Lower Urinary Tract Infection in Rabbits
Bladder Infections ussually occurs as a result of high concentrations and accumulation of bacteria in the bladder or urinary tract. However, for these bacteria to cause active an infection and thrive, a rabbit typically has to have some preexisting underlying factors such as a poor immune/defense system or high calcium levels in the urine.
Urinary tract infection is seen most commonly in middle-aged rabbits, around 3-5 years old. Obese rabbits with a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition are also at risk.
Symptoms and Types
Some rabbits with bacterial infections of the lower urinary tract may not show any signs, but many more do. A few of the more common signs include:
- Bloody urine (hematuria)
- Thick, beige- or brown-colored urine
- Urinary incontinence, especially during confinement or at places that are not customary (i.e., locations he has not peed before)
- Frequent urination, but only in small amounts
- Skin scalding/burns due to urine, especially around genitals and hind legs
Although the bacteria ultimately causes the bladder infection, there are many factors that may make the rabbit more susceptible to the infection, including:
- Lack of exercise
- Cage confinement
- Exclusive diet of alfalfa-based pellets
- Conditions that can cause urine retention or incomplete emptying of the bladder (e.g., obstruction of the urinary tract, bladder)
- Not drinking enough water (due to unavailability or poor source of water)
- Inadequate cleaning of litter box or cage
- Excessive administration of vitamin and/or mineral supplements such as calcium
You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your rabbit's health and onset of symptoms. He or she will then conduct a blood and urine analysis on the animal. If an infection is present, the urine will typically show apparent abnormalities such as abnormal coloring or increased white blood cell counts. Based on these, your veterinarian will order a urine culture in order to determine the exact strain of bacteria that is present in your rabbit's urinary tract.
Because other disorders may be present as well, your doctor will need to differentiate a urinary tract infection from other urinary tract diseases, such as a more severe bladder infection, kidney stones, bladder stones, tumors, etc. Visual diagnostics may include ultrasound of the bladder or urethra, and both regular and contrast X-rays – by which an oral or injected dose of liquid barium, a material that shows up on X-rays, is used to provide a better view of the internal organs as the material travels through the body's fluid systems.
Films are taken at various stages to examine the passage of the barium through the body, making clear any abnormalities, objects (stones), or strictures in the passages. A biopsy may also be necessary to collect samples from the bladder wall for laboratory analysis if tumors are suspected. A cystoscopy, a relatively minimally invasive procedure in which a flexible tube with a camera and or surgical devices is inserted into the bladder via the urinary tract so that the doctor can conduct a visual examination of the internal organ, may be sufficient for this procedure.