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.
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.
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.
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>