Dominique Deaths, Visceral Gout, Excess Protein/Calcium to blame?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Corax, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. Corax

    Corax Out Of The Brooder

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    I am in North Central Florida. This is my first year with a backyard flock. I started with 5 Dominiques last summer. They have been wonderful and healthy and laying pretty consistently through the winter, even.

    On November 1, I found Penelope deceased first thing in the morning. She had no obvious signs of trauma and had appeared without illness the day before; she seemed fine at 8pm bedtime check but was gone by 8am.

    Concerned for the health of the rest of the flock, I took her to the State Dept of Ag Lab in Kissimmee for a necropsy exam. The final results determined Visceral Gout with no certain cause.

    The other girls were fine until this week. Thursday morning Amelia was sitting in the coop on the floor (sand) and it was clear from her behavior that she was not well. She was very weak, not trying to stand, not responsive to the presentation of scratch or water. I am extremely fortunate to be only 30 minutes from the University of Florida Veterinary teaching hospital. I took her there immediately and was seen by the Zoological Department.

    Bloodwork revealed extremely high levels of uric acid in her blood and high levels of potassium. She was given subcutaneous fluids in an effort to help her kidney function, but it was clear from the outset that the issue appeared to be chronic in nature and not an exposure to toxins which might be flushed out. Her crop was enlarged. Radiology revealed lesions on her air sacs and other abnormalities. She passed by midnight; a similar time period to my first girl who went from appearing fine to death in under 12 hours.

    Gross necropsy results so far indicate uric acid in her joints and throughout her tissues. Final results including pathology will take several weeks, as usual.

    The specialist noted that she was in excellent external condition: no mites or lice, beautiful plumage, etc. My girls have a coop that is roughly 4x7 for the four of them (nesting boxes protrude from this footprint), with an attached protected run that is roughly 9x20'. Both the run and coop are sand, with hay in the nesting boxes. They have water available both in the coop and the run--I wash these containers every time I refill them and include a little ACV in the water. I clean the coop of poop daily. The girls are all from the same flock--a local breeder--and approximately 9 months of age presently. They lay most days. I am feeding Nutrena Naturewise Layer Crumble which is 16% protein. I have had some free choice oyster shell in the run. I provide a cup or so of mixed scratch and BOSS most evenings, along with some produce scraps when I have them. I have been raising some mealworms which they also get on occasion, but far from daily. The girls also free range in my yard most days for at least a few hours--some days not at all and some days all day long. The area is mostly wooded with lots of leaves and they tend to cover about a 1/4 acre of it. We have bees on this property too.

    The only recommendations provided by the specialists so far are related to environmental issues; namely nutrition. They said so far the only thing they can recommend is that the girls may have been getting excess protein and calcium. I've taken up their oyster shell and am discontinuing the BOSS treats. I also buy a big bag of the feed which is lasting several months, so I will switch to smaller bags to keep it fresher, although with the cold of winter I do not see any signs of spoilage.

    I am thinking it is possible that the mealworms, which are living in wheat bran could be introducing mycotoxins from possible spoilage in that substrate material...?

    I will be taking my other three girls for blood work next week to see if they are suffering the same buildup of uric acid in case there is anything I can do for them. I am extremely fortunate to have the university so nearby and the resources to fully explore all diagnostic avenues. I know most deaths do not receive the analysis I am able to acquire, so we don't always know the real causes behind bird losses. I am trying to figure out what I may have done wrong and what I can do to stop this trend. Genetics may play a role...?


    I am having a hard time understanding how they could be getting an excess of protein or calcium from what I have been providing them...I know the matter of excess protein is one that creates lots of controversy here. I have read the threads and I know there are different opinions. I am not looking to restart the same conversation.

    What other causes may result in the same symptoms? Are Dominiques uniquely sensitive to protein or calcium or other environmental conditions? Please share your experiences. I love my girls. Gertrude, Maggie, and Louisa are counting on me.

    Thank you in advance for all your input.
     
  2. DraigAthar

    DraigAthar Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Just out of curiosity, where did you get your Doms?
     
  3. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    You probably know a lot more about this topic than I do, but I would think there is no way your chickens are getting too much protein. A 16% layer feed with occasional scratch in the 8% range, with some added sunflower seed to balance out should not be too much. Vitamin A deficiency and low phosphorus, excess sodium, or aflatoxin can be a cause. My guess would be it is either heredity, or your feed. Some feeds can stay on the shelf too long if they aren't moved quickly losing some vitamins, and there is always a possibility of a mistake in the ingredients at the mill. A simple test would be to change brands for a time to see if it helps. Researching aflatoxins might also help. I feed my chickens 20% all flock, and have never seen a problem with protein. You have probably seen this link, but here it is for others: http://www.thepoultrysite.com/publications/6/diseases-of-poultry/232/gout
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2014
  4. DraigAthar

    DraigAthar Chillin' With My Peeps

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    FWIW, visceral gout is the result of kidney damage. The kidneys are responsible for removing the uric acid from the body. When the kidneys fail to do this, the uric acid is deposited in/around various organs. So to find what caused the gout, you have to find what damaged the kidneys. And a lot of things can damage the kidneys. There's a good article about it here:

    http://en.engormix.com/MA-poultry-i.../avian-gout-causes-treatment-t1246/165-p0.htm
     
  5. enola

    enola Overrun With Chickens

    Vitamin A deficiency contributes to this problem.
     
  6. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive True BYC Addict Premium Member

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    Testing your water may also help. Good link DraigAther.
     
  7. LeslieDJoyce

    LeslieDJoyce Overrun With Chickens

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    I've been trying to research "how much protein is too much" and came across a research piece that studied that question, but not in isolation. The study looked into the combined effects of protein and calcium in causing gout in birds. The findings indicated that birds can tolerate a LOT of protein ... their Uric Acid levels will go up, but this will not necessarily result in gout.

    However, the study indicated excessive calcium can result in gout ... the birds have less tolerance for excessive calcium.

    I read an abstract for a study that indicated a high protein diet will cause gout if it is *also* a high calcium diet. Calcium seems to be the culprit, not protein. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16359121

    Here is another: http://www.pvj.com.pk/pdf-files/24_3/113-116.pdf

    And another: http://nhjy.hzau.edu.cn/kech/synkx/dong/1lun/1/9.pdf

    The link mentioned by other posters in this thread is very good as it offers advice on "hidden" sources of excessive calcium levels, and how to correct the problem. I note you're already doing the ACV in the water ... I suspect your water is your problem, or maybe you did get a bad bag of feed ...

    A 16% layer ration is on the "efficient" end of the protein spectrum, IMO ... Personally, I prefer a higher-protein all-poupose ration with calcium and scratch on the side.
     
  8. Corax

    Corax Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you all so much for all of your thoughtful feedback so far.

    The link to the article on Avian Gout is very interesting indeed, thank you DraigAther. Thank you Leslie for the pointers about Calcium being a culprit. Thank you Eggcessive for highlighting the possible Vitamin A connection. I am not sure how to address that one yet, but I will definitely get the feed analyzed.

    Egnola, the idea about our water is worth looking into, for sure. We've had our water tested before as it is extremely hard. Most of the time when I refill the chicken water I bring it inside the house to clean it thoroughly--when I do this I am refilling it from our drinking water which is softened and also run through reverse osmosis. I have not had it checked at this source since we had the system installed, but it should be very low in Calcium, Phosphorous and other minerals. Because of the RO, the sodium should also be very low, despite the softening(...that's why we got the RO in the first place, as my husband has high blood pressure and softening increases the sodium in the process of removing the hard minerals).

    That said, there have been some times when I have refilled the chicken water in a rush and on those times I have filled it from the hose which is very hard water and thus high in minerals, to include calcium. Clearly with this new information I will never do this again!

    While I have had free choice oyster shell available, less than a cup of it has been consumed over six plus months, by the 5/4 girls combined. I have removed it now, but find it difficult to think they over-consumed from that source.

    DraigAther, I agree--it is clear that the kidneys were unable to process properly--whether this is because they were overwhelmed or because they were first compromised, I am not sure if I will ever know...I do wonder if mycotoxins may be playing a role here in starting the stress on the kidneys to begin with...I will need to see if there is anywhere I can get my mealworm wheatbran analyzed (presumably wherever I can get the feed analyzed?), as I wonder if there could be spoilage there which could be related...? We have considerable humidity here and I had a bin of worms with a little bit of smell which concerned me. From prior reading on mealworm raising I worried they might die off, but that didn't happen, so I thought it was safe. Maybe I was wrong? However, one thing which steers me away from this possibility is the first death, which I don't feel could likely have been exposed to the same issue, based on timing.

    I cannot recall the name of the breeder from whom I got the Doms, but I will look it up and can let you know. It is not my desire to implicate him in any problems or mar his reputation if genetics are not relevant here. I have not yet reached out to him with questions--I would like to gather more data first. I saw the parents and all the birds I saw seemed healthy and well cared for. I was glad to find them locally so that they were acclimated to this environment and also to avoid significant travel stress for them.

    I am trying to stay open to all possibilities in an effort to root out the cause here.
     
  9. Corax

    Corax Out Of The Brooder

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    For what its worth, I just checked my records and the current bag of food would not have been the same bag as was in consumption for the first death....
     

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