Goat Stones

Urinary Calculi, Goat Stones, Urolithiasis

The first lesson I learned and will never forget was with this very common, preventable, and treatable disorder effecting bucks and wethers.  I purchased a polled wether from a zoo and knew nothing about goat stones and how easily wethers could get them.  Joshua was the friendliest goat I have ever had and was my favorite pet.  I spoiled him rotten and he would follow me everywhere.  We had him for several months before he got sick.

At first he acted like it hurt to pee.  I researched online and learned about UC.  From my research I learned I was not feeding him a proper diet for a wether/buck which is the main cause for developing goat stones. I added more hay to his diet, added Ammonium chloride and salt to his feed.  But then he stopped wanting to eat and drink.  I checked him and noticed the tip of his penis was encrusted.  First mistake, I pulled whatever it was off.  I called many vets and finally found one, the only one in our area, which treated goats.  My second mistake, I took him to this vet who ended up not knowing anything about goats.

The vet poked and prodded poor Joshua who was a champ and allowed him to continue even though you could tell he was in pain.  The vet told us yes, he believed it was UC and would have to drain the urine.  My thought from what I read online was he would remove the vermiform appendage and then catheterize him to remove the excess urine.   Before I knew what was happening, the vet took a syringe and needle and stuck it into Joshua’s belly.  He couldn’t get anything out and said he must have missed and did it again.  Poor Joshua was screaming his head off.  I yelled at the vet, got him to remove the needle and hauled my poor Joshua off the table and home.

I can’t say for certain, but it is my belief that the vet ruptured his stomach or bladder or wherever it was that he stuck that needle through.  By the time I got him home, he just lay down and was crying a lot.  Joshua would not move.  I laid down with him and he would try to lift his head up and look at me and the look I got was such agony and sorrow.  He was in so much pain and there was nothing I could do to help him.  My husband finally put him down to end his suffering and I have not and will not go back to a vet since.  RIP my love, My Joshua, you will forever remain in my heart.

Now that my sob story is over, here is what I have learned about UC, how to prevent, and how to treat.

Note: Common name terms:  distal flexure = sigmoid flexure; vermiform appendage = pizzle = urethral process

Bucks and especially wethers are susceptible to UC.  Proper diet is essential in preventing UC, and hay is an essential part of that diet.  Grain feeds need to be monitored for the proper calcium to phosphorus ratio which should be 2 to 1.  Stones begin to form when the urine ph levels cause minerals to bind to form crystals in the urinary track, similar to kidney stones in humans.  The stones block the flow of urine causing great pain, discomfort, and oftentimes death.  This is because stones can become lodged in the bend in the penis, called the distal flexure, or at the small appendage at the tip of the penis, called the vermiform appendage.  Wethers are more prone to UC usually because they are often castrated at too young of an age.  Castration stops the growth of the urethra.  If done before the urethra has been given ample time to grow to its normal diameter, it becomes more difficult for the solid particles to be eliminated.

Symptoms

A goat will show signs of abdominal discomfort, lethargy, restlessness; they may kick at their belly, try to pee often, dribble, or seem to be in pain when trying to pee; they may lie down often and cry; they may have no appetite; there may be drops of blood in the urine, or a crystallized mess stuck to the hairs around the penis opening, the penis itself may be swollen and/or stones may be felt in the vermiform appendage.   If the urethra has ruptured, the abdomen may become swollen.

Prevention

High hay diet with proper grain feed levels of calcium and phosphorus.  Adding 4% salt as a top feed to increase thirst and drinking; add 1cup Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) to 30 gal water supply 2x week will all help prevent UC.  A cranberry mineral block and/or cranberry mash may be given weekly as well.  I prefer these natural methods for prevention and have not had another case of UC since.

Chemical prevention – add Ammonium sulfate as a top feed at the rate of 15g/100# goat per day; or Ammonium Chloride (AC) at 1tsp/150# goat per day.

Treatment

If goat is still able to urinate, withhold feed for 24hours.  Prepare AC mix (1.5tsp AC for every 75# of goat to 20cc water) Give oral dose Day 1-3: 2xd at 12 hour interval, Day 3-7:  1/2tsp AC Mix 2xd every 12hrs. AC burns the throat so you may have to use a stomach tube to drench.  Start a strict Hay and ACV/water diet during treatment for the next two weeks.  DO NOT force a goat with UC to drink water.  If there is a blockage, the water has nowhere to go.  After two weeks, slowly add the proper grain feed ratio back into the diet with AC at 1 tsp as a top feed. Start feeding with only 1/8 cup 1xd first three days, then 1/8 cup 2xd for next three days, then go to ¼ cup 2xd.  Continue the ACV/water and prevention treatments listed above.

If the goat is unable to urinate or seems to be blocked, a vet may be required.  Treatment is usually very costly and not always effective.  Stones can be lodged at the distal flexure of the penis or at the vermiform appendage.  If it is lodged at or near the vermiform appendage, an experienced owner may be able to remove the appendage to provide temporary relief and catheterize the goat at home to relieve buildup of urine/stones and restore normal flow.  80% of cases with appendage removal reoccur.   REPEAT – ONLY AN EXPERIENCED GOAT OWNER SHOULD ATTEMPT THIS PROCEDURE.  If unsure, consult a vet immediately.

To remove the vermiform appendage, have the goat in a sitting position and manually work the penis out of the shaft.  The vermiform appendage, a curly appendage at the end of the penis, must be cut off prior to catheterizing.  Often the vermiform appendage is black and crusty in goats with UC.  The vermiform appendage can be cut off with sterilized, small, sharp, surgical scissors.  A local numbing agent such as orajel should be used.  A website showing detail of appendage removal – http://tennesseemeatgoats.com/MeatGoatMania/October2010/meatgoatmaniaoct.html

Once the appendage is removed, the goat may be catheterized to release the buildup of urine and allow urine to flow normally again.   I will not go into detail as to how this is done because I have no experience doing the procedure.  I refer you to three great links that may help.

http://www.goatwisdom.com/ch1baby_care/urolithiasis.html

http://goat-link.com/content/view/67/49/

http://veterinarycalendar.dvm360.com/avhc/Veterinary+Food+Animal/Urolithiasis-in-small-ruminants-Proceedings/ArticleStandard/Article/detail/648152