A urinary tract obstruction can develop suddenly in rabbits and is a serious condition that requires urgent veterinary care. Kidney stones caused by excessive calcium excretion and inflammation due to an infection are common causes of urinary tract obstructions. Obstructions cause urine and bacteria to build up in the kidneys, and they can cause the kidneys to become swollen and prevent them from functioning properly. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment approach for a urinary tract obstruction in rabbits:
Symptoms of a urinary tract obstruction include lethargy, dark-coloured urine and pain while urinating, which may present as your rabbit adopting a hunched posture when urinating or withdrawing from social contact. They will also urinate less and may have difficulty moving around. Weight loss and dehydration are also common, as your rabbit will associate eating and drinking with pain.
Your vet will diagnose a urinary tract obstruction by taking details of your rabbit's symptoms and conducting a physical exam, which will include palpating the kidneys to determine whether they are swollen. Blood and urine samples will be taken to check for infection, dehydration and abnormal kidney function. Additionally, diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or CT scan, will be carried out to determine the cause, size and location of the obstruction and check the kidneys for damage.
Treatment for a urinary tract obstruction will typically be administered on an inpatient basis and will include intravenous fluids if your rabbit is dehydrated and antibiotics if a bacterial infection is present. Some rabbits will also need anti-inflammatories to speed up healing. When kidney stones are causing the obstruction, your rabbit will either be prescribed medication that can dissolve the stones, or they will require surgery to remove the stones.
Your rabbit will need a quiet environment to recover in, so you may need to separate them from any other rabbits you have and keep young children away from them. Your vet will arrange a follow-up appointment to ensure treatment has been successful. This may involve repeat blood tests and diagnostic imaging. Additionally, if kidney stones were the cause of the obstruction, your vet may recommend changing your rabbit's diet and will provide guidance to ensure your rabbit's nutritional needs are being met without their calcium levels getting too high.
If your rabbit has any of the symptoms associated with a urinary tract obstruction, schedule an urgent appointment with your vet clinic to prevent unnecessary suffering.