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What is Bladder Lavage?

Bladder lavage in your horse is the process of “washing” out the bladder with sterile solution. Sterile solution is introduced via a catheter into the bladder and then allowed to “wash out” of the bladder via the same catheter, taking accumulated crystals and sediments with it. This becomes necessary when urine crystals accumulate as sediment in the bottom of the bladder, sometimes forming cystoliths in the bladder, which can cause blockage in the urethra. When a horse experiences bladder disorder due to trauma, such as can occur during foaling, or when disease such as neurological disease or nerve disorder prevents the bladder from emptying normally, a buildup of sediment from urine in the bladder can result. Removal of sediment buildup is required to prevent irritation and blockage. When this occurs, your veterinarian can remove excess sediment in the bladder with bladder lavage.

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Bladder Lavage Procedure in Horses

Your horse may be sedated if required to allow the insertion of a catheter. A urine sample will be taken to determine if infection is present and chemical composition that may aid in diagnosis of underlying urinary tract disorder. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories may be prescribed if warranted. A catheter is inserted into the ureter and sterile solution, sometimes dosed with acetic acid to decrease urine pH, is introduced into the catheter with the minimum required pressure to perform the lavage and not incur damage. The lavage solution flows into the bladder, picking up sediments and “washing” them back out through the catheter. In some cases, the catheter may remain in place to provide complete drainage if required by the condition present. Usually, the catheter is removed when the lavage is complete. Urine collected may be sent for laboratory analysis to aid in diagnosis of underlying pathology.

Efficacy of Bladder Lavage in Horses

Lavage of the bladder can circumvent the need to perform cystotomy surgery to remove blockages. Conducting bladder lavage to flush out accumulated sediment, coupled with the administration of medications to correct incontinence, is the most effective and least invasive process. Prognosis for horses experiencing chronic incontinence is guarded and reformation of sediment in the bladder is likely.

Bladder Lavage Recovery in Horses

If a catheter is being left in place for a period of time it will require monitoring to ensure it does not become displaced or that irritation of the urethra does not occur. Medication to correct the cause of incontinence will be required in conjunction with bladder lavage to treat the problem resulting in sediment build up in the bladder. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatories may be continued post-surgery. Fluid intake and output should be monitored to assess bladder functioning.

Cost of Bladder Lavage in Horses

The cost of bladder lavage varies dispensing on your location and mileage charges incurred by your veterinarian. Bladder lavage can range in cost from $200 to $500.

Horse Bladder Lavage Considerations

Prognosis for horses experiencing chronic incontinence is poor and the condition is likely to recur. Introducing foreign fluids into the bladder can cause damage to urinary organs and structures and can predispose them to infection. Care to ensure sterile procedure and caution when performing the procedure will mitigate this.

Bladder Lavage Prevention in Horses

If incontinence develops in your horse, receiving timely veterinary treatment will reduce the likelihood of sediment building up in the bladder and forming blockages. Providing your horse with plenty of water to ensure that they do not experience dehydration and reduced urinary output will also help in preventing urinary tract disorder and build up of alkaline crystals.