What are Urinary Tract Stones?
Urolithiasis is also known as bladder stones, cystitis, kidney stones, urethritis, and urinary calculi. These stones can irritate the lining of the urinary tract which in turn may cause blood in the urine, difficulties urinating, discomfort, pain, as well as full or partial blockage.
With this condition, urination can become severely painful and almost impossible. If your rabbit is unable to urinate, it means that he is unable to rid himself of excess calcium or waste, which could result in death.
Because of the potential danger, it is recommended that you take your rabbit to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any symptoms that may be a sign of this condition. Prognosis is relatively good. However, there isn't a known cure to prevent the stones from forming, or reappearing after treatment.
Even in the best of conditions with the best of care, rabbits can acquire stones which are the formation of crystals within the urinary tract. This condition is also known as urolithiasis and can occur in any of the organs within the urinary tract.
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Symptoms of Urinary Tract Stones in Rabbits
Urinary tract stones can appear gradually or suddenly, with or without any signs of sludge (a sediment formed with the combination of calcium, protein, cellular debris, and mucus that can become thick in consistency). Symptoms of these stones closely resemble those of a urinary tract infection. It's important and highly recommended that you seek veterinary assistance immediately if your rabbit begins to show any of the following symptoms:
- A hunched posture when trying to urinate
- Blood in the urine
- Beige, brown-colored, cloudy urine
- Brief and frequent urination
- Crying or grunting when being handled, moving, or urinating
- Difficulty or pain when urinating
- Loss of appetite
- Teeth grinding
- Perianal scalding
- Unwillingness to move
- Weight loss
Even though these symptoms may be intermittent and the condition can sometimes resolve itself with proper treatment, failure to seek veterinary assistance when your rabbit starts to show any of these symptoms can possibly lead to life-threatening problems and even death.
Causes of Urinary Tract Stones in Rabbits
Even though calcium consumption is thought to be one of the main causes of urinary tract stones in rabbits, it isn't the sole cause. There are a variety of different causes that can contribute to the development of this condition in rabbits. These causes include:
Diet - Rabbits are often fed a diet that is high in calcium and supplemented with greens that are high in calcium, leading to an unhealthy buildup of this mineral
Genetics - Some rabbits are predisposed to forming stones or sludge which is why genetics cannot be ruled out
Kidney Damage - Kidneys that are damaged may not be able to manage the amount of calcium to be processed
Other Illnesses - Osteoarthritis, spinal problems, or other illnesses or discomfort can cause a rabbit to sit still and not urinate regularly
Urinary Tract Infection - An abnormal structural change can occur in a rabbit's urinary tract which can increase pressure in ureters (the tubes that release urine); in addition, too much calcium can be excreted which can lead to urinary tract stones
Water Deprivation or Low Water Intake - Rabbits that are deprived of water or rarely drink will produce less urine when there is little to no water intake, which in turn inhibits the excess calcium to pass
Weight - Rabbits that are overweight may not physically be able to empty their bladder completely because of weak muscle tone or the inability to position themselves correctly to urinate; the calcium in their urine can accumulate in the bladder.
Diagnosis of Urinary Tract Stones in Rabbits
Rabbits don't often show any signs of discomfort or pain which is why clinical signs at home can go unnoticed. If at any time you notice a change in urination, contact your veterinarian immediately.
The first thing your veterinarian will do is perform a physical examination to see if any sludge is apparent on the fur by your rabbit’s hindquarters or urogenital area. He may also palpate your rabbit because stones are sometimes palpable in a rabbit’s bladder. Unfortunately, they are often too small to detect. Since the stones are usually too small to detect through palpation, your veterinarian may perform a radiographic test, which can show radio-opaque stones that are in the urinary tract, or calcium deposits in the urinary bladder.
Rabbits with multiple stones are difficult to test radiographically. Therefore, they require an ultrasound to locate multiple smaller stones. Sometimes a more thorough test of the bladder and kidneys may be done by performing an ultrasonography test.
Whenever stones are suspected, routine blood and urinalysis tests should be performed to determine calcium levels in the blood and to check kidney function. A microscopic test of the calcium deposits can also be performed to aid in detecting bacteria, red blood cells, seditious cells, and stones.
Treatment of Urinary Tract Stones in Rabbits
Anytime there is a blockage in your rabbit’s bladder or urethra your rabbit will need immediate veterinary attention as it can be a life-threatening emergency. Inpatient care is usually necessary until your rabbit can urinate on his own.
Rabbits with urinary tract stones can be treated medically or surgically. The type of stones, as well as their location and size are usually the determining factors as to whether short-term treatment which involves surgically removing the stones is recommended, or whether long-term treatment, which focuses on reducing the rabbits calcium intake, is required. Antibiotics are often used to control or prevent infections while pain management is used to help subdue the pain, and dietary modifications are used to decrease calcium and oxalate content in the urine.
Minute stones can usually be monitored carefully at home with dietary adjustments, urine dipstick blood checks, and periodic radiographs at the clinic. Sludge and smaller stones are usually flushed out at the veterinary hospital while the rabbit is under anesthesia. However, in cases of large or painful stones, surgical removal by a procedure known as cystotomy is the recommended choice of treatment and is the usual treatment.
Recovery of Urinary Tract Stones in Rabbits
Medical treatment of urinary tract stones can be very disappointing in the long-term because there aren't any natural actions to prevent stones, nor are there any effective stone dissolution diets, and the exact process of stone formation is unknown. However, prognosis is very good for rabbits and they tend to endure surgical procedures pretty well. Consult with your veterinarian as to the best diet to feed your rabbit as he recovers from the condition.
Unfortunately, rabbits that have stones in both kidneys can have a poor prognosis because removing stones from the kidney is risky, and in these cases, management is usually the only treatment choice. It might be possible to remove only the affected kidney because the remaining kidney has enough function to keep the rabbit alive. However, if the remaining kidney is unable to work near full capacity, the rabbit will have a slim chance for survival.
Urinary Tract Stones Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hi my female rabbit is not peeing anymore and no is peeing or pooping out these white small stones I dont know what to do? The day before was peeing a thick white pee and now is not wanting me to pick her up anymore and she would always let me pick her up.
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