Water belly in cattle

Livestock disease investigation case report

A steer held in station yards after recent transport from another property was found sitting upright and alert but made no attempt to rise when approached. It was noted that its abdomen was bloated and eyes sunken. The animal was euthanized and approximately 40 litres of fluid was found free in the abdominal cavity suggestive of uroperitoneum, also known as water belly.

The most common cause of uroperitoneum in ruminants is obstructive urolithiasis (bladder stones). In this case, the cause of the uroperitoneum was unknown because the source of urinary tract rupture was not identified by the submitting veterinarian and the animal’s recent arrival on the property limited the information available on some of the possible predisposing causes.

Predisposing factors for obstructive urolithiasis include excessive mineral intake, which can occur from highly mineralised artesian water or from high concentrate diets; ingestion of certain plants containing high levels of oxalate, oestrogens or silica; diets high in magnesium; feeding high concentrate low roughage rations, pelleted rations or rations high in phosphate; and concentrated urine, which is produced when there is no drinking water available or when water is of poor quality.

Further information is available from Agnote: Obstructive Urolithiasis (Bladder Stones) in Cattle

Last updated: 24 June 2016