Up next in How to Take Care of a Pet Rabbit (49 videos)
Rabbits make wonderful pets. If you're thinking of getting one, check out these videos: Actress Amy Sedaris, who is a loving mom to her own pet bunny, helps rabbit expert Mary E. Cotter, Ed.D., LVT answer all your questions about how to take care of a pet rabbit. It's not always easy, but it's worth the work.
This is a plug for watching poop. I don't just mean any poop. I mean your bunny's poop. You want to know what normal poop is and what normal pee is because both of these things can help you determine whether your rabbit has a problem or not. In this case, Bean is a tiny rabbit, and I can go through his litter box and find a nice normal poop. That's this size for bean. Are there anymore in here? Not right away. You can go through your rabbits litter box at any time and pull out poops and see if they look normal. This is really good to know. You want to know what normal is so that you know what abnormal is. A litter box is a great place to find out what normal is. You'll notice here that this litter box also has newspaper in the bottom. I keep newspaper in the bottom of all my litter boxes with hay on top because when I go to look at rabbit's pee, it will be on the newspaper, and I'll be able to inspect in carefully. What's the value of that? The value of that is that when a rabbit urinates, he excretes calcium. It's normal for him to excrete calcium through is kidneys. Calcium is white and chalky looking. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does happen, it will look like this. You see a piece of poop in the middle of this sample, but it's a white, chalky looking excrement. You see it's surrounded by what was once the liquid portion. That's normal for a rabbit. What we worry about for a rabbit is that they can develop a condition called "bladder sludge," which is just what it sounds like. It's like a sandy sediment in the bladder that can be very painful when the rabbit urinates because that sand comes out. That's hard and painful to push out. When rabbits have bladder sludge, there's a lot of controversy on how to deal with that. It's poorly understood. The phenomenon is poorly understood. People used to think that if you took calcium out of the diet or removed as much as possible, fed the rabbit no high-calcium vegetables, that that would help. But what we found out through the years is that this really is a metabolic problem. Changing the diet may not be a good thing, and, in fact, may be a bad thing because if the rabbit's diet has less calcium, the rabbit may start drawing calcium from his bones to meet his calcium needs. He may start excreting the same amount of calcium. What does bladder sludge look like? How is it different from the sample you just saw? The sample you just saw was white. When a rabbit starts to develop bladder sludge, the color starts to change a bit and becomes (this is newspaper from of litter box) toward brown. Normal rabbit urine can range from light yellow to dark reddish brown. But when bladder sludge is present, you'll see a staining of the sludge itself with the urine color. It tends to look more brown. I brought a couple of samples today to give you an impression of what it looks like. Here is a urine sample with very little solid excretion in it. Here is a urine sample from a rabbit that had significant bladder sludge. Look at the difference in color. Look at the sediment you get. This is like sand. Really interesting. If I shake this sample, I can remix it into a suspension, and the whole color will be a light tan. See what happens? See how it compares with the more normal urine color here. I put this one down and bring this one up to show you that this little tube is filled with the sludge that was in this bladder. I decanted off the liquid and let it dry so that you could see the actual sand. You can imagine how painful that would be to pass out of your urinary tract. You want to be aware of what normal urine is for your rabbit. The same thing with poop. Normal poop for your rabbit (as I said, you can find poop in the litter box to find what is normal). Also, there's a condition that we in the rabbit world call "string-of-pearls" poop. What that means is that during shedding times especially, your rabbits poop may look like a set of beads on a string. This is all from one rabbit here. This is from a second, larger rabbit, as you can see. Often owners will bring in samples like this to the clinic and say, "Something's wrong with my rabbit. I don't know what's wrong with my rabbit. Look at this poop. It's all strung together with hair." Nothing's wrong with your rabbit that's the way his digestive tract is supposed to work. The hair is supposed to come out. Very often, it comes out with poop attached. That's a good thing. A bad thing is when the hair is not coming out. This is a normal, natural phenomenon, and you should be happy when you see this, not unhappy. So that's the quickie on rabbit pee and poop. Just things to be aware of. No problem for you, right?