DISEASE SUMMARY PAGE

Hypercalciuria in Rabbits

Summary Information
Diseases / List of Miscellaneous / Metabolic / Multifactorial Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names Sludgy urine disease

See also:

Disease Agents
  • In rabbits, urinary excretion is responsible for 45 - 60% of calcium excretion (compared to less than 2% in most mammals); more calcium is excreted by this route when dietary calcium increases. (B602.18.w18)
  • Calcium is excreted mainly as calcium carbonate in rabbits. (B600.14.w14)
  • It has been suggested that a high calcium diet may predispose to hypercalciuria. (B600.14.w14)
    • "Although high dietary calcium intake is not always associated with urinary tract disease, a low calcium intake does appear to prevent the development of sludgy urine and related disorders." Note: it is important to ensure adequate calcium intake to avoid dental disease and metabolic bone disease. (B600.14.w14)
  • Obesity and lack of exercise may predispose to development of hypercalciuria. (B602.18.w18)
  • In rabbits which void urine only infrequently, whether for behavioural reasons (e.g. reluctance to urinate in their hutch, to which they are confined) or due to disease (e.g. sore hock, spondylosis), calcium salts sediment out within the bladder and are then retained when the rabbit does urinate, rather than being voided normally. (B600.14.w14)
Infectious Agent(s) --
Non-infectious Agent(s) --
Physical Agent(s)
General Description Large amounts of pasty or slightly gritty amorphous calcium "sludge" or "sand" in the bladder. (B602.18.w18)
Clinical signs
  • Urine thick and creamy. (B602.18.w18)
    • Urine may appear slightly milky during normal urination, but on manual expression large amounts of pasty urine are produced. (B602.18.w18, J523.6.w1)
  • On palpation, the bladder may be palpable as a doughy mass. (B602.18.w18)
  • The rabbit may show signs of pain on urination. (B600.14.w14)
  • The rabbit may only pass small quantities of urine at a time, and urine may dribble from the urethra. (B600.14.w14)
  • When the bladder is palpated the rabbit appears to find this uncomfortable, and may strain, passing a small amount of urine. (B600.14.w14)
  • The perineal area and thighs may be affected by urine scalding; there may be secondary superficial bacterial dermatitis. (B600.14.w14)
  • If hypercalcuria lead to urethritis, there may be urinary incontinence. (B600.14.w14)
Clinical pathology
  • If normal rabbit urine is shaken up, the calcium carbonate forms a suspension. In contrast, in a rabbit with "sludgy urine", the calcium deposit is a dense precipitate and does not form a suspension. (B600.14.w14)
Further Information
Diagnosis
Treatment
  • Intravenous or subcutaneous fluids may be used to increase fluid throughput and flushing of the urinary tract. (B602.18.w18, J523.6.w1)
  • Under general anaesthesia, the bladder may be expressed manually, with large quantities of calcium "sand" or "sludge" expelled (B600.14.w14, B602.18.w18, J523.6.w1); repeat daily for 2-4 days. (B602.18.w18)
  • Urethral catheterisation may be used to drain sludgy sediment from the bladder. (B601.9.w9)
  • Change the diet to one lower in calcium (J523.6.w1) - see below under "Prevention"
  • If the rabbit is obese, encourage exercise and weight loss. (B602.18.w18)
Prevention
  • "Although high dietary calcium intake is not always associated with urinary tract disease, a low calcium intake does appear to prevent the development of sludgy urine and related disorders." However, it is also important to ensure adequate calcium intake to avoid dental disease and metabolic bone disease. (B600.14.w14)
  • Feed a diet based on grass hay and green vegetables, with timothy grass-based pellets as a concentrate food. (B601.9.w9, B602.18.w18)
  • Do not feed any vitamin/mineral supplement. (B601.9.w9, B602.18.w18)
  • Limit intake of calcium rich foods including alfalfa (whether as hay or pellets), and excessive amounts of kale, carrot tops, clover and dandelion. (B601.9.w9)
  • Encourage exercise to avoid obesity. (B602.18.w18)
Associated Techniques
Host taxa groups /species
Disease Author Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referees Aidan Raftery MVB CertZooMed CBiol MIBiol MRCVS (V.w122)

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