January 2017 Issue



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Urinary Calculi, commonly called "Water Belly," is a urinary-tract blockage in goats. Urinary Calculi prevents both urination and breeding in males. Female goats can but seldom do contract Urinary Calculi because of the straightness and shortness of their urethra. The twists and turns of the longer male urethra make passing solid particles difficult at best and impossible at worst. Urinary Calculi can and too often does kill goats quickly and painfully.

Urinary Calculi is almost always the result of improper feeding. A calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2-1/2 to 1 in feed and minerals is essential. Although the condition is called Urinary Calculi, the real culprit is phosphorus -- too much phosphorus in relation to the amount of calcium in the diet. Alfalfa hay is not the problem. Feeding too much grain and/or feeding grain concentrates with an improper calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is almost always the cause of Urinary Calculi. Overfeeding and improper feeding of grain concentrates cause solid particles to develop in the urine. These solid particles block the flow of urine out of the goat's body, causing pain, discomfort, and death if not resolved. People who have personally experienced urinary-tract stones understand the seriousness and pain associated with this condition.

Besides grain concentrates, there are other factors affecting the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio in the goat's diet. If the minerals being fed have the proper calcium-to-phosphorus ratio and the goats are not being fed a diet heavy in grain concentrates, then you should have both water and hay tested for mineral content. Many types of hay (Bermuda is one example) are high in phosphorus. Hay fertilized with chicken litter will be very high in phosphorus levels. Adding calcium carbonate (ground limestone) to goat minerals can help bring the calcium-to-phosphorus ratio back to the 2-1/2 to 1 range. Enlist the help of a goat nutritionist to find the right amount of calcium carbonate to get these ratios in balance.

Show goats are prone to developing Urinary Calculi because their owners feed too much grain. Wethers (castrated males) are especially susceptible to Urinary Calculi. Castration stops testosterone production and the growth of the urethra. Solid particles cannot pass through a urethra that has not been given the opportunity to grow to its normal diameter. The chance of contracting Urinary Calculi in male show goats can be reduced by not wethering (castrating) them until they are five to six months of age, thereby giving the urethra time to grow. Castration of a goat of this age should be done under sedation by a veterinarian. The addition of quality grass hay to the goat's diet is critical to help avoid Urinary Calculi. This is a big problem because show-goat raisers take goats off long fiber and push them grain concentrates, creating an environment for development of Urinary Calculi.

Urinary Calculi requires immediate medical attention. This condition will not correct itself and if left untreated, the goat will die. Symptoms of Urinary Calculi include tail twitching in males, restlessness, anxiety, and a "hunched-up" body posture as the goat strains to urinate. You can mis-diagnose the problem as constipation or bloat because of goat's behavior and body stance. You should closely examine any male exhibiting these symptoms. Watch for signs of difficulty with urination.

Do not force a goat with Urinary Calculi to drink lots of water. If fluids can't leave the body because the exit is blocked, the only alternative is for the bladder to burst. A burst bladder cannot be fixed and is fatal. In many cases within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of Urinary Calculi, the untreated goat's bladder can burst and the flow of urine into the sub-cutaneous tissues on the underside of the body ("Water Belly") will precede a quick and painful death.

To examine the penis by extending it out of the urethral shaft, sit the goat on its rump for easier handling and manually work the penis out of the shaft for visual examination. This can be impossible to do in goats wethered very young because the penile shaft may still be adhered to the urethral process -- one more drawback of wethering at a very young age. (A sign of sexual maturity in a buckling is his ability to extend his penis out of the shaft.) Before a male can be catheterized to relieve a build-up of urine,the pizzle must be cut off. An experienced producer can do this, but most folks should have this procedure performed by a qualified veterinarian. The pizzle is the "curley-qued" appendage on the end of the penis. The pizzle of a goat with Urinary Calculi is usually black and crusty in appearance. Removal of the pizzle does not affect breeding ability. If this treatment is unsuccessful, the need for surgery under sedation is likely. If you wait too long, surgery won't save the goat. Surgery is no guarantee that the goat can be saved.

Ammonium chloride can be used to treat Urinary Calculi. Ammonium chloride can be purchased in small quantities (2-1/2 pound packages) from Jeffers Livestock Supply at 1-800-533-3377. These dosing instructions have been provided to me by a producer who has been successful in using Ammonium chloride to treat Urinary Calculi. Mix the following in 20 cc water and orally drench: One (1) teaspoon Ammonium chloride per 75 lbs bodyweight every 12 hours for 2 days, then 1/2 tsp per 75 lbs bodyweight every 12 hours for the next 3 days, then 1/2 tsp once a day for 3 days, then 1/4 tsp daily as a preventative. Dosages are based upon 75 lb liveweights. Ammonium chloride burns the throat, so stomach tube it into the goat. You can ammonium chloride with juice to avoid burning if you must orally drench.

The goat must be taken off all grain concentrates and offered only grass hay, fresh green leaves, and water during this treatment regimen. This is not usually a problem since the goat is so sick that it is struggling to live and isn't interested in eating or drinking. I have no experience with using Fruit Fresh from the canning aisle in the grocery store, but it may be worth trying until you get Ammonium Chloride on hand. Immediate veterinary assistance is highly recommended when Urinary Calculi is suspected. Administer Banamine (1 cc per 100 lbs bodyweight daily) for the pain that accompanies Urinary Calculi.

Occasionally Urinary Calculi may be the result of the mineral content of the drinking water. The local county extension agent or water quality district should be able to test the water to determine mineral content. You can easily test the pH of the goats' water supply by purchasing a fish-tank testing kit. The water's pH should be neutral (a pH of 7). I have been told that certain lines of Boers are prone to Urinary Calculi, but I have no proof of that. I suspect that the problem with Boers is that their owners feed them lots of grain concentrate.

The key to avoiding Urinary Calculi is feeding the goat a proper diet. If you are experiencing Urinary Calculi in your goats, then you must change their feed regimen. Carefully read feed labels for proper calcium-to-phosphorus ratios (2-1/2 to 1 calcium-to-phosphorus is best). Some prepared goat feeds contain ammonium chloride in the formulation, but this is no guarantee that Urinary Calculi will be avoided. Most importantly, offer lots of free-choice forage/browse and good-quality small-stemmed grass hay and reduce the amount of grain concentrates being fed. Both the health of your goats and your financial bottom line will improve.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 1/7/17

Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.


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Urinary Calculi In Bucks and Wethers

One of the biggest nightmares a producer can experience with bucks and wethers is urinary calculi. Goats on heavy grain diets or unbalanced diets are the most suspectible to UC. Market Show wethers are very prone to this condition due to their owners withholding hay or long fiber from their diets trying to give the goat a long, lean appearance rather than allowing them to develop a healthy rumen.

The male anatomy of the urinary tract is rather complicated. There are curves and bends which make stones hard to pass.

item8 fig 1

As a producer dealing with UC in their goat you hope that the stone (usually multiple stones) have passed through the Sigmoid Flexure and have clogged up at the end of the penis where the urethral process or pizzle begins. If this is the case then you more than likely will be able to successfully deal with removing the blockage. (see fig 1)

When male goats are born the urethral process (pizzle) is folded back and adhered to the penis. It gradually separates under the influence of testosterone. Urinary Calculi are commonly trapped in the urethral process (pizzle), causing obstruction of urine flow. This is particularly true in castrated (wethered) males, where the urethral diameter may be reduced because of loss of the developmental effects of testosterone and the urethral process remains adhered to the preputial mucosa (penis). The urethral process is commonly removed as part of the management of obstructive urolithiasis to restore urine flow.


This photo (p1) shows the typical stance of a buckling or wether stretching and straining to pee. Many producers mistake a buckling or wethers straining as a sign of their being constipated as the goat will both stretch out and tuck their butt up under them trying to find a way to pass urine. By the time we see them doing this stretching and straining they have usually been repeating this action for several hours. All we see is that they are straining and no feces is being passed. This is because they have strained and pushed so much that they have pretty much emptied their intestines of goat berries.

In order to check your buckling or wether enlist a helper to hold the goat in a sitting position. You will need the helper to lean forward so that the goat is slouching. (p2)

item13 p2 item15p3

Place one hand behind the scrotum approximately where the sigmoid flexure is.(p3) This is easily palpated so try to find the sigmoid flexure on a healthy male. You are going to press the “S” curve of the sigmoid flexure forward towards the end of the sheath. With your other hand gently push back on the sheath so that the end of the penis is exposed. You will need to be prepared to grab the penis and hang on. Until you’ve had some practice doing this it is best to have a wash cloth or some other cloth rag available to grip the penis with to keep it exposed.

item16 p4 item17 p5

Photo 4 (p4) shows the urethral process (pizzle) still adhered to the penis. Photo five (p5) shows the urethral process (pizzle) that has broken loose due to testosterone level increase in the maturing buckling. If producers will wait until the buck kids are closer to 3-4 months of age before wethering or castrating the goat more than likely will go ahead and break that urethral process loose.

item18 p6 item19 p7

Photo 6 shows a pale and dying urethral process (pizzle). Another day longer and the urethral process (pizzle) would be dark purple or black as the tissue continues to die. To remove this blocked and dying urethral process get some sharp cuticle scissors and in one quick snip remove the urethral process (pizzle) where it joins the end of the goats penis. There will be very little bleeding if done correctly. Be prepared to possibly be sprayed with urine when the pizzle is removed. It won’t always happen but more likely than not you will see immediate relief and a urine flow. Make sure that the goat is up-to-date on his tetanus vaccination. If he isn’t be sure to give him a tetanus anti-toxin shot. (p7)

item20 p8

Photo 8 shows the removed urethral process (pizzle) as well as stones. This particular pizzle was packed solid with stones. You can see some of the stones looking like tiny grains of sand on the fingertips.

You will need to treat the goat daily with ammonium chloride, mixing the product with juice to help mask the harsh taste and drench them. Dosage for a 75lb male is as follows:

1 teaspoon every 12 hours for 2 days, then

_ 1/2 teaspoon every 12 hours for 3 days, then

_1/2 teaspoon once a day for 3 days

_1/4 teaspoon once a daily as a preventative

You would need to consult with your veterinarian for dosages otherwise for a smaller or larger goat.

Bucks without their urethral process won’t be as heavily marked during rut season with urine spray. During ejaculation, the urethral process (pizzle) is believed to spray semen on the external uterine orifice. For those producers with a breeding buck that has lost his urethral process (pizzle) there is no evidence that removal of the urethral process impairs fertility in goats according to the reference book “Goat Medicine” written by Mary C. Smith, DVM and David M. Sherman, DVM.

Pat Cotten © 2010



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