Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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Urinary Calculi, commonly called known as "Water Belly," is a urinary-tract disease 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 is a disease that can and does kill goats quickly.

Urinary Calculi is almost always the result of improper feeding by the producer. A proper calcium to phosphorus ratio in feed, hay, and minerals is critical; this ratio should be 2-1/2 to 1. Although the disease is called Urinary Calculi, the real culprit is phosphorus -- specifically too much phosphorus in relation to the amount of calcium in the diet. Feeding too much grain concentrates and/or feeding grain concentrates with an improper calcium-to-phosphorus ratio is a major cause of Urinary Calculi. Overfeeding or improper feeding of grain concentrates causes solid particles to develop in the urine; these solid particles block the flow of urine out of the goat's body, causing great pain, discomfort, and oftentimes death. Producers who have experienced urinary-tract stones themselves will understand the seriousness of and pain associated with this condition.

Besides grain concentrates, there are other factors affecting the calcium-to-phosphous 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 the producer 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 even higher 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. However, it is essential to work with a goat nutritionist to find the right amount of calcium carbonate to add to the mineral mixture to get these ratios on target.

Goats used for show purposes are prone to Urinary Calculi because their owners tend to over-feed them with grain concentrates. Young wethers (castrated males) are especially susceptible to Urinary Calculi. Castration stops both 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 -- giving the diameter of the urethra time to grow. Castration of a goat of this age should be done under sedation by a veterinarian. The addition of hay or some other type of long fiber to the goat's diet is absolutely critical to help avoid Urinary Calculi. This is a big problem with some show-goat producers because they tend to take goats off long fiber and push grain concentrates. This is asking for major Urinary Calculi problems.

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. Sometimes the producer mis-diagnoses the problem as constipation or bloat because of goat's behavior and body stance. The producer should closely examine any male exhibiting these symptoms. Watch for signs of difficulty with urination.

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 catherized 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. Oftentimes the pizzle of a goat with Urinary Calculi is black and crusty in appearance. Removal of the pizzle does not affect breeding ability. If this treatment is unsuccessful, the goat must be taken immediately to a qualified veterinarian; the need for surgery under sedation is likely. If the producer waits too long, surgery won't save the goat. Surgery is no guarantee that the goat can be saved.

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 will usually 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. Administer Banamine (1 cc per 100 lbs bodyweight daily) for the pain that accompanies Urinary Calculi.

Vets recommend that ammonium chloride be used to treat Urinary Calculi. Ammonium chloride can be purchased in small quantities (four-pound packages) from Pipestone Vet Supply at 1-800-658-2523. Here are the dosing instructions provided to me by a producer who has been successful in using Ammonium chloride to cure 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 AC 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.

Some producers have had good luck using a product called Acid Pack available through Register Distributing: goatsupplies.netfirms.com or 1-888-310-9606. This writer has no experience with either Urinary Calculi or with Acid Pack. Regardless of the treatment used, 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. Producers without these products on hand might consider trying -- in the short term until they are obtained -- "Fruit Fresh" from the canning aisle in the grocery store. Again this writer has no personal experience with this product but hears from time to time of producer-reported success using it. Immediate veterinary assistance is highly recommended when Urinary Calculi is suspected.

Occasionally -- very occasionally -- Urinary Calculi may be the result of the mineral content of the water that the goat is drinking. The local county extension office should be able to test the water to determine mineral content. The producer 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).

The key to avoiding Urinary Calculi is feeding the goat a proper diet. Producers experiencing Urinary Calculi in their goats must change their feeding regimens. Carefully read feed labels for proper calcium-to-phosphorus ratios (2-1/2:1). 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 grass hay and reduce the amount of grain concentrates being fed. Both the health of your goats and your financial bottom line will improve.

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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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