Water belly, technically known as urinary calculi, refers to deposits that are in the urinary tract, usually found in male cattle and sheep. The deposits block urine from flowing, and if there is prolonged blockage it can result in the rupture of the urethra causing the urine to flood into the surrounding tissues.
While there are other types of urinary calculi, there are 2 that tend to be more common. Both are mineral in nature and also most common in cattle and sheep. The first type is phosphatic and is normally formed when at a feedlot. The second is a siliceous and typically occurs in range animals.
Diagnosis of water belly can be difficult because the symptoms can often be confused with other maladies and the symptoms can vary from mild to severe when the urinary passages are obstructed. The most common symptoms of water belly are an arched back, stamping their feet, and tail twitching, and kicking at their abdomen. The animal will probably appear restless and will frequently strain in unsuccessful attempts to urinate. If there is not a complete blockage, you may see urine slowly dribble out.
Once the blockage causes the bladder to rupture, the urine will accumulate in the lower abdomen and it will begin to swell gradually. Once this starts to happen, the animal will probably lose their appetite, get quiet, and also is likely to lie down and be reluctant to stand. The next stage is death. Post-mortem examination of animals that have died from a ruptured bladder shows blood-tinged fluid in the body cavity, severe infection in the abdominal cavity, inflammation of the urinary tract, and a hemorrhagic like condition at the point of rupture.
If an animal is diagnosed with water belly, treatment requires reestablishment of the ability to urinate. In some mild cases, the animal may respond to ammonium chloride. This can be administered either in feed or drench. Additionally, smooth muscle relaxants may...