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Urinary Stones
(Urinary Calculi)

 

Like most forms of urinary disease, bladder & kidney stones (calculi) are the byproduct of metabolic dysfunction or poor diet. They are associated with the body's inability to effectively metabolize (use) calcium, magnesium, ammonium, or other minerals. Just eliminating these minerals from the diet will not prevent the problem. Many of the minerals that form stones are essential nutrients in a balanced diet, but they must be received by a healthy balanced body in a readily usable form.

Stones are formed when urine pH levels, or other chemical factors, cause the minerals to bind and form crystals, which in turn build upon each other to create solid structures- "stones", also known as uroliths. Uroliths are most likely to occur in the bladder, but they sometimes form in the kidneys.

To remain clean and free of harmful bacteria, the urinary tract must continually flush itself. If an animal's urethra (the tube that empties the bladder) is blocked by one or more stones, a potentially life-threatening condition, called uremia, can result. If the ureter is blocked, kidney damage may occur and progress quickly after the onset of symptoms.

The holistic herbal approach toward urinary system infection or stones must always start with a thorough dietary evaluation. Balanced nutrition is paramount in the effective treatment and prevention of urinary stones. A positive change in diet often equals a long term cure. After that, the primary objectives are to assist the body in eliminating the stones and to help moderate urine pH (which is normally slightly acidic) with ammonium chloride, diuretic and demulcent herbs and also to inhibit infection and reduce the painful inflammation that makes urination difficult with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory herbs.

Stones can be a problem in goats, especially wethers (neutered males), but also in bucks (intact males). This is because stones can become lodged in the bend in the penis, called the sigmoid flecture, or at the small tip of the penis, called the pizzle. Wethers are especially at risk because the urethra, does not grow to its full diameter if the male goat is castrated before puberty. Does can get urinary stones also, but these usually pass easily through the larger short straight female urethra.

Symptoms of Stones:
(A goat may, or may not, show all symptoms)

  • Abdominal discomfort. Restlessness, kick at their belly and frequent attempts to urinate.
  • Attempts to urinate may be accompanied by twitching of the tail. The goat may groan or cry while attempting to urinate. In straining to urinate he may even prolapsed his rectum. This could be confused with constipation.
  • There may be drops of bloody urine, or crystals on the hairs around the prepuce (penis shaft). Palpation (feeling) of the penis may reveal significant pain, distention and/or swelling.
  • If the urethra has ruptured, the abdomen may be swollen (known as water belly) and the goat may lose its appetite and become depressed.

Prevention:

  • The key to prevention is proper diet. Feed ration with at least a 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio (2 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus). Be aware that alfalfa hay is higher in calcium than grass hay which can also upset the balance.
  • Make sure your goats have access to clean water at all times.
  • Avoid too much grain or pelleted ration. Most full grown wethers do not need to be fed more than 1 CUP of grain per day. Always provide plenty of fresh, clean, water. Addition of 3-4% salt in the ration stimulates water intake and thereby may be beneficial.
  • Postpone neutering as long as possible to allow the urethra to grow. We never neuter earlier than four weeks of age.
  • Another preventative is the addition of ammonium chloride to the diet; this helps to acidify the urine. This helps to make the crystal components more soluble, and the goat will be more likely to urinate them out than form stones. Ammonium chloride (NH4Cl) can be added your individual wether's/buck's feed at the rate of 1 tsp. per 150 pounds, or generally to the feed at the rate of 0.5-1.5% (see table below). 
  • The diet should provide ample amounts of Vitamin A.
  • You could also use E Z P herbal formula to aid in preventing stones

This chart below tells how much Ammonium Chloride (NH4Cl) to add to your feed for a preventive. The problem is, when mixing with the feed by the ton, does it take into account the fact that you feed wethers much less grain than you do bucks, and so, they would not get the proper amount of NH4Cl.  I weighed out the NH4Cl from Molly's Herbals and I figured out the measurement in tsp. as opposed to grams to make it a bit easier to use. 

Ammonium Chloride as a Feed Additive (Preventative)

Ammonium Chloride
To mix, add pounds/ton of feed
For topdress feed
0.50%
10 pounds per ton
3/4 tsp.  (2.27 gr)
1.00%
20 pounds per ton
1 tsp.  (4.54 gr)
1.50%
30 pounds per ton
1 1/2 tsp.  (6.81 gr)

Instead of mixing the NH4Cl into the feed per ton , I you may be better off top dressing 1 tsp. per 150 pounds on your goat's food per day.  This way, you know he is getting the right amount.   I actually make up a Yeast/Mineral/Ammonium Chloride mix, so I only have to measure out one thing to add to the grain as opposed to multiple products.

 

 

Treatment:

  • If urine flow is completely blocked, consult a veterinarian immediately. Surgical removal of the urethral process may provide beneficial if the blockage is at or near the end of the penis.
  • If obstruction of urine flow is not complete (animal still passing small amounts of urine) you may try withholding feed for 24 hours in conjunction with oral dosing of ammonium chloride (0.20-0.33 g/kg body weight) (see below). This may acidify the urine and help dissolve the stones. Dosing should be continued daily (you can resume feeding) for at least 1 week due to the probable presence of multiple stones in the bladder. I would also administer E Z P herbal formula

Mixing Instructions for Ammonium Chloride Solution (Oral Drench Treatment)
For a mixture of 0.26 grams of NH4Cl per kg of body weight

If the goat weighs this much:
Give the goat orally 40 CC of the following mixture
30 lbs 0.78 lbs of NH4Cl mixed with one gallon of water
45 lbs 1.17 lbs of NH4Cl mixed with one gallon of water
60 lbs 1.56 lbs of NH4Cl mixed with one gallon of water

Caution: Ammonia toxicity can a potential problem, however the oral dosing of NH4Cl to treat urinary calculi is a desperation effort. Therefore, the risk of ammonia complications may be tolerable in light of impending death if urine flow is not reestablished.

 



 

Easter the Wether - An Interesting Successful Case Study:

I was contacted by a gentleman who's 4 year old wether, Easter, had become blocked. Easter was probably blocked for several days. The vet gave a pretty low percentage chance for Easter's survival: about a week to live. I respect this gentleman very much because he would not give up trying to do all he could for Easter. He had surgery in which a catheter was placed from his bladder to the abdominal wall.  This was not in his urethra, just straight out.  This is a newer procedure that actually allows the goat to live a longer life if he survives the surgery and gets bladder function back. 

Obviously Easter did survive. It's been over a year now the wether is still with us, so I asked what treatments this wether was getting and if I could share them on my site. I cannot say this will work for everyone, but it is good to know what works for some people when we are looking for things to try to help save our goat's life.

Easter is 150 pounds.

The first month was fed strict hay and water and administered EZP Tincture as suggested on the bottle and Ammonium Chloride in liquid form (see above). After the first month, they began the following feed regimen (though they continued the EZP Tincture for a while longer at the bottle dose.)

The feed ration being used is : 

  • one part Buckeye goat feed due to the approx.  1 1/2 - 2: 1 calcium to phosphorus ratio
  • One part sheep mineral  2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio
  • 1- 2 tsp. ammonium chloride
  • small amount of apple/carrot slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon EZP

He had been getting a 2 time a day feeding, but is only fed 1 time a day in the summer.
The feed and mineral is "eye-balled" but it is not a lot of feed, maybe 1/4 cup of each.
Easter gets timothy/grass mix hay: free feed in the winter; a share of the horses ration of hay in the summer.

 

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