What is Loss of Voluntary Control of Urination?
Loss of voluntary control of urination can be caused by reduced bladder tone or obstruction. This condition can cause severe discomfort and complications for your pet; to provide your pet with the best chance of recovery it is important to seek veterinary treatment promptly.
The loss of voluntary control of urination in rabbits is also known as urinary incontinence. As many rabbits live indoors, owners are often able to detect changes in urinary pattern at the disease onset. Other symptoms that may be noticed are red, inflamed skin around the perineum caused by urine scalding, and signs of discomfort.
Symptoms of Loss of Voluntary Control of Urination in Rabbits
Symptoms can vary depending on the cause. You may notice the following symptoms in your pet:
- Blood in the urine
- Leaking of urine due to overflow incontinence
- Bladder firm and enlarged on palpation
- Anorexia due to pain
- Urine scalding on perineum
Causes of Loss of Voluntary Control of Urination in Rabbits
There are many causes of urinary incontinence. The cause will determine the treatment for your pet so it is vital that your veterinarian receives a full clinical history from you including any possible injuries or other symptoms.
Neurologic – caused following trauma or damage to the spinal cord, nerves that control the bladder or brain. Damage to the spinal cord can cause bladder distention and urine trickling due to overflow incontinence
Urethral obstruction – caused by high levels of calcium build up in urine that form crystals or sludge that can become stuck in the urethra or bladder neck and cause partial urine flow blockage
Neoplasia of the lower urinary tract – unspayed female rabbits are particularly prone to uterine tumors that have been known to cause blockage of the urinary tract. Neoplasia of the bladder wall can cause detrusor hyperactivity, reduced bladder filling capacity and impaired urethra sphincter action.
Inflammatory diseases of the lower urinary tract – caused by introduction of bacteria into the urinary tract can cause urine dribbling in rabbits
Hormones - Incontinence due to hormonal causes such as neutering that causes sphincter mechanism incompetence
Diagnosis of Loss of Voluntary Control of Urination in Rabbits
Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination on your pet. This will include a full neurological examination to rule neurological causes out. Your veterinarian will examine the perineum, palpate the bladder and if possible express the bladder for a urine sample. If this is not possible, a urine sample may be collected by inserting a sterile needle into your pet’s bladder. This sample will be used for specific gravity, culture, sediment and cytology. A large numbers of crystals that form a semi-solid mass at the bottom of the collection tube will allow your veterinarian to diagnose your pet with high calcium build up and sludgy urine causing incontinence. A presence of blood and bacteria growth indicates kidney or urinary tract infection.
Other diagnostic procedures your veterinarian may carry out are:
- Radiography and ultrasonography focusing on the urinary tract with contrast medium
- Hematology and blood biochemistry which may indicate neoplasia or renal disease
- Water intake and output monitoring
Treatment of Loss of Voluntary Control of Urination in Rabbits
As urine scalding is one of the most common presenting symptoms your veterinarian will treat this to reduce discomfort for your pet. Your pet may require sedation to have the soiled fur clipped from the perineum, tail and hind legs and the skin cleansed and dried. An antibiotic, anti-inflammatory cream may be used to support healing, corticosteroid creams may be considered as they are known to be effective for reducing inflammation, however, prolonged use can thin already delicate skin. If the scalding has lead to a secondary skin infection systemic antibiotics may be indicated. If this is the case your veterinarian may send a sample for culture and sensitivity to isolate the causative bacteria and choose the most effective antibiotic treatment. To provide pain relief analgesia will be given.
Your pet may require manual bladder expression, catheterization and flushing of the urinary tract. In some cases, your pet will require medication to assist and control bladder emptying.
If the urinalysis indicated a bacterial infection your veterinarian will use the results from the culture and sensitivity test to determine the most effective antibiotic treatment for your pet. Your pet will be given a course of antibiotics and your vet will monitor your pet’s recovery. If the cause of urinary incontinence is due to neoplasia surgical excision may be indicated.
Recovery of Loss of Voluntary Control of Urination in Rabbits
During recovery, make sure to provide your pet has clean, dry bedding to support skin healing. Your rabbit may need nursing care and gentle washing of the perineum following scalding. Prognosis and follow up visits will vary depending on the cause of the incontinence. If your pet had bacterial infections or high levels of calcium in his urine the prognosis is good; your veterinarian may request a repeat urinalysis to monitor calcium levels, bacteria and check for blood in your rabbit’s urine.
In cases of neoplasia, prognosis varies depending on surgical excision, if your veterinarian is able to excise the mass with clear margins the prognosis is fair. Unfortunately, recovery from incontinence due to neurological conditions is limited, however your veterinarian will discuss a plan with you to support comfort and quality of life for your pet.