Urinary Calculi

  • Urinary Calculi

    Posted by theholisticgoat on September 10, 2023 at 8:37 am

    “Urinary calculi or ‘water belly’ is a common metabolic disease of male sheep and goats. The disease occurs when calculi (stones), usually comprised of phosphate salts, lodge in the urinary tract and prevent urination. Normally, phosphorus is recycled through saliva and excreted via feces in ruminants. High grain, low roughage diets decrease the formation of saliva and therefore increase the amount of phosphorus excreted in the urine.”


    It is almost always from too high phosphorus in the diet and not enough calcium; therefore the common recommendation to avoid alfalfa in the diet of males is not just incorrect, but dangerous. Goats need a 2:1 or even 4:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus in their diets, so if you don’t provide calcium in some form, you increase the risk of UC.

    List resources, information, experiences and data on UC management here.

    theholisticgoat replied 1 month ago 1 Member · 5 Replies
  • 5 Replies
  • theholisticgoat

    September 10, 2023 at 8:39 am

    Small ruminant urinary obstruction: decision trees for treatment

    This is a good summary on the treatment options and survival rates for UC. If you’re facing a vet visit, this will give you information on what treatment to ask for.


  • theholisticgoat

    September 10, 2023 at 9:10 am

    Many claim that a high alfalfa diet will lead to calcium carbonate stones in the urinary tract that cause UC. This does not appear to be confirmed in any data and indeed, I have talked to many producers feeding only alfalfa as a hay ration who have not had issues with calcium UC.

    My own personal experience: I have fed alfalfa as the only hay ration to my goats for over 15 years. For 8 of those years, they were on a dry lot eating nothing but alfalfa. We have not had a case of UC.

    This study looked at causes and has an important breakdown on diet:

    Diet—The primary types of diet were recorded for 311 of 354 (88%) case goats. One hundred seven of the 311 (34%) goats were fed grass or kept on pasture, 74 (24%) were fed grass hay, 37 (12%) were fed alfalfa hay, 55 (18%) were fed commercial foods (type not specified on the submission forms), 26 (8%) were fed whole grains (eg, corn or wheat), and 12 (4%) were fed hay and pelleted grain mixture (pelleted grains blended with vitamins and minerals).” (Risk factors for calcium carbonate urolithiasis in goats: https://avmajournals.avma.org/view/journals/javma/247/3/javma.247.3.293.xml)

    Please, please reply to this with any data you have that confirms the statement that alfalfa is the cause. Until such data emerges, I can only go with experiential knowledge and my experience tells me alfalfa is a safe, ideal hay source for all classes of goats.

  • theholisticgoat

    November 6, 2023 at 4:49 am

    An experimental model for calcium carbonate urolithiasis in goats



    Calcium carbonate is a common urolith type in small ruminants with no high‐yield experimental model to evaluate animal susceptibility or preventative measure response.


    That novel plastic winged implants would allow accumulation and quantification of calcium carbonate calculus formation in goats on a high‐calcium diet and identify individual variation between goats in the mass of calculi produced.


    Eight nonpregnant 3‐ and 4‐year‐old Boer‐cross does, weighing 22.3–39.5 kg, determined to be healthy based on physical examination, were used in these experiments.


    Prospective cohort study for in vivo experimental model development. Implants were placed into the urinary bladder lumen in 8 goats over 2 evaluation periods. The alfalfa‐based ration had a total ration Ca : P of 3.29 and 3.84 : 1, respectively. Urine was collected at 0, 28, 56, and 84 days in the 1st experiment; blood and urine at those timepoints in the 2nd experiment. For each evaluation period, the implants were removed 84 days after implantation and weighed. Accumulated calculi mass was calculated and compared between goats and was analyzed for composition.


    Implant retention was 100% and 86% in the 2 studies. All goats with retained implants accumulated calcium carbonate at a mean implant gain per day across studies ranging from 0.44 to 57.45 mg. Two goats accumulated (0.44–7.65 mg/day and 33.64 & 57.45 mg/day) significantly more urolith material than the cohort across both studies (P = .047). No routine analytes on blood or urine were found to be explanatory for the difference observed.

    Conclusions and Clinical Importance

    These findings form a basis for implant and diet selection for use in future studies of urolithiasis development and for studies regarding individual susceptibility to urolithiasis.


  • theholisticgoat

    November 6, 2023 at 5:30 am

    In its article on UC, Merck makes the following claim:

    “Chloride salts, such as calcium chloride, sodium chloride, and ammonium chloride, can attach to the matrix binding sites and prevent formation of a nucleus.”

    I wanted to confirm this because calcium chloride is table salt and that would be an accessible option to add for UC prevention.

    Instead, I found this study which seems to indicate the opposite. However, without access to the full article, it’s not clear if they identified the type of UC they were looking at, so I suppose it’s possible still–though unlikely from what I can see–that there’s some form of UC sodium chloride can prevent.

    This is important to look at though, because it underscores a point I often try to make: verify all sources, even the authoritative ones.

    Efficacy of Various Chlorides and Calcium Carbonate in the Prevention of Urinary Calculi

    <b scrollto-destination=”107138548″ style=”background-color: var(–bb-content-background-color); font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: var(–bb-body-text-color);”>Summary

    Wether lambs averaging 29 kg. were used in nine treatment groups of 21 to 25 lambs each and fed a known calculogenic basal ration to which either ammonium chloride, calcium chloride, sodium chloride or calcium carbonate was added. Each compound was fed as 0.5 and 1.5% of the diet.

    Feeding either 1.5% ammonium chloride or calcium chloride resulted in a significant reduction in urolithiasis. The incidence was 4, 4, 33 and 24%, respectively, when ammonium chloride, calcium chloride, sodium chloride and calcium carbonate were fed at the 1.5% level, and 42, 46, 38 and 44%, respectively, when fed at the 0.5% level. The controls had a 50% incidence of calculi.

    <b scrollto-destination=”107138548″ style=”background-color: var(–bb-content-background-color); font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: var(–bb-body-text-color);”>

    Feeding ammonium chloride or calcium chloride at the 1.5% level also significantly lowered urine pH and significantly increased urinary calcium excretion. None of the compounds had a detrimental effect upon feed consumption, rate of gain or carcass grade when fed at either level.


    (Merck: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/urinary-system/noninfectious-diseases-of-the-urinary-system-in-large-animals/urolithiasis-in-ruminants)

  • theholisticgoat

    November 6, 2023 at 5:35 am

    Here’s another one that shows the same results:

    Feeding trial. Data pertaining to the feedlot trial are presented in table 1.
    Control lambs had a 50% incidence of urinary calculi. The feeding of ammonium chloride resulted in a significant (P < . 01) reduction of urinary calculi with only
    one nonobstructive case occurring in lambs on this treatment. Lambs receiving
    calcium chloride had one obstructive case of calculi early in the experiment and two
    additional cases that were encountered at slaughter. This reduction attributed to
    calcium chloride, 16% incidence vs. a 50% incidence in the controls, was significant
    at the 5% level of probability. Feeding 1% potassium chloride significantly (P < . 05)
    increased the incidence of urinary calculi resulting in a total (obstructive plus
    nonobstructive) incidence of 85%. In this instance, obstructive cases alone
    accounted for a 35% incidence.

    While feeding 4% sodium chloride or 2% calcium carbonate appeared to lower the
    incidence of urinary calculi, the reductions were not significant. Data previously
    reported from this station showed that the protective effect of calcium carbonate
    added to high-phosphorus rations improved up to the highest calcium-to-phosphorus
    ratio (2. 3:1) used. The calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of the 2% calcium carbonate
    ration fed in the current experiment was 1.7 :1.

    Lambs receiving ammonium chloride, potassium chloride or sodium chloride had the
    lowest feed consumption and, subsequently, the lowest average daily weight gains.


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