Rabbit bladder sludge, stones and kidney stones
Bladder Sludge and Stones & Kidney Stones: Excessive calcium and calcium deposits in the bladder, kidney and urine
*Urinating more frequently
*Urinating outside the normal urination spot
*Straining to urinate
*Blood in the urine (some foods can color the urine true blood is thick and dark red)
*White or grey creamy urine
*Skin rashes around genetals, belly or thighs
*Depression and loss of appetite when combined with any of the above
*Excessive calcium in the bunny’s diet
*Inactivity combined with excessive calcium
Bladder Sludge, Bladder Stones, and Kidney Stones can occur in all rabbits of all breeds and all ages. It is not known why some rabbits develop this problem and some rabbits do not. It is also not known why some rabbits only develop bladder sludge and others develop stones.
Bladder Sludge (clinically known as hypercalcinuria or hypercalciuria) is when your rabbit’s urine thickens with calcium salts that do not turn into stones. This produces a creamy thick urine output. It is white to grey in color and at times can be as thick as toothpaste.
Bladder and Kidney stones are hard stones found in the bladder or kidney and are the consistency of a chalky stone. In some cases, if the stone is small enough, it will pass with the urine, but in most cases, rabbits cannot pass stones. Nor can they be dissolved as in humans.
In two noted cases at the rabbit rescue, two bunnies suddenly doubled their water intake. This was described to us as a sign of kidney problems.
What causes bladder and kidney problems?
Some rabbits may have a genetic predisposition for forming bladder and kidney stones though this has not yet been scientifically proven.
For various reasons, your rabbit may not be drinking the proper amount of water (suggested proper water intake is 90-100ml/kg per day, though due to your bunnies metabolic rate and other factors, your bunny may not drink as much). Not drinking enough may lead to chronic dehydration, causing more concentrated urine and leading to the development of sludge.
An inactive rabbit will not drink enough water and not urinate as much as they should causing the urine to sit in the bladder giving calcium crystals time to combine and thus cause sludge.
Rabbits can digest only as much calcium as their bodies need, the remaining calcium will pass through the kidneys and bladder. A diet high in calcium (such as alfalfa hay and some pellet foods) will provide more calcium than your bunny can process. With a lack of water to flush the kidneys and bladder, and inactivity causing less urination, this calcium remains in the kidneys and bladder and binds together to create sludge or stones.
Parasites, infections, and other kidney and bladder diseases can cause problems with the kidneys and bladder and change the way calcium is processed in your rabbit.
Bladder Disease caused by tumors, growths and infections can irritate the lining of the bladder making it inflamed and thus create stones or sludge.
What can be done for a rabbit with bladder or kidney problems?
If your furry friend appears to be having trouble urinating, you see small stones in the urinary output, or your bunny exhibits any of the other signs of possible urinary and bladder problems have your bunny checked by a rabbit knowledgeable veterinarian. Your veterinarian can run various tests for bladder and kidney infections, X-rays can tell if your bunny has stones.
Your rabbit veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics if infections are found. However, Antibiotics can be very dangerous in a rabbit, so make sure your veterinarian has been trained in rabbit care and knows which antibiotics are safe. Surgery may also be necessary if large stones are present.
With the first signs of bladder sludge or stones, you need to immediately remove high calcium items from your rabbit’s diet. Remove any pellet food containing more than 0.6% calcium. Do not feed a bunny over 6 months alfalfa hay except as a small treat. Remove Kale and Spinach from your rabbit’s diet.
Increase fresh vegetables in your bunny’s diet. You can even include dandelion leaves, stems, and flowers, and fresh grass (items that have not been treated with fertilizer or pesticides.) Thoroughly clean your rabbits water bowl/bottle, and make sure your friend has at least 1 quart of fresh water daily. If your bunny does not appear to be drinking very much water, you may need to administer water with a syringe. Diuresis (increase in water intake) is very important in treating bladder and kidney problems as it will help flush the bladder and kidneys, diluting the urine to help prevent further sludge or stones from developing.
Pain relief is also important as a rabbit will not eat or drink if they are in pain. Any person who has had bladder or kidney stones knows how much they hurt. Cranberry tablets or vitamin C can help heal any damage to the walls of the kidney and bladder. 25 to 50 mg of vitamin C per pound once or twice per day can be extremely helpful in healing your bunny.