Bladder stones or uroliths are not uncommon in pets, including small pets such as guinea pigs and rabbits. A high concentration (oversaturation) of crystals in the urine is the biggest factor in stone formation; although contributing factors include infection, dietary influences, and genetics. Bladder stones form when crystals form around a central core (which may be made up of white blood cells, bacteria, and crystals or just crystals alone). While stones can form in any part of the urinary tract, kidney stones are the least common in pets.
Bladder stones may cause no symptoms at all, but a symptomatic pet may display:
- Painful urination and/or straining to urinate
- Frequently urinating very small amounts
- Inability to urinate or urinating excessively
- Changes in water consumption (either very little or drinking water excessively)
- Decrease in appetite
- General lethargy
- Dribbling of urine
- Blood-tinged urine (although usually the blood in the urine is not visible to the naked eye and is detected at the veterinarian’s office via dipstick and/or microscopic examination of the urine).
Male and female rabbits are equally likely to develop urinary tract disease, although male rabbits are more prone to complete urinary obstruction by calculi or sludge, due to the male rabbit’s anatomy. Urinary obstruction is quickly fatal and a true veterinary emergency.
A pet displaying any of the signs noted above needs an immediate veterinary evaluation. A complete clinical exam, urinalysis with culture and sensitivity, and x-ray will be the initial steps towards diagnosis. As small pets’ bladder stones and sludge are primarily calcium, these abnormalities are detectable on a plain x-ray. Once bladder disease is diagnosed, bloodwork will help evaluate the extent of the disease and how best to treat it in the individual pet.
Next: Bladder stones in domestic pets: treatment and aftercare
Bladder sludge in small pets: symptoms and diagnosis
Brody is a sweet young American rabbit, found as a stray being chased by dogs (so his forever home would probably need to be dog-free). A Dayton Area Rabbit Network rabbit, Brody is neutered and currently in foster care, and he is ready to go to a good, forever home!
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