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.

Some Sludge

Yesterday morning, I noticed a white blotch on top of a pile of wet litter in the rabbit’s box. On further investigation, I realized it must be bladder sludge. It was almost as thick as toothpaste. There wasn’t a lot of it, and there was plenty of normal urine too, but I was concerned.

I saw more sludge later that night (although more fluid, less paste-like). This morning there’s a good amount of normal urine in there, and no sludge. /relief But I’ve come to realize this is not a one-off,* and if there’s more sludge in there I think we should get it out, so I’ve made an appointment with the vet for this afternoon.

(I might also mention that in all other visible respects — drinking, eating, pooping, mood, activity levels, appearance — Thomas is a-ok.)

Here’s what I’ve been doing: When I found the sludge, I wrote to EtherBun, where someone directed me to this web page: “Bladder Sludge in Rabbits” (HRN). Then I looked at these web pages: “Normal Urine and ‘Sludge’ in Rabbits” (MediRabbit), and “Bladder Stones and Bladder Sludge in Rabbits” (HRS). Since then I’ve been trying to encourage water drinking (I replaced all his hay sources and his water, super-soaked his greens, and gave him a bowl of juice-water — 1:9 pure apple juice:water), and exercise (I got out the tunnel he likes to play in, and threw some toys around the room; and I’ve just generally been trying to give him attention — I let him out at five this morning, so he could run around for his peak hours, etc).

* I’ve seen white blotches on the litter before, dry and hard, and I knew it was calcium in his urine, but I didn’t think of sludge because it was without substance — I mean, the litter (Carefresh) was dyed and stiffened, but there was nothing caked on or anything, nothing solid (as is depicted in the MediRabbit page mentioned above). So, I thought the calcium was coming out as a bit of grit clouding otherwise normal urine. Something like that is not necessarily a bad sign; it’s the normal way for a rabbit to get rid of extra calcium. However, when the urine becomes thick (sludge), or stones develop (calculi), or anything that could obstruct or inflame the urinary passages happens, this is a problem. And I realize now, the colour on his litter is too white, too concentrated, to be from just a bit of grit clouding the urine.

Okay, so I love this rabbit, he’s a good fella and deep down I’m happy to care for him. But why do bunnies have such bad timing? I’m about to start exams and really have other things to do than go the vet’s (like, for example, go to classes). With our last bun, it was always a long weekend or something ridiculous like New Year’s Eve. Yo!

Never Trust the Bun!

One of the things I wanted to write about before — this happened last month:

This is a warning to be ever-vigilant!

So out of the blue, after showing zero interest before, Chance starting nomming on the rug beneath his condo.

(A bit of background: the rug is slightly bigger than the condo, so the edges extend beyond its walls. This is best practice because edges are generally attractive to rabbits: for nibbling, pulling up, etc. So, Chance can’t access the edges from inside his cage; but, while outside his cage, they’re fair game. I watched him closely for the first couple weeks… and then became complacent.)

It sounded so much like he was eating hay, I didn’t notice at first. I wouldn’t have noticed when I did if I hadn’t happened to walk by and, in a perfunctory glance, notice the oddness of his position, so focused and crouched he was at the edge of the rug, with paws beneath and head down… Bunny!! What the eff, bun?!?

He got two or maybe three chomps in before I chased him away. With my last rabbit, I was prepared for this kind of thing: you crouch behind the rabbit, brace him against your body; you open the mouth with a fingertip at each side; and then you just keep your fingertips in there until, through the action of the tongue which I think is intended to get your fingers out, anything in the mouth is brought to the fore and easily removed. But this new guy, I’m not as confident in my handling — he zigs when I think he’ll zag, and he resists so much sometimes it’s a little frightening.

Needless to say, the rug was swallowed. (Damn beast.)

Of course, I kept an eye on him. A day or two later he came down with some pretty bad gas, which may or may not be related. This was his second case of gas with us, but the first was quite minor (and only suspected, really). Both times, he took the massage like a hero — actually flopping over and stretching wide to ease my access. Quite nice to help a bun and have him know you’re helping! This time I gave two doses of simethicone, too, which he mostly licked up from the bowl. Really, he couldn’t have made it any easier on me. Luckily, he didn’t let his discomfort impact his eating, and by the next morning he was back to normal.

Big sigh of relief!

And lesson learned! Now we watch him closely around the rug (even though he’s since gone back to his old ways of ignoring it), and we’ve removed all visual obstructions so that we can see what he’s up to from the sofa. And I put a tile down over the bitten area because I know: once-bitten, forever-attracted!

Pre-Planning Continues Even After “Pre” No Longer Applies

Because we jumped the gun in taking on Chancellor, I never actually finished all my preparations. I still need:

  • Cuisinart KS-55C kitchen scale — for weighing food and buns
  • Faux sheepskin swaths — best material for sick buns who can’t make it to the litter box
  • Electrolyte formula — I’d like a veterinary instead of paediatric brand because for paediatric I can only find huge bottles; I’d like a powdered formula or else small bottles so that I don’t pour half of it down the drain on account of the short lifespan once opened
  • Plastic jugs for easy spot-bathing
  • First aid instructions — I have most of the info I want in my notes but not in an easy-to-find-when-I-need-them format, so I’m working on writing them on index cards, one per ailment, all affixed with a binder ring
  • Water bottle (see last post)
  • Bunny-proofing — mostly this is taken care of, but there are a few improvements I want to make, like an ornamental fire grate for in front of the bookshelf, and something to keep Chance from biting a certain table, etc. — more to come on this topic, I’m sure
  • Critical Care — we have some but it expires soon