Zara The Rabbit: Bladder Stones

Zara, a 4-year-old Lionhead cross, has been lethargic and eating lesser than usual.  After physical examination and X-rays by Dr Pauline Fong at Mount Pleasant Veterinary Centre (Changi), Zara was diagnosed with bladder stones.

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Bladder stones (urinary calculi) can develop in rabbits of all ages & breeds. It is a painful & potentially life-threatening condition.

Some factors that lead to stone formation

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Insufficient water intake: If you are using a water bottle for your rabbit, make sure the bottle is not defective and your rabbit knows how to drink from it.
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It is more natural for rabbits to drink from a bowl. Use a heavy ceramic water bowl that is not easily overturned.

  • Infrequent urination: This could be due to lack of activity (overweight, arthritic or caged up rabbit) or lack of appropriate/clean toilet area
  • Kidney disease
  • Bladder disease
  • Inappropriate diet: Excess calcium in the diet is excreted through the urinary tract where it may be deposited and form calculi in the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra.
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Rabbits with bladder stones are often in pain & may be unwilling to move or eat. It is important to weigh your pet regularly to monitor weight gain or loss.

signs of bladder stones 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Unwilling to move
  • Painful abdomen
  • Straining to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Wetness around genital area
  • Skin irritation around genital area due to urine scalding
  • Blood in urine
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Uroliths (stones) are dense & readily visible on radiographs.

diagnosis of bladder stones
  • Physical examination: larger stones can sometimes be palpated in the bladder
  • Urinalysis: to detect any bacterial infections that need to be treated
  • Radiography: the stones are typically composed of calcium salts and show up clearly on X-rays
  • Ultrasonography: to detect the presence of very small stones which may not show up on X-rays
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Zara managed to pass out a stone in blood-tinged urine during the physical examination.

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Uroliths (stones) come in all shapes & sizes. Small stones may be passed out when your rabbit urinates. Larger stones may lodge in the urethra, causing life-threatening bladder obstruction.

treatment and prevention
  • If your rabbit has bladder stones (especially large ones), surgery is necessary to remove them. There is no known diet to dissolve these stones which may increase in size over time, causing further irritation or damage to the bladder wall.
  • Increase water intake by providing plenty of fresh water and leafy vegetables to keep the urine dilute.
  • Provide ample out-of-cage time for exercise to encourage frequent urination and prevent weight gain.
  • Schedule regular veterinary check ups.
  • Speak to your vet about the optimal diet for your rabbit to prevent formation of bladder stones.
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