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  • Writer's pictureNathan Fraley

Urinary Calculi in goats

Anyone raising goats should be aware of those two little words that cause such a horrible problem. Whether you have backyard goats or a whole herd of show animals, you have or will have to deal with Urinary Calculi (UC) at some point. So what is this menace, how do we treat it and better yet how do we prevent it from happening in the first place.

What are Urinary Calculi? Urinary Calculi is the formation of crystals or stones in the urinary tract which block the elimination of urine from the body. (These are commonly referred to as Kidney Stones in humans.) Most often these crystals are formed due to a metabolic imbalance in the body caused by feeding too much grain to bucks and wethers. This is most commonly found in show wethers, or bucks being given large amounts of a high-concentrate feed along with low amounts of roughage or hay.

There are several different types of crystals or stones but the one most prevalent with home based breeders is struvite crystals. Struvite (STRU-Vite) crystals are formed when the calcium phosphorus ratio is off in the diet, and feeding low amount s of hay. In the winter, when goats don’t drink as much water, this can compound the problem.

Prevention of Urinary Calculi: A large part of this problem is the early castration of bucks/wethers. When bucks are wethered at an early age, they lose the hormones needed to fully develop their urinary tract, basically once the testosterone is gone the urinary tract quits growing. If your wether was castrated early though there is still hope that he will be fine, with some due diligence on your part.

First things first, if you have wethers or even bucks making sure their diet is high in roughage and low in grain is imperative. Some breeds or bloodlines are more prone to urinary calculi just as some humans are more susceptible to having kidney stones. If you must feed a concentrate feed to your wethers or bucks:

  • make sure it is a forage based product (NOTE: Feeding corn only is not acceptable. Corn contains high amounts of phosphorus which will throw off the calcium phosphorus ratio.)

  • Contains Ammonium Chloride

  • The feed is a supplement to good quality hay

  • The water source is clean, and fresh

All feed products are required to provide a feed tag on the bag. These ingredients are listed from highest concentration to lowest concentration in the bag of feed. So the first product on the list should say something like alfalfa, roughage source, etc. If the bag of feeds first ingredient is grain products, that is the product that is of high concentration in the bag. You may have an issue finding a roughage based feed at your local feed store so the next best thing to look for is Ammonium Chloride.

Ammonium Chloride is a common ingredient in meat goat feeds because of the high incidence of Urinary Calculi seen in market animals. These market animals are usually pushed to develop quickly by giving a high concentrate feed with very little hay or roughage. Ammonium chloride is a common ingredient in most commercially based meat goat feeds. If you still have an issue with finding one containing the Ammonium Chloride, ask your vet as they usually have it in stock. NOTE: You must be careful when feeding Ammonium Chloride to any does in the pasture, especially milk animals. When does are lactating the ammonium chloride will not allow for the uptake of calcium and in later years does bones will become brittle if being fed a ration containing ammonium chloride.

Even though your wethers and/or bucks have plenty of pasture, they must be given a good quality hay source. Pasture is great for sustaining these guys but knowing from day to day what the quality of grass, browse, or other vegetation in your pasture is would be a daunting task. Make it easy and provide them with a supply of hay.

Water is a huge issue, especially in the winter when water buckets are consistently freezing over. My answer to this is simple. Keep a rotation of buckets for your animals. I have a set of buckets outside and one inside. I put fresh water out in the afternoon in one set of buckets, and in the morning fill the buckets in the house with fresh warm water to take to the goats. I take the frozen buckets and dump what I can and take them into the house to thaw to do the whole thing over the next morning. Goats love to have a fresh bucket of hot-warm water on a blustery morning. This will also encourage bucks and wethers to drink more water. Make sure buckets are kept clean, I mean clean enough for you to drink out of clean.

Some studies are even indicating that large doses of medication can trigger bouts with Urinary Calculi, especially using antibiotics for an extended period of time.

Symptoms of Urinary Calculi: Things to look for if you suspect Urinary Calculi:

  • Little to no urine coming out

  • Vocalization when trying to urinate

  • Swelling of the penis area

  • Extended time stretching out when urinating

  • Extreme yellowing around the penis sheath

  • Severe pain when palpating

  • Teeth grinding or gritting

Treatment of Urinary Calculi: As with most other goat issues, prevention is a whole lot easier than trying to cure the problem, but if the problem occurs there are some things you can do although if the problem is not caught early enough these treatments may not work. Even veterinarians have limited success with treatment of Urinary Calculi.

If your goat cannot pass ANY urine, he is completely blocked and the veterinarian should be called immediately. This condition is VERY painful and the goat could die soon from a bladder or urinary tract perforation/or rupture. Most common places for the urinary calculi to deposit are in the sigmoid flexure which is in the body cavity not as previously thought in the penis shaft.

The veterinarian, depending on experience with goats, may try to reroute the urine flow from the penis. I have heard of this being done several ways, but be cautioned this is not to be taken lightly and most have to have constant treatment even after the surgery. Some veterinarians have re-routed the boy to basically become a girl, urinating out the back end. Others have put in a stint that the goat will urinate out of. The stint has to be monitored daily and cleaned regularly. Most veterinarians forward these surgeries onto a University clinic and charges can run upwards of $2,500.

If your goat is not completely blocked there are several different treatments you can try. Depending on your confidence with treatments of your goats, you can try these yourself or go ahead and call the veterinarian. These treatments are suggestions from goat breeders and in no way guarantee the success of treatment of your animal.

If your animal is at this stage his very life depends on treatment. First, for the pain management, giving an injection of an analgesic will help with pain and swelling. Next you will need to try one of these methods to see if the breakup of the calculi is possible.

Home Remedy: As stated before, this is an option for treatment of Urinary Calculi. This treatment in no way guarantees the successful treatment of your animal. ½ red onion Juice from 3 lemons 6 garlic pods ¼ cup vinegar

Chop onion and garlic. Combine all ingredients in a container and put on the stove to boil. Heat until the garlic and onion are translucent. Remove and blend the mixture until liquefied. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts. Give 1 part of the mixture by mouth immediately. Give the remaining doses by mouth as follows: 12 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours after the first treatment. It is imperative that you give all 4 doses of the treatment even if you see improvement after the first treatment.

You might experience difficulty in dissolving this amount of ammonium chloride per gal of water. This will depend on the salinity of water being used. Doses were selected assuming a 20 cc drench gun would be used to administer the ammonium chloride solution. These doses will need to continue for more than one week. This will help to break up any remaining calculi. Please be aware that Ammonia toxicity could occur with prolonged use of this treatment, especially at the higher doses.

***It is imperative to NOT force your animal to drink large amounts of water during this time. If they are having problems urinating you are only making things worse and could cause a rupture.

Conclusion Urinary Calculi are a very real problem whether you raise backyard pets or show animals. Prevention is paramount when considering the treatment options and their limited success. If any animal is completely blocked as veterinarian should be called immediately.

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