A Story of Urinary Calculi

Chip Can't Pee!

A Story of Urinary Calculi

Reading Time: 3 minutes

While this particular story is about a sheep, the condition that this sheep suffered from is also commonly seen in goats. Chip is a wether sheep. His owner, Jon, takes good care of his small herd of goats, sheep, and alpacas. When Chip one day suddenly looked very ill, Jon, fortunately, paid attention. Chip was standing very still and “looked sick.” He would also occasionally strain, as if he were sneezing but without the sneeze part. Jon immediately called the vet who was able to come three days later.

As the veterinarian examined Chip, he found that the tip of Chip’s penis was necrotic, meaning that the tissue was dead and decaying. This was definitely not a good sign, and Jon’s heart dropped. As the vet attempted to insert a catheter, it simply would not go past a certain point in the urethra. Fortunately, this vet had a portable ultrasound machine with him. Using the ultrasound, he was able see that Chip’s bladder was nearly full of calcium deposits, called calculi. The only good news from the ultrasound was that there was still some air in Chip’s bladder, meaning that there was a little room left. You see, when an animal has a buildup of calcium deposits in their bladder that cannot pass through the urethra, they will eventually build up to such a mass that either the calcium deposits or the buildup of urine behind a blockage bursts the bladder, killing the animal.

With the good news that Chip still had a little time, he was taken for surgery. During the surgery, the vet cut the urethra right above the point of blockage and moved the entire urethra to make the exit point under the anal sphincter like a female sheep. Chip was kept in isolation for two months as he recovered because he kept bleeding at the site of operation off and on for much of that time. There was also a risk of scar tissue forming that would facilitate another blockage, so Chip needed to be under close observation. During this time, Jon also made a drench of ammonium chloride dissolved in water that he forced down Chip’s throat to help dissolve the remaining urinary calculi. This was administered along with an antibiotic shot periodically throughout the recovery period. Eventually, Chip was healed and rejoined the herd. It has been over a year since Chip’s surgery, and although he has to urinate like a ewe, he is healthy and recovered with no recurrence.

Now that we know Chip has recovered, we come to the question of why did this happen? Well, basically getting grain regularly is not that good for your ruminant animals. Too much phosphorous in relation to calcium usually in grain increases urine pH and allows the calcium stones to form. While grain companies often include ammonium chloride in their grain mixes, it is not enough to truly prevent calculi from forming.

Chip was fortunate that Jon recognized his animal being in distress and that the vet was able to identify the problem. This problem can potentially be avoided with less grain-fed, better-balanced grain, and even delaying castration.

Originally published in the September/October 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *