No more straining for information- here’s the lowdown on Blocked Sheep and Goats

Written by: Bria Osborne, OVC 2026

Edited by: Dr. Paisley Canning

Urinary blockage in small ruminants is a very serious condition requiring emergency care.  

Goats excrete minerals in their urine. These minerals can stick together and create crystals or stones in the bladder. As these stones travel through the urinary tract, they get trapped in the urethra of small ruminants. These stones block the urethra and prevent the animal from being able to urinate.  

What is it about small ruminants that make them at risk for blockages? 

  • Small and narrow urethra process (figures 1 and 2)
    • Makes it easy for stones to get lodged.
  • Sigmoid flexture (figure 1)
    • An “s” shaped portion of the urinary tract where urine is thought to flow slower, therefore increasing the likelihood of stones getting stuck.
  • Long urinary tract (figure 1)
    • In male goats, the distance from the bladder to the urethral process is very long. Having a long urinary tract gives stones ample opportunity to get stuck.

Photo credit: Comparative Veterinary Anatomy A Clinical Approach by James A. Orsini, Nora S.Grenager, and Alexander de LaHunta  

Figure 1: Notice how long the urinary tract is from the bladder to the urethral process. Also take note of the “S” shaped sigmoid flexure and the small urethral process.  

Photo credit: Pudendal Nerve Block in Male Goats: Comparison of Ischiorectal Fossa and Ischial Arch Approaches Using Low Volume 1% Lignocaine Hydrochloride. By Mujeeb Fazili, Nida Handoo, Masood Mir, Beenish Qureshi.

Figure 2: The photo above shows the small and narrow urethra of a small ruminant. This is one of the reasons why crystals and stones get trapped more easily in the urethra of small ruminants compared to other farmed species.  

Why are urinary blockages so serious?  

Once a goat has become blocked, it will not resolve on it’s own. These blockages require immediate and extensive veterinary care, often surgery, rarely are these able to be treated in the barn or with supportive care only. The complications caused by urinary blockages happen fast and are deadly. It is necessary to call your vet ASAP if you think your animal is experiencing a blockage.  

These blockages also have a high likelihood of reoccurring after the initial blockage has been dealt with. 

What issues do they cause in the body? 

  • The animal cannot urinate properly, and the kidneys get backed up with toxic substances meant to be excreted in the urine.  
  • Bladder rupture 
  • Kidney damage 
  • Pain and infection 
  • High levels of potassium in the blood causing heart damage 

What type of goats/sheep are at risk? 

Castrated males are at the highest risk for developing a blockage. Sheep and goats that are overweight and/or are receiving a diet with a high calcium: phosphorus ratio are also at an increased risk for urinary blockage. 

Signs that your sheep or goat may be experiencing a blockage 

  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Dribbling urine
  • Straining to pee
  • Bloody urine
  • Not eating, lethargic
  • Hunched body position
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Kicking at abdomen


If you suspect that your sheep or goat is blocked it is essential to call your vet immediately. Often, surgery is the necessary treatment.


  • Avoid grain and legumes for castrated males
  • Feed very dry and grassy hay to castrated males
  • Avoid overweight animals
  • Increase water intake
  • Check hay mineral levels
  • Check animal’s mineral levels
  • Acidify diet if needed

Please contact Dr. Canning if you suspect that your small ruminant may be experiencing a urinary blockage. Feel free to reach out to our clinic as well if you would like a nutrition to consult to limit your urinary blockage risk. You can contact the clinic at [email protected], or on . 


Comparative Veterinary Anatomy A Clinical Approach by James A. Orsini, Nora S.Grenager, and Alexander de LaHunta  

Urinary Caliculi in sheep and goats by Susan Schoenian (Maryland small ruminant page) 

Last updated on August 8th, 2023.