Information and advice from the RVC Farm Animal Clinical Centre on Urolithiasis in Goats.
Goats are common pets and vets commonly see problems associated with stones (calculi) in the urinary tract or bladder (urolithiasis). Calculi in the bladder or urinary tract are known as a uroliths. This condition is particularly common in pygmy goat breeds, but can occur in any goat. Urolithiasis can result in blockage of the urethra, preventing urination. This in turn can lead to the bladder or urethra rupturing. Failure to recognise and treat problems quickly enough can be life-threatening.
Risk factors and symptoms
Goats affected by urolithiasis are most commonly pygmy species and they are almost always male and neutered. Lack of appetite and lethargy or increased periods lying down are common symptoms. They often stretch out as though trying to defecate but actually are straining to urinate. Because the urethra becomes blocked by calculi, they cannot urinate and the bladder becomes increasingly distended. This then puts pressure on their kidneys also, and can lead to kidney failure and severe blood disturbances.
The earlier owners and vets recognise signs of urolithiasis the better prognosis they have. It is usually fatal if it gets to the stage where the bladder ruptures. Emergency surgical intervention is required to avoid this.
Diagnosis and treatment
Urolithiasis is difficult to diagnose in the field as ultrasound is required to examine the size and shape of the bladder. The RVC’s Farm Animal Clinical Centre receives many emergency urolithiasis referrals. In these cases ultrasound and x-rays are taken on admission, which allows the team to establish a surgical plan. A cystotomy tube is placed, which allows urine to drain directly from the bladder. This diverts urine away from the urethra, giving it time to heal and an opportunity for stones to pass.
The tube is left in place for two weeks, and once the stones have passed and the urethra is healed the tube is removed. In the meantime, any kidney damage and other medical complications that may have resulted are treated with intensive care.
Preventative measures include castrating at as old an age as possible, keeping goats body weight down by feeding grass hay and minimal or no grain, and ensuring that fresh and not too cold drinking water is always available. Rainwater may be preferable because mains water can be very hard and predispose goats to calcium carbonate stones.