Signs to watch for in animals with urinary tract problems are pain on urination, increase in water intake, general unthriftiness and hunched appearance in the case of stones and urine staining. A rabbit that is hunched up with fur sticking out at right angles to its body and not moving and grinding its teeth, may have a urinary tract stone blocking the exit from the bladder. This is a clinical emergency and you must get the animal to a vet immediately.
Beetroot can stain the urine red. Blood in the urine may be uterine in origin in female animals and should be borne in mind when assessing the cause of red water. Cold weather, dehydration, stress and high levels of calcium may also lead to discoloration of urine.
The cause of cystitis is an infection which may be bacterial or due to chlamydia. There is a form of chlamydia which causes conjunctivitis and cystitis in guinea pigs so if both are present then you should mention it to your vet. Doxycycline, according to Guinea Lynx, is well tolerated by rabbits & guinea pigs and effective against chlamydia. For home use, and as a preventative measure, grapefruit seed extracts, such as Citricidal (available from Higher Nature), can be very helpful in the battle against chlamydia and protozoa as well as fungal, bacterial and viruses.
The symptoms of cystitis can be helped by giving cranberry juice and barley water with honey to drink. According to Peter Gurney in his book Piggy Potions “Barley water can be made by boiling one part pearl barley with 8 parts water for 20-30 minutes. Give the cooled juice to drink and liquidise the remaining barley with favourite vegetables to a thick soup which can be syringe fed.”
If you don’t drink cranberry juice yourselves, there are several human health food sources of cranberry powder in the UK, either as a powder or in capsules.
Feed cornsilk, dandelion and celery leaves which are diuretic and good sources of potassium, plus plantain, yarrow, golden rod and cleavers. Parsley is too strong a urinary stimulant and should not be used. Marshmallow root is soothing for the urinary tract and meadowsweet contains a natural source of salicylic acid (the active ingredient in aspirin) which can help sooth the pain in animals that are not intolerant of aspirin.
Galen’s Garden’s UT Syrup contains Cornsilk, Dandelion Leaf, Marshmallow Root, Plantain and Yarrow to support the urinary tract plus Oats, Borage, Cleavers, Echinacea, Golden Rod and Nettles to support the immune system.
Rabbit urine has a pH of 7.6-8.8
Rabbit Urine Scald by Dana M Krempels PhD, University of Miami “A rabbit suffering from urinary tract problems may experience loss of fur in the genital region and hindquarters. The baldness and red, irritated skin are caused by “urine scald,” and it can happen to any bunny whose urine soaks into the fur around her vent and is in constant contact with her delicate skin.”
HRS article Bladder disease and bladder stones in rabbits by Sue A. Kestenman DVM