Bladder Stones in Rabbits

What are bladder stones in rabbits?

The medical term for a bladder stone in a rabbit is urinary calculi. Bladder stones can be found in the urinary bladder of rabbits and, as inferred from the name, appear both in texture and appearance to be a lot like chalky stones. The bladder stones consist of calcium carbonate crystals combining together to form sand like grains and then joining to form larger concretions which are solid to the touch. It has been known for bladder stones can be as big as over three centimetres in diameter. 

How do rabbits get bladder stones?

The balance of calcium intake in rabbits is very important to their health especially since its absorption into a rabbit’s body is greatly different to the process used by humans. If the intake of calcium is too high then it seems that the result is a formation of bladder stones in rabbits. Despite this, it is important not to remove all the calcium from the rabbit’s diet as this can lead to abnormal bone and teeth growth.

The calcium carbonate in the rabbit’s urine combines to form these bladder stones. This occurs, it would appear, as a result of excess calcium in the body. Oxalates levels are also thought to contribute to the formation of bladder stones. Oxalates, which are found in many green vegetables, inhibit the absorption of calcium in rabbits. Therefore, if there are incorrect amounts of oxalates in addition to too much calcium, bladder stones are a likely result.

Obese rabbits appear to be more likely to have bladder stones. Other possible causal factors of bladder stones include not drinking or exercising enough. These factors do appear to have a positive correlation with the increase in incidence of rabbits with bladder stones. Poor hygiene levels may also be implicated.

How do I know if my rabbit has bladder stones?

Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Stones in Rabbits

Initially, owners will know if their rabbit has too much calcium in their diet if the urine becomes more white and creamy than is normal. The rabbit may urinate in areas other than its litter box or usual spot and more than is usual. This may be because the stone takes up space in the bladder leading to a greater need to urinate. Urine scald may result as the rabbit’s bottom may be consistently wet. The urine may contain blood.

The rabbit may strain to pass urine as a result of the stone preventing urine leaving the bladder which means that the condition is considered an emergency. If the rabbit is hunched up and reluctant to move then a bladder stone may be the likely cause. Teeth grinding is another sign of pain as a result of a bladder stone. A loss of appetite may occur due to the pain and stress that follows bladder stone formation. Severely affected rabbits may appear depressed and lethargic.

Medical Diagnosis of Bladder Stones in Rabbits

Consideration of the clinical signs and symptoms are an initial method of diagnosis. A medical history of the animal may also be taken into account. A physical examination is usually the next step. Urine containing blood can be confirmed using a microscope or by laboratory analysis. An X-ray is often necessary to detect the bladder stone, its size, and its whereabouts.

What do I do if my rabbit has bladder stones?

Veterinary Treatment

If owners suspect bladder stones in their rabbit then veterinary aid should be sought immediately. Surgical removal of the bladder stones is usually the only treatment method if the rabbit has not been able to pass the stone itself. The bladder could also be flushed. Pain relief is administered and the animal is anaesthetised during the operation. In some cases, fluids may be necessary to replace those lost. Antibiotics may be required. The rabbit should be having regular checkups by the vets following the operation in order to ensure that no complications or further problems have occurred. The length of time and frequency of these check-ups depends on the severity of the affliction.

Home Care Following Treatment

General home care following veterinary treatment usually involves reducing calcium intake to a more appropriate level. It must not, however, be eliminated. More green vegetables should also be encouraged. The rabbit should also drink more water if adequate amounts were not previously consumed. This can be done by flavouring the water slightly although veterinary advice is required on the products which can be used. In addition, green vegetables given can be dunked in water. Obese animals should lose weight gradually by giving them the correct diet as well increasing their exercise levels.

How do I prevent my rabbit from getting bladder stones?

The most important method of prevention in terms of bladder stones in rabbits is by making sure the rabbit is given the correct diet. This means a high quantity of low calcium hay and by minimising pellets. Green vegetables are important as part of a healthy rabbit diet. Obesity should be prevented and this can also be done by maintaining the right balance of foods. Mineral stones should not be given to the pet as this can also lead to bladder stone problems in the animal.

A fresh water supply should always be available as this can dilute the urine and reduce the probability of bladder stone formation. If the rabbit does not drink enough water then water flavourings may be administered. Additionally, vegetables can be moistened to increase water intake.

Can my rabbit die from bladder stones?

If left untreated rabbits can die from bladder stones. Not only due to the obvious complications of an inability to urinate but also as a result of possible infections which may result. Overall, rabbits with painful bladder stones have a reduced quality of life and the utmost must be done to prevent and treat them. Treated rabbits can have a good prognosis provided there are no additional complications for the animal.


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