneys, liver, heart, pericardium, and air sacs.
In some ducks, visceral gout and articular gout may occur at the same time.

Articular Gout versus Visceral Gout Comparison

Typical Onset:AcuteChronic
Gender:BothMostly male ducks
Percent of flock affected:Can be up to 100% of the flockIndividual birds
Gross lesions observed in organs after death
Kidneys:Almost always involved. Abnormally sized and covered w/ white chalky depositsMay become involved. Usually appears normal unless the bird was dehydrated.
Joints:May or may not be involvedAlways, especially the feet
Possible causes:Dehydration

Sodium bicarbonate

Infectious agents

Vitamin A deficiency

Secondary to urolithiasis


Immune mediated glomerulonephritis

Exposure to toxic substances
High protein diet

Excess dietary calcium in diet

Low-phosphorus diet

High energy diet

Genetic defect

Gout Causes
Gout can occur as a result of a number of different factors, with the most common being diet, dehydration, viral infections, and exposure to nephrotoxic drugs or toxins.

Diet-related factors:
  • Excess dietary calcium: Feeding non-laying ducks (such as ducklings, drakes, and older ducks that don't lay eggs anymore) a high calcium diet for an extended period of time can cause kidney damage. This is most commonly related to feeding all flock members commercial laying hen feed. It can also be caused by a feed mill error, feeding an abundance of table scraps or treats that contain high amounts of calcium, and by providing low-quality poultry feed that contains large particles of calcium carbonate (CaCO3).
  • Vitamin A deficiency: Vitamin A is an essential vitamin for ducks, and if they are receiving a vitamin A-deficient diet for any length of time, it can cause damage to the lining of the ureters (the ducts by which urine passes from the kidneys to the cloaca), leading to gout. Not all commercial poultry feeds contain vitamin A, and in those that do, the amount degrades over time, especially when it is exposed to sunlight. This is because vitamin A is very sensitive to sunlight. Ducks that do not have regular access to pasture grass are at a high risk of vitamin A deficiency, as grasses and various weeds (such as dandelion) are a good source.
  • Low-Phosphorus diet: Ducks receiving a diet low in phosphorus are more at risk of developing gout, as phosphorus acts as a urine acidifier which helps in the prevention of kidney stones.
  • High cholesterol diet: Ducks fed a diet high in cholesterol are more prone to developing renal disease.
  • Dehydration: If ducks become dehydrated, this puts them at risk of kidney damage. Dehydration is usually caused by lack of water, which most often is a risk during hot weather with increased water intake or during cold weather from lack of water access due to the formation of ice along the surface of the water source.
  • Mycotoxins: Mycotoxins are toxins produced by molds that are commonly found in commercial poultry feeds worldwide, in addition to bedding materials, and other feedstuff. Ingestion of certain types of mycotoxins are known to cause kidney damage.
  • Sulfa and Aminnoglycoside Antibiotics: These types of antibiotics are eliminated from the body through the kidneys, and are known for causing kidney damage to birds, particularly when ducks are not drinking enough water.
  • Disinfectants and Insecticides: Are safe and effective when used properly in accordance to manufacturer recommendations, however they can cause kidney damage when the dosage is miscalculated.
  • Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda): Giving ducks sodium bicarbonate can contribute to the onset of gout by disrupting the pH of the urine, making it more alkaline, and putting duck more at risk of kidney stones.


Swollen, warm, painful leg joints
Firm masses visible through the skin
Darkening (purplish) skin
Difficulty walking
Reluctance to move


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Radiography
  • Hyperuricemia - High levels of uric acid in blood
  • Necropsy


MethodMethod Summary
Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own duck "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Diet analysisEnsure the duck is receiving a balanced diet from a quality protein source (avoid high protein levels) and is receiving enough vitamin A in the diet.
Probenecid and colchicinefor up to 10 weeks, in conjunction with a low protein diet
Allopurinol40 mg/kg administered orally or mixed in drinking water. Given once a day. Take caution as this drug has been linked to liver damage with long term use.

Reported Cases

  • Case 1: Amyloidosis and Gout in a Flamingo On presentation, a flamingo was weak and thin. Supportive care was given, but bird was found dead two days later. The plantar aspects of both feet have thickened/calloused 1-1.5 cm diameter lesions with a small central crater over the proximal joints of digits one, two, and three. Associated joints contain cloudy, viscous fluid. Ref

  • Case 2: Visceral gout and Cryptosporidiosis in a Commercial laying hens Formalin-fixed kidney tissues from adult egg-laying chickens in two houses of an egg-production complex in the upper Midwest were submitted to Iowa State University for histopathologic examination. An increased incidence of visceral gout, average daily mortality 1%-2% higher than expected, and egg production within normal limits were observed in both houses. Numerous developing stages of Cryptosporidium were observed on the apical surface of epithelial cells lining renal collecting tubules and ureters. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy were used to visualize colonization of cryptosporidia, disruption of microvilli, and exfoliation of parasitized epithelial cells. Lymphoplasmacytic infiltration in the wall of ureters and hyperplasia of parasitized epithelial cells resulted in partial obstruction of ureters, which may have induced visceral gout in affected hens. Ref


  • Make sure that all flock members always have access to a fresh, clean water source, even in the winter with ice formation (use heated waterers or buckets)
  • Ensure ducks receive proper daily amounts of vitamin A
  • Feed a balanced diet with recommended protein levels
  • Do not feed male ducks feed intended for egg laying ducks or hens
  • Provide regular access to pasture grass


Risk Factors

  • Water deprivation/dehydration
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Ingestion of mycotoxins
  • Feeding ducks feed intended for egg laying hens (excess calcium) or high protein diet
  • Impaired renal function
  • Ingestion of certain toxic plants (some are common weeds)



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