General description 

  • Nephritis is a term used to describe damaged kidneys seen at the abattoir. 
  • An inflammatory, degenerative disease of the kidney. 
  • Prolonged damage causes kidneys to be shrunken, irregular and scarred. Recent damage causes swollen, discoloured or spotty kidneys (also referred to as ‘white spotted kidney’).  
  • Long-term, nephritis reduces growth rate/weight loss and it can lead to sudden or eventual death (weeks to months).  
  • Kidneys are condemned at the abattoir depending on the extent and spread of damage.   


  • Infections from marking wounds; poisonous plants e.g. soursobs; or toxins from some antibiotics and some fertilisers e.g. superphosphate. 

Clinical signs 

  • Some animals may be mildly affected and show no signs of illness. 
  • Animals with chronic kidney damage may suffer from ill-thrift, pale gums, increased urination and sporadic deaths.  
  • Significant damage leads to decreased production, growth and/or death.  


  • The cause of the nephritis first needs to be determined; this will require testing by a veterinarian. 


  • Will vary depending on the cause and if it is sudden or chronic 
  • Stock should immediately but slowly, be moved from known toxiareas 


  • Use sharp and clean marking equipment disinfected regularly, with a chlorhexidine-based disinfectant e.g. Hibitane.  
  • Avoid wet conditions, overcrowdingprolonged holding and separation of lamb and ewe. 
  • Choose a balanced ration introduceover 2 or more weeks.   
  • Prevent weedby quarantining new sheep for 7 days and  using weed deterrents, and provide adequate hay in weedy paddocks.  
  • Measure drench and antibiotic dosage rates accurately and use faecal egg counts to determine if drenching is required. 

Learn more 

Nephritis Factsheet