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Guinea pig bladder stones often develop when calcium carbonate from the pig’s food undergoes precipitation, forming round, hard pieces that simply stay in the pig’s bladder or urethra.
When you suspect that your guinea pigs have one or more bladder stones, you will most likely get worried.
In the guinea pig, bladder stones may cause its bladder to tumble around, causing irritation and pain, and ignoring the symptoms could be a death sentence for your pet.
Fortunately, it’s possible to get rid of guinea pig bladder stones, and you can also take preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of your guinea pig developing bladder stones.
But how do you get rid of bladder stones in your guinea pigs?
- Prevention and Treatment of Bladder Stones
- Preventing Bladder Stones
- Recognizing the Signs of Bladder Stones
- Managing Your Guinea Pig’s Bladder Stones
- Final Thoughts
Prevention and Treatment of Bladder Stones
The formation of bladder stones in pigs is a common problem, but the good news is that there are plenty of options to prevent guinea pig bladder stones.
Although the cause of bladder stone formation is not fully known, some reports indicate that high levels of calcium in the diet may be involved.
Better management of bladder sludge by feeding your pig a proper diet is an excellent preventive measure.
No matter where bladder stones are affecting your guinea pig, one way or the other, their removal is a must.
Once they are formed, no medication can dissolve them, and the longer they stay untreated, the more painful and larger they become.
If they seem to be in a bit of pain or are panting, it’s best to call for an immediate vet appointment.
Unfortunately, guinea pigs don’t have vaccinations against any diseases, including bladder stones, which normally result from improper diet.
That said, knowledge about your guinea pig’s dietary needs may help a lot when it comes to avoiding problems before they arise.
Diet adjustments are a crucial preventive measure.
A good diet will include:
- Increased fluids
- A variety of vegetables (mostly leafy greens)
- Unlimited high-quality grass hay
- Limited or no low-calcium guinea pig pellets
Encourage eating grass hay as much as possible, and this should be the foundation of every guinea pig’s diet.
Grass hay should be available all the time.
However, hay that contains high calcium content should be avoided as it may predispose the formation of urinary stones in your guinea pig.
As you all know, guinea pigs are herbivores, and their digestive system can extract nutrients from a variety of greens and grasses.
Alternatively, wet, leafy greens and forages are also an excellent choice.
Use a little lower calcium pellet or use no pellets at all.
If you remove pellets, you can compensate by offering a wide range of appropriate vegetables and a few fruits.
A Vitamin D supplement is required for proper calcium absorption for a guinea pig lacking exposure to sunlight.
Guinea pigs drink a lot of water, so ensure your pig has enough fresh water every day.
Ensure you provide multiple sources of freshwater.
Lack of enough water can speedily cause dehydration and bladder problems in your guinea pig.
You can increase fluid intake by doing either of the following:
- Use multiple water bottles to encourage drinking
- Keep water bottles clean and fill them regularly with fresh water
- Wet down leafy greens
Under normal circumstances, dietary oxalate binds with calcium.
Most often, foods higher in calcium are also higher in oxalic, providing enough oxalate to bind with the calcium.
The Phosphorus to Calcium Ratio
A proper calcium-phosphorus ratio is a part of what brings good health.
Calcium is essential when it comes to bone growth, as well as other metabolic functions.
Evaluate the diet you provide to your pigs intending to get the recommended ratio of between 1.5:1 and 2:1.
Exercise encourages more fluid intake, which helps in preventing sediment formation in the bladder.
Additionally, exercise helps check weight, thereby improving the guinea pig’s happiness and overall health.
Always keep the bedding dry and clean.
When guinea pigs sit in the same spot for extended periods, they become more prone to infections and develop urinary tract complications.
If the beddings are wet, they can harbor bacteria.
Also, trim butt hairs to limit bacterial growth, which is often aggravated by constant wetness.
There are several supplements used in the treatment of guinea pig bladder stones.
Their prescription increases the urine alkalinity, helping prevent the formation of calcium carbonate/oxalate.
Guinea pigs cannot make vitamin C, so your pigs may need a vitamin C supplement to shun serious health issues.
Vitamin C deficiency, known as scurvy, can typically affect your guinea pig in many ways, but all the problems are reversed upon administration.
Some supplements are also used to help manage pain and inflammation.
Rely on an experienced pig vet to prescribe them.
Preventing Bladder Stones
Prevention of bladder stone in guinea pigs is a whole lot easier than having to deal with an already formed stone.
But, how can you prevent bladder tones (or bladder sludge) in your guinea pigs?
Bladder sludge is an accumulation of gritty particles in your guinea pig’s urinary bladder which leads to the formation of stones.
This sludge can get stuck in the urethra during urination or remain in the animal bladder irritating the bladder wall, bloody urine, or completely blocking the urethra.
Keep your guinea pig on dry, clean bedding
Wet bedding may discourage guinea pigs from emptying their bladder, making them hold their urine for longer.
Furthermore, dirty bedding may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
Such bacteria may travel through the urethra and enter the bladder, thereby causing a serious infection.
Feed your guinea pig a reduced or low calcium diet
The most common bladder stones in guinea pigs are calcium-based (calcium phosphate or calcium oxalate).
When you feed your guinea pig with a high calcium diet, the body gets saturated with calcium, forming deposits in the urine.
Therefore, it’s crucial to feed your guinea pig with pellet food that is well-balanced pellet and calcium controlled.
Good food options include:
- Hay-based pellets, but always check the brand labels as most pellet brands are higher in calcium
- Have a wide range of herbivore foods
- Avoid foods high in calcium like strawberries, parsley, celery, spinach, and alfalfa hay, or better still you can limit these foods to once a week or completely exclude them from your guinea pig’s diet
- Vitamin D has also proved to be useful when it comes to the complete absorption of calcium as it’s one of the additives in many pig pellets, but it’s good to ask your vet if you are unsure about your pig’s needs
Give your pig a different range of reduced calcium foods
In most cases, any kind of food is likely to have higher ratios in certain minerals than in others, so give varying types of foods to your pig.
For instance, carrots contain high oxalate levels, and this can cause a build-up resulting in the formation of bladder stones.
When you feed your guinea pigs with carrots every day, the chances of inducing oxalate bladder stones are high.
Varying up or alternating your pig carrots often can give oxalate enough time to get washed out of your pig’s system, preventing build-ups.
Guinea pigs should not eat the same food for two days to allow system cleansing between eating times.
Encourage your guinea pig to drink lots of water
To achieve this, you need to place several water bottles in your guinea pig’s hutch so it can drink lots of water.
Taking much water will help keep your guinea pig’s urinary tract healthy.
Housed together, guinea pigs require multiple water bottles because, in most instances, the head pig may dominate a single drinker, thereby preventing others from accessing water.
Increasing fluid intake by either adding water bottles or wetting down leafy greens can encourage water consumption, helping prevent stone formation in your pig.
Recognizing the Signs of Bladder Stones
Check if the parents of your guinea pigs have a history of bladder stones
It isn’t clear why some guinea pigs still suffer from bladder stones, although they maintain a matching diet with those who do not have them.
One of the theories indicates that a genetic component can influence how your guinea pigs process the minerals available in their food.
In the case that these minerals aren’t appropriately processed, there is a possibility they’re deposited as crystals or sludge in the pig’s bladder, thereby sticking together to form stones.
Take note of your guinea pig’s urine for any sign of blood
Pay close attention to your guinea pig’s urine.
If you notice a dark-colored pee with an occasional blood clot on his sawdust, that is an indicator that your pig may have bladder stones.
The leading cause of blood in guinea pig’s urine is bladder stones.
These stones rub against the bladder lining, causing it to inflame.
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the color of your pig’s pee against the sawdust, and in such a case, replace the sawdust with a newspaper.
It will be easier for you to see any red-tinged color on the paper than on sawdust.
Note if your pig spends a lot of time squatting or squeals when he tries to pee
The condition may become more painful and more severe for your pig when the stone moves from the bladder to the urethra.
Your pig may become distressed because of being unable to pass water and squat, squeal, or be vocal.
If untreated, your guinea pig will continually strain to pass the urine, although to no avail.
Consequently, the urine may build-up in the bladder, and as a result, it refluxes back to the kidney.
Due to this, the guinea pig may become toxic.
When you notice that your pig displays symptoms such as lapsing into unconsciousness, extreme lethargy, or stupor, visit the vet for his medical care soon.
Confirm to see if your guinea pig has lost weight or stopped eating
Some of your guinea pigs may become so preoccupied with trying to pee that they lose weight since their food intake is minimal.
If you notice that your guinea pig isn’t eating well, take it to your vet as soon as possible.
When it comes to guinea pig bladder stones, even a day without eating can lead to severe complications for your pig, so treat this as an urgent situation that requires immediate attention.
Managing Your Guinea Pig’s Bladder Stones
Most of the time, bladder stones need surgery or medication.
However, in some instances, small bladder stones may pass without any treatment.
Change your guinea pig’s diet
It’s important to know that once the bladder stones form in your pig’s bladder, no known diet will cause them to dissolve.
Guinea pigs are different from dogs and cats, as there are specific stones in the latter’s bodies that can dissolve with a particular prescription diet.
However, a change in your pigs’ diet can lessen the recurrence of stones or a build-up of more stones in their bladder.
When it comes to preventing bladder stones, diet is one of the main components you need to consider.
As mentioned earlier, a high intake of calcium increases the likelihood of bladder stone formation.
An excellent, quality diet must include a variety of leafy vegetables, unlimited hay, as well as limited low-calcium pellets.
Undoubtedly, poor diets and low greens and grasses can contribute to bladder stone formation and reformation.
Have your pig’s pee checked for possible urinary tract infection
In normal circumstances, a guinea pig’s urine is usually alkaline with a pH of about 8.5.
However, if their urine changes the pH, then this can result in a particular mineral deposition.
Apart from that, urinary tract infections can also cause bladder stones since these infections make your guinea pig’s pee become further acidic, thus encouraging stone formation in the pig’s bladder.
If your guinea pig has stones, it should either be treated with a prescription of antibiotics on the presumption that an infection is present in the urinary tract or its pee should be sent for culture.
An ultrasound or x-ray done by a vet can also confirm stones in your pig.
If bladder stones are present, cystotomy – a surgical procedure is often recommended to get rid of them.
Additionally, a stone analysis can also determine its composition hence helping in reducing further future developments.
Consider surgical removal of the bladder stones
Surgery is a viable option for removing bladder stones.
However, surgery must be accompanied by preventative measures as surgical removal alone will only benefit the pig for about 3 to 4 weeks, which is a relatively short period.
It’s sad though true that regardless of having a successful surgery, guinea pigs have a high recurrence rate of bladder stones, despite even having put all your best efforts to eliminate the likelihood of stone formation.
Since stones in guinea pigs can lead to urinary obstruction, the animals should be hospitalized to get the necessary emergency supportive therapy they require until surgical intervention is complete to relieve them from the obstruction.
In cases where there is complete obstruction by the stones, hospitalization is needed until the bladder stones can be removed.
To verify that the stone removal is entirely successful, a postsurgical X-ray is essential.
Evaluation of abdominal X-rays is essential every 3 to 5 months as treatment is more successful when stones are detected early.
If your pet doesn’t recover, discuss with your vet about euthanization
If you suspect a bladder stone/infection in your guinea pig, have it treated as soon as possible.
However, in some instances, treatment may not cure stones in your guinea pig.
Also, some of your guinea pigs may be prone to bladder stones recurring, and sadly, your guinea pig will become very ill if the stones remain, so consider euthanizing as a better option.
Typically, your vet is in a better position to help you make the most acceptable decision for your pig.
Unquestionably, if your guinea pig has blood in the pee or pauses while giving a high-pitched squeak when urinating, it may be suffering from bladder stones.
Feed your guinea pig with diets containing a high percentage of grass hays, oat, or a wide variety of vegetables and a low percentage of pellets, to decrease stone development risk.
If the stones are small in size, you may increase the pig’s water intake as this will help flush out the stones before they become too big.
Bladder infections may require antibiotic treatment, while guinea pig bladder stones in the urinary tract may require surgery.
If your guinea pig has several bladder stones, then surgery is one option that can save his life, and where surgery is not feasible, euthanasia may end up being your only option.