What is Kidney Failure ?
Kidney failure in rabbits is one of the most common serious conditions that can affect your pet, especially as he gets older. However, it can also affect your rabbit at a young age. Your rabbit's kidneys are vital organs needed to filter waste from his bloodstream and control a variety of other bodily functions. Unfortunately, if your rabbit develops a severe case of renal failure and his kidneys quit functioning altogether, the condition is irreversible.
While medication can be given to your rabbit to help assist him with the loss of some bodily functions, the drugs cannot replace the functions and unlike your rabbit's liver, his kidneys aren't able to rejuvenate themselves. The only way to reverse this condition is to do a complete kidney transplant and at this time kidney transplants are not performed on rabbits. Eventually, due to medical treatment not sufficing as the condition progresses, euthanization will be necessary. Due to the serious nature of kidney failure in rabbits, it is highly recommended that you immediately contact your veterinarian if you have concerns that your pet is experiencing kidney issues.
Kidney failure in rabbits occurs when a rabbit's kidneys are no longer able to function correctly. It is a noninfectious disease which is also known as renal failure. Kidney failure can affect rabbits of all ages and for a number of different reasons which can include cancer, cysts, infection, kidney stones, obesity, old age, toxins, or trauma. If you think your rabbit may be experiencing kidney failure it is recommended that you contact your veterinarian immediately.
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Symptoms of Kidney Failure in Rabbits
Depending on how long the condition has been present, the severity, and the reason why your rabbit is suffering from kidney failure, you may observe one or more of the following symptoms.
- Decreased droppings
- Excessive water intake
- Heart problems
- Increased urination
- Lack of appetite
- Painful kidneys
- Urine scalding
- Weight loss
If your rabbit is showing any of the symptoms listed above, you should take him to your veterinarian immediately. If left untreated, this condition will progress and can lead to other complications, possibly becoming a life threatening condition.
Causes of Kidney Failure in Rabbits
Even though there are different types of kidney failure as well as causes that have been observed in rabbits, they are all categorized under one of two classification types. The classifications are acute renal failure, which is also known as ARF, or chronic renal failure, also known as CRF.
Acute Renal Failure - This type of kidney failure appears suddenly and is considered to be extremely serious because if it isn't diagnosed early on and treated promptly and aggressively, it can ultimately lead to the death of your rabbit. It can affect all rabbits and occur for a number of different reasons including, but not limited to the following:
- Blood infections
- Heart complications
Chronic Renal Failure While this type of kidney failure can affect all ages of rabbits it is seen more often in middle-aged and older rabbits. This condition appears gradually and progresses over longer periods of time. However, it varies depending on the individual rabbit. This type of kidney failure can occur for a variety of different reasons including:
- Dental disease
- Poor diet
- Prolonged ARF
- Urinary tract obstructions
Kidney failure in rabbits can be an extremely crucial situation and possibly life-threatening. However, there are a few treatment options that are available depending on the reason why your rabbit is experiencing kidney failure, it's severity, and type.
Diagnosis of Kidney Failure in Rabbits
When you arrive at the clinic it is important to let the veterinarian know if your rabbit is experiencing any of the symptoms known to be kidney related, as well as anything that may have recently happened to your rabbit that may have caused his condition.
To begin the diagnostic process the veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination that will allow her to rule out other conditions and help determine whether or not your rabbit is in fact experiencing kidney failure.
Your veterinarian will conduct a routine blood panel and a urinalysis which can reveal whether or not there is a kidney condition. However, it's important to note that sometimes these tests can be non-conclusive. In some cases, signs of failure do not show up until kidneys lose 65% to 75% of their functionality.
In addition, your veterinarian will perform x-rays and an ultrasound. If she determines that your rabbit is definitely suffering kidney failure she will order a cytology test or tissue biopsy to determine what may have caused your rabbit's condition and the extent of your rabbit's kidney damage.
Treatment of Kidney Failure in Rabbits
All kidney failure conditions in rabbits require immediate medical attention, especially with acute renal failure. There are a variety of therapy options that are available to treat your rabbit. However, they ultimately depend on the underlying cause and extent of your rabbit's condition, your response to your pet's symptoms, and your veterinarian’s ability to restore your rabbit's urine flow. Your veterinarian will choose to treat your rabbit with one or more of the following treatment options:
- Antibiotics for infections
- Fluid therapy
- Improving nutrition
- Supportive care
- Surgery for cysts, obstructions, tumors
In all cases, kidney failure in rabbits whether ARF or CRF, is considered to have a guarded prognosis. However, if the condition was caught early enough and treated immediately, kidney failure can be controlled. CRF can be properly handled if you follow your veterinarian's advice correctly and your rabbit returns to the clinic every 3 - 6 months for a routine follow-up, as this type of kidney failure does progress and other diseases may appear.
Recovery of Kidney Failure in Rabbits
The prognosis of kidney failure in rabbits will vary greatly depending upon the exact cause as well as the severity of the condition. In addition, older rabbits may have more difficulty with the recovery process. As with any condition, once your rabbit is on the road to recovery or is living a good quality of life with medical management, provide him with a healthy diet, lots of clean fresh water, plenty of rest and a hygienic environment.
Kidney Failure Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I have meat rabbits. We have had them for about a year and a half now with no problems. We harvested some rabbits recently and we always look closely at the organs. This time we found some of the rabbits who were about 12-14 weeks old had what looked like air bubbles in the kidneys. They eat free feed 2/3 pellets, 1/3 black oil sunflower seeds, and all the alfalfa hay they can eat. We also have some greens like kale, arugula, butter lettuce, Brussel sprout leaves, broccoli leaves and occasionally spinach and carrots. We have no less than two and in some cases three bottles of water with a dash of apple cider vinegar. None of the rabbits have any symptoms of illness. They are all acting normally. No head tilt, no bloody diarrhea, all seemed as perky as always. There was some spots of sticky poop on the cage floor that did not fall through but not much. I clean out any soiled hay and mess every day. I reasearched as much as I could online but there isn't much I can find out there about kidneys that look like they have air bubbles in them. There were no white spots on any of the organs.
Alfalfa based pellets can give your rabbit kidney stones. It is too high in calcium and I conjecture that dark leafy veg containing a lot of calcium may also be too high given in large quantities.
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My 2 year old rabbit, Charlie, has recently been diagnosed with kidney failure. The vet has given him something called ‘coatex EFA liquid pump’ for us to give him orally, telling us that it contains omega-3 which will help his kidneys. After some research on the product, I’m not quite sure what it’s meant to do for renal problems as it states it’s for skin conditions in cats and dogs. I was just wondering if you could shed some light on this as we don’t want to give Charlie anything that could potentially harm him?
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My rabbit was diagnosed with renal failure at the start of October, about 5 days after I adopted him. He was kept in our local veterinary hospital and given fluids overnight and all the problems resolved themselves until I noticed his water intake increase dramatically yesterday and he has urinated excessively today (the same symptoms that made me take him to the vet before). He was underweight when I got him and I've been trying to get him up to weight but he's had trouble doing so despite having a very good appetite. He's about 6 years old and I want to know how long he may have and may at what point will he start to feel discomfort? He's an older bunny and putting him through lots of stressful treatments doesn't seem fair especially if it's not actually going to fix the problem. Any advise on how to manage this would be welcome, right now he's a happy bunny and I want him to have a good quality of life over quantity.
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