Urinary tract stones in goats: prevention is better than cure

You areImmunization is the presence of stones, also called urinary stones, somewhere in the urinary tract. Stones in goats often cause problems in the lower urinary tract (urethra and/or bladder), while kidney stones in humans often result in severe pain. This problem can also occur in other animals (for example calves). Why urolithiasis It is a problem, and its causes, treatment options, and prevention are discussed in more detail below.


The presence of stones in the urinary system does not immediately pose a life-threatening problem for the animal. Urolites can exist in the bladder for several months without any symptoms or discomfort to the animal. However, they can cause minor damage to the bladder wall or urinary tract, which can then lead to inflammation in which frequent, short-term urination can be observed.

Stones are formed in both male and female animals. However, they will almost exclusively cause problems with dollars. This happens when the stones get stuck in the urinary system and when they cause a (sub) blockage that prevents the animal from urinating more or more difficult. Symptoms such as separation from the herd and cessation of eating are often observed. In addition, animals can often be heard gnashing their teeth or groaning, and in the worst case, even screaming. They are usually also seen as paying and this will become more intense. In the end, the animal lies down on the ground and does not want to stand anymore. If not treated quickly, kidney function can be severely damaged and blood values ​​can deteriorate. Eventually, the bladder can rupture, resulting in death or euthanasia.

causative factors

In terms of reason, one has to look mainly at the animal’s ration. Urinary tract stones are formed by the deposition of minerals in the urine. A high-energy serving with plenty of concentrates ensures a high concentration of minerals in the urine. After some minerals are deposited, more and more minerals will stick to this core, making the stones bigger. Fibrin flakes, which arise during inflammation of the urinary system, can serve as an original base for attachment. Large stones can eventually cause a blockage. In addition to food, the water supply is very important. A lack of water results in more concentrated urine in which minerals precipitate more quickly.

In addition to causative factors, there are also some predisposing conditions that make stones more likely to cause blockage. Males, especially in young castrated men, are more likely to develop embolism urolithiasis By reducing the dilation of the urinary tract under the influence of testosterone. Obese animals and pygmy goats are also more likely to develop this condition. Obesity is mainly related to diet, while dwarf goats have narrower urinary tracts compared to larger breeds.

X-ray image of a dwarf goat containing dozens of accumulated stones in the urinary tract with the S-curvature clearly visible. There were also several stones in the bladder. – Photo: UGent

treatment options

urolithiasis It is often only observed in the animal when an obstruction occurs. This makes urination impossible for the animal and treatment should be started as soon as possible. Conservative treatment consists, first of all, of managing the condition for spasticity (eg Buscopan). This relaxes the muscles around the ureter and causes it to dilate. Hopefully this way the stone can slide in and out on its own.

In addition, this can also be combined with puncture of the bladder with a needle. It is best to do this under ultrasound guidance to avoid puncturing other structures. The urine is then pushed out of the bladder, so the bladder relaxes more. At the same time, urine can be acidified by adding ammonium chloride to the feed. However, this method of pricking is not very successful and often provides only a temporary solution.

It is possible to examine female animals because of the shorter and wider ureters. The stone is pushed back into the bladder. The urine must then be acidified by ammonium chloride (orally) to dissolve the stone, and possibly other stones.

Surgical procedures

If this does not work, it is best to proceed with surgery. The first option is to remove a file Urethral process, the minute appendage at the end of the penis. However, this is only successful if the pebble is present in this structure. The advantage of this technique is that the animals can still mate afterwards (if they have not been castrated).

The second surgical solution is a urethrotomy. An incision is made in the skin a few centimeters below the anus of the male animal up to the ureter. Then the urethra is also cut longitudinally over a few centimeters and sutured to the skin on both sides. This creates a permanent opening through which the animal can urinate. A disadvantage of this process is that the artificial opening will close, usually within a period of about a year. However, this differs completely from one animal to another. A new operation is often necessary, with lower chances of success. In addition, urine also causes irritation of the skin on the buttocks in some cases. It is then necessary to apply the cream and clean it several times a day.

A wound created on the tip of Buck's penis.  Due to the pressure of the stone, the tissue in that spot dies, resulting in a wound.
A wound created on the tip of Buck’s penis. Due to the pressure of the stone, the tissue in that spot dies, resulting in a wound. – Photo: UGent

The third operation is the insertion of the so-called “Foley catheter” into the urinary bladder. A silicone tube is placed connecting the bladder to the abdominal wall through an opening in the lower abdomen. The point here is that the urine can be emptied and in the meantime the food ration and thus the urine is acidified. By diluting the more acidic urine and relieving the affected urinary tract, the obstructed stones dissolve, the catheter is gradually closed for longer periods and the animal urinates again through the normal ureter. Once the animal is able to urinate again, the tube is removed and the skin wound can heal. This surgery is considered a more long-term solution than the previous surgical method, as the urethra itself is not affected.

precautionary measures

Although there are treatments for urolithiasis In existence, the motto “prevention is better than cure” is more relevant in this problem. Preventive measures are mainly based on balanced rations and increased water intake.

First of all, one should look at the diet of animals. Minerals, such as the Ca/P balance, are often unbalanced. This makes it easier to shape the stones. They will also be present in a higher concentration. Therefore, it is necessary to follow a proper diet. Animals with increased needs should only be fed concentrates, such as growing, pregnant or lactating animals. Goats that fall outside of these categories do not need concentrates and ideally receive them in the least amount possible.

As mentioned before, water supply is also very important. Water should be easily accessible and plentiful for animals. This way the urine will be less concentrated and crystallization of minerals will be prevented. In winter, it is advisable to offer the animals lukewarm water, as they drink less water that is too cold, which increases the risk of stones forming again.

The third important preventative measure is neutering dollars older than 6 months. Castration at a younger age means that the urinary system will develop less due to a lack of testosterone, which is necessary for the expansion of the urinary system.

Finally, ammonium chloride can be mixed prophylactically into the feed. This is also used therapeutically to dissolve stones in the bladder. The ammonium chloride in the feed will make the urine more acidic, and since the minerals will crystallize into gravel mainly in alkaline urine, this is prevented. Commercial products are available, and some can be offered annually.

In conclusion, we can say that the formation of stones should be prevented at all times. There are treatment options, but unfortunately most of them have reserved expectations. So the message remains to correctly apply preventive measures, form a rapid diagnosis and move forward quickly with the appropriate treatment. This not only reduces the prevalence of this condition, but also increases the chance of survival.

Lauren Chantillon, Yugent

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