More News from the Litterbox

It’s been so long since I’ve written, I’ve really gotten out of the habit! I’ll have to break my update up into different posts. This one will be about Thomas’ health.

He’s still having bladder problems. We were in and out of the vet’s all last month because of sludge. Like before, the problem never got too bad — always plenty of normal urine, never any signs of pain. He started peeing outside the box at one point, I think because of stress. A urine test indicated no infection but lots of calcium. He’s on a pellets-free diet now, and still yesterday there was a tiny bit of sludge.

Eventually, we might have to learn how to do subQs at home, and how to express a sludgey bladder. For now, we’re trying to encourage him to drink lots of water and get lots of exercise. Also we track what he eats, and we’re going to start looking for correlations between sludge and any particular veg.

For encouraging water, he’s got his bowl and bottle, he eats plenty of hay (because rabbits that eat lots of hay typically drink more water than those that don’t), and sometimes we spike his water with a tiny bit of apple juice. We’re also looking for a cat fountain, because we’ve heard some rabbits like those.

For exercise, someone on Etherbun suggested agility training. I like it! I’ve started looking into clicker training.

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Health Update

To pick up where I left off (re. sludge):

I ended up taking nine days to reintroduce pellets into Tom’s diet. Now he’s at a steady 2 Tbsp pellets and 60g salad daily. We delay on his pellets until he’s made a good dent in his veg, to maximize water intake (we serve them sopping). I keep an eye on his urine and when there’s not much or when I see sludge, I spike his water with juice.

Yep, you read right: there’s been more sludge.

Never as much as the day I first noticed it. Only a couple of drops at a time, usually (as in figure 1 below, where the sludge is dried); at most (as in figure 2, where the sludge is wet), it’s still not a heck of a lot. And it’s not every day, not even close. And he’s continued to pee normally (when I said “when there’s not much [urine]” above, I meant comparatively speaking; there’s never been so little as to suggest a problem). And he’s otherwise perfectly normal and healthy.

Two photos of urine sludge; figure 1, two pieces of Carefresh litter with dried white dots on them; figure 2, five wet pieces of litter and two fecal pellets smeared with creamy off-white substance

I haven’t made any progress on the calcium/oxalate/veg issue. As I understand it, I should be less concerned about calcium-high veg than oxalate-high veg. But data about oxalate content in veggies is not easy to hammer down…

To summarize: life continues.

Continuing Story of Bladder Sludge

So I skipped class and went to the vet’s later that day (Fri 7 Dec). The vet examined Thomas and decided against diagnostics (e.g. X-ray) because he didn’t think it was likely the bladder was full of sludge (his reasons being the bladder was very small, and the rabbit showed no pain at having it poked and prodded). He hopes this condition can be managed through diet, mainly by limiting pellets. Since before Tom came to us, he’d been eating 1/4 cup of pellets per day. Tom weighs less than 2kgs/4lbs (between 1.65-1.75kg — he’s gained weight since we first weighed him in April, and we’re not sure what his healthy weight is). I’ve always felt this was too many pellets for such a small rabbit, so I’m pleased.

Of course, there’s no exact portion-size to rabbit-size ratio that will suit every single bunny. Given variations in genetic makeup and lifestyle, there has to be some flexibility when applying dietary guidelines. That’s why people generally talk in ranges, or in approximations. The House Rabbit Society and MediRabbit both say 1/4-1/2 cup for 6lb rabbits. Dana Krempels (from H.A.R.E.) says 1/8 cup for 5lb rabbits. The Toronto Humane Society says 1/4 cup for a 6lb rabbit. My vet’s website says 1/8 cup per 2kg of body weight. And my favourite recommendation — because it’s so simple, easy to remember, and scaleable to your rabbit’s size — is 1:1, i.e. tablespoons of pellets to kilograms of rabbit healthy body weight.

So, for the past 10 days, Tom’s had no pellets at all. Woah, yep, that’s right: the vet said cold turkey. Given all the warnings I’ve read re. the importance of gradual dietary changes, I expressed some concern with this plan, but he said not to worry, so I didn’t. I bumped up his veg 100% (up to 2 packed cups, rather than 1; that’s about 80g of veg daily), while also including about 10g of solid veg, to replace the lost calories from the pellets (I gave either carrot or fennel; he’s not familiar with any other solid veg, yet — previously these had been treats only, maybe 2 or 3g bites every few days). I also kept spiking his water with apple juice (some days 1:7 other days 1:8 i.e. juice:water). We limited but did not eliminate veg high in calcium or oxalates, such as:

  • Spinach, Dandelion, Parsley, Chard/Beet tops, Basil, Dill, Crucifers, e.g. arugula, broccoli, choy, collards, kale, mustards, radish, turnip, rapini, cress
  • [Edit: 25 Dec 2012 — The above list is not necessarily true… I’ve encountered disagreement in my sources!]

(There are many sources online I’ve consulted about the mineral contents of fresh veg; here’s one recently recommended to me: Guinea Lynx Nutrition Charts.)

The outcome from all this? No sludge! Ample normal urine! Zero signs of discomfort or ill-health! Hoorah!

Now we begin re-introducing pellets. I’m going to take 6 days, slowly working up to 2Tbsp (that’s 1/8 cup). Today he had 1tsp. You should have seen him when he heard the sound of pellets scooped into a bowl, ha ha. He usually throws some binkies when we’re getting his meals ready but this was unparalleled, a real madbun.

At the end of the day, we’re still in wait-and-see mode. This could be a problem that rears its head periodically. We may always have to ensure he’s getting enough exercise, enough water, not too much dietary calcium. The older he gets, the more sluggish his system will become; this could eventually require real close supervision, including regular subQs to help flush the bladder (in which case, I will pressure my vet to teach me and supply me to do them at home). Or, it could become even more serious, requiring a stay with the vet and more intensive bladder flushing.

Or maybe it will never happen again!?!? Here’s to hoping.

Clauss, Marcus. “Clinical Technique: Feeding Hay to Rabbits and Rodents.” Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine 21:1 (2012): 80-86. Web. 16 Dec 2012. <link>

Water, Water, Everywhere

Yesterday morning we awoke to find the water bottle empty.

Woah, what!? I know rabbits drink a lot of water (between 50 and 150mL of water daily per 2lbs of body weight), but still. Chance is about 3lbs (my guess), and I serve his greens sopping wet and he has a water bowl that he uses, too, and it’s not hot in his room, so I’d expect him to drink about 75 from his water bottle per day — definitely no more than 200mL. And his water bottle has a 340mL capacity. Goodness! Diabetes? Kidney disease? I feel around on the carpet runner flooring and there isn’t any wetness. I look in his litter box and sure, he’s used it, but not enough to warrant all that water consumption. What is up!?

Later that day, we come home from Happy Hour and the bottle is empty again. He’d pushed his blanket under the bottle earlier that day, so I pick it up — it’s utterly drenched. So, this time I feel under the carpet instead of on top and, yes indeed, it’s drenched too. I guess it’s designed to wick wetness away from the surface or something (it’s that indoor/outdoor stuff).

I’m happy Chance isn’t sick but not so happy about the water bottle. Darn ancient technologies, when will we get it right? (The ball bearing, I mean.) This was a Super Pets glass bottle but, in all fairness, it’s the second one we’ve had and we had no problems with the first.

So, Chance had to live on hardwood for the night while the carpet dried out. I think he stayed up on the top floor all night, poor guy — there was some poop up there, for the first time ever, and in the morning he still had some food left over from dinner. (Disclaimer: Chancellor can walk on hardwood and does so every day, so it’s not like I did this in spite of some phobia. But, you know, it’s not that comfy for a bun.)

So, he’s back to just using the bowl for now until I get a new bottle (or, ideally, a replacement bottom). Bah! I like giving both options.