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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The Future is Now!

I’m done school! Done! I’m back! etc.

I’m busy looking for work, planning for the future, organizing my time and all that. I’ve been working on an update to the TRC website, torontorabbits.org. I’m reading the latest Sookie Stackhouse book! I’ve got tickets to Angels in America! And it’s spring! Apple blossoms! Major home renos!

Last week, we went away to visit my Grampa (80 years old!). We were gone less than 48 hours, we had a sitter come in twice, but still the rabbit didn’t do so well (through no fault of the sitter, I should note. Dude, in case you’re reading this, you’re the awesomest! Our bun’s just an effing suck). I came back to sludge, teeny tiny poops, and a reluctance to finish his greens. Not even 36 hours! He’s gotta man up. Since then, he’s mostly bounced back, but he’s incredibly lickey (like, he’s licking everything, desperately). I’m so excited at the thought of bonding him with another bun. I really feel he needs an intimate. Before that can happen I have to fix up the cage, and save some emergency dough — but I can see it, I can smell it, I can taste it!

Health Update

I was finding sludge in Tom’s litter with increasing frequency. (Still just a drop or two at a time, still accompanied by plenty of normal urine, and still the rabbit is practically perfectly in every other way.) So I lowered his daily pellets down to 1Tbsp, and raised his greens to 70g. Since then, no sludge. The waiting game continues.

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>

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!