Urinary Problems in Goats

Small group of goats on field.
Small group of goats on field. (Image: Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images)

If your pet goat is having trouble urinating, odds are he's suffering a blockage; urinary stones are lodged in his urinary tract. The inability to urinate is a veterinary emergency. If you've ever had a male cat with a urinary blockage, you now have experienced the caprine equivalent.

Urolithiasis in Goats

Urolithiasis, or the formation of stones in the urinary tract, in goats is commonly known as water belly. These stones, composed of minerals found in the urine, get stuck in the bladder or urethra. Male goats have exceptionally long urethrae, and a blockage can occur anywhere along their length. Urolithiasis can occur in intact males but is less common than in castrated goats. Females can also develop uroliths, but the anatomy of their urinary tracts generally allows the stones to pass through.

Urolithiasis Symptoms

Goats unable to urinate are obviously uncomfortable. The affected animal might strain to pee, but it can appear as if he's straining to defecate. Your goat might cry out in pain, twitch his tail and seem anxious. He might stop eating and might look "humped-up." He could have urine dribbling out of his penis, perhaps mixed with blood. Without prompt treatment, his bladder will eventually burst and urine will enter his bloodstream. A goat can't survive a burst bladder.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your veterinarian can usually diagnosis urolithiasis based on physical signs. If it's caught early, your vet might opt for conservative treatment by administering a tranquilizer that causes the urethral muscles to relax and the stone to expel. If this doesn't work or if the blockage has gone on for some time, the vet will sedate the animal and surgically remove the urethral process. This is a part of the urethra that extends beyond the penis in goats. If that's where the obstruction is located, urine flow will return. If not, the vet might insert a catheter into the urethra to flush out the stone. If catheterizing doesn't work, your goat requires more advanced surgery, which is expensive and, even if successful, can result in urinary management problems. Your vet might recommend euthanasia over complicated surgery.

Preventing Stone Formation

To prevent future stone formation, feed your goat a good grass hay diet and no grain. He must always have fresh, clean water. Provide him with a salt block, which supplies sodium and increases his urge to drink. If he drinks water frequently, his urine is more diluted and his bladder flushes more often, helping to prevent stone formation. While castrated males make far better pets than intact goats, avoid castrating a young goat until age 3 months. The earlier the castration, the higher the urolithiasis risk, since the urethra doesn't widen as much. However, don't wait beyond 3 months, because male goats can start reproducing beyond that age.

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