The urine of rabbits is at no time a pleasure for the olfactory nerves – that should actually be clear to everyone.
Nevertheless, it happens from time to time that the urine obviously stinks quite particularly.
What causes this sometimes acrid smell and in which cases you should act (some of the 9 presented causes are definitely dangerous) we tell you now.
Why does rabbit urine stink?
Rabbit urine can have a strong odor due to feed, concentration of urine, sexual maturity and disease.
Therefore, a visit to the veterinarian should always be made if sudden changes occur.
Urine never smells pleasant.
In rabbits, there is also the fact that they often drink very little, so the urine is highly concentrated. This intensifies the odor and can lead to a darker color.
However, there are other triggers for a very pungent, strong or unpleasant odor that you should get to the bottom of.
We will now present 9 typical causes.
Cause 1: Sexual maturity
At about twelve weeks of age, rabbits reach sexual maturity.
Just as with humans, dogs or cats, the hormone balance changes considerably. This is also noticeable in the smell of the urine.
Especially, but not only in bucks, the urine smells much sharper and stronger. An ammonia note is often noticeable.
In addition, the animals no longer just relieve themselves while sitting, so that the urine seeps directly into the bedding. They also “squirt.” This is marking the territory and their conspecifics.
Marking can be done by both females and males.
Prevention and treatment
Sexual maturity and the changes associated with it cannot be prevented.
However, for dominant rabbits and males, neutering is an option.
This is necessary anyway if opposite-sex pairs or smaller groups with different sexes are kept. This is the only way to avoid unwanted offspring or aggression between the conspecifics.
Cause 2: Bladder stones and inflammation.
Rabbits are prone to bladder gravel and stones if fed incorrectly.
These consist largely of calcium. The risk of this is increased because the animal’s organism absorbs not only the required amount of the mineral from the food, but the complete content.
What is not consumed immediately is excreted by the body through the kidneys and bladder.
If the concentration is very high, the calcium can no longer be completely dissolved in the urine. It is therefore not deposited during dissolution, but crystallizes in the urinary bladder. Over a longer period of time, these crystals can form urinary sludge or urinary semolina and finally bladder stones.
On the one hand, these bladder stones can already directly change the smell of the urine. On the other hand, the risk of bladder infections and urinary tract infections increases. Such an infection can also make the urine smell stronger and different.
Bladder stones and infections can be noticed by various symptoms.
passing very small amounts of urine
loss of appetite
painful reactions to touching the abdomen
blood in the urine
moist to wet abdomen
However, an exact diagnosis can only be made by appropriate examinations.
These include checks of urine and blood as well as an imaging procedure such as X-ray or ultrasound. Semolina or stones can be detected in this way.
Treatment of bladder stones and bladder infections
Treatment depends on the exact cause and severity.
In both cases, it makes sense to increase the fluid intake and thus cause a flushing of the bladder. The veterinarian can start infusions for this purpose. You can support the therapy by offering tea and water-rich food.
If necessary, a painkiller and antibiotic can be administered.
If bladder stones cannot be removed by flushing because they are already too large to fit through the urethra, surgery may be necessary. This involves manually emptying and flushing the bladder to remove bladder sludge, grit and stones. This also prevents the risk of urinary retention.
As an adjunct to therapy, keep your rabbit warm, avoid stress, and offer cucumber, chamomile tea, and plenty of low-calcium greens. Another variation is to give carrots as Moro’s carrot soup, again this will help absorb more fluids.
Proper nutrition and daily fresh water in adequate amounts are the basis for preventing bladder stones.
Make sure that your rabbit drinks a lot or takes in liquid. This can be encouraged by providing plenty of green food and flavoring the water.
A thin tea infusion of fennel or chamomile, as well as cucumber or berries in the water, can make your rabbit drink more and more often.
Also suitable are cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, watermelon and other fruits and vegetables low in calcium but high in water.
Cause 3: Kidney disease
Just as with problems in the bladder area, kidney function can also be impaired, leading to stinky urine.
Possible causes include:
Strain due to the intake of medication
Formation of kidney stones
The kidneys may then be disturbed in their filtering and excretory function, which significantly affects the composition of urine and thus changes its odor.
In order to make the diagnosis, it is necessary to perform appropriate examinations. These include checking blood values, a urine sample and X-rays from two levels or, alternatively, an ultrasound examination.
Changes and stones can be detected as well as inflammations, tumors and parasites.
There is little difference between this and the treatment of the bladder. If drug therapy is not sufficient, surgery may be necessary. It is also often useful to change the diet and adjust the fluid intake.
Continuous examinations of urine and blood mean that changes in values are known at an early stage, so that appropriate changes in treatment can be made.
Again, diet and water intake are shown to be critical to kidney health.
Adequate exercise, and thus improved circulation, can also be preventative. Keep your rabbit warm and watch for changes in behavior and urine output.
Cause 4: Wrong rabbit feeding.
Not only in humans, but also in animals, diet directly affects excretions. Consistency, quantity and odor as well as color are affected.
Foods with large amounts of dyes, such as carrots, beet or peppers, can also cause the urine to change color and turn darker.
In addition, the odor may change.
Especially with cabbage, large amounts of starch and too little green food, the urine may start to stink.
Treatment by changing the feed
Treatment by the veterinarian is not necessary in this case.
However, you should take a close look at a species-appropriate diet and make the menu of your rabbits balanced and varied.
Also, change the food gradually.
A sudden change can lead to digestive problems and cause problems.
Cause 5: Poor hygiene and care
In some cases, a stronger or more severe urine odor has nothing to do with the urine itself.
However, when cages are kept with a plastic bottom tray, the odor will soak into the material over time. Even regular and thorough cleaning cannot change this.
The material is roughened by cleaning and can also be damaged superficially by the claws of the animals. This causes the stench to settle and reappear after a short time.
Added to this are the bedding and furnishings of the rabbit’s home.
If these are not changed regularly, they can also stink. Enzyme cleaners and highly absorbent bedding can prevent this problem. However, odorous materials are better disposed of.
Solution and prevention
A thick layer of bedding or placing a rabbit litter tray will protect the floor tray from heavy contamination.
Enzyme cleaners specially designed against animal odors help to clean thoroughly and eliminate stench in a gentle way.
Cause 6: Changes in the sexual organs
Both males and females can be prone to dominant behavior as they reach sexual maturity.
One sign of this is mounting and roughhousing with conspecifics.
This is not alarming to a small extent, but normal. However, if it occurs several times a day, the rabbit marks more and is otherwise restless, you should consult a veterinarian.
A possible reason is hormonal disturbances as well as changes in the sexual organs. If this is the case, a castration is usually recommended. Due to the small size of the animals, it is necessary to choose a veterinarian experienced with rabbits for this.
Cause 7: Infections
Infections, as well as parasites, interfere with various processes of the organism.
Tissues are damaged, mucous membranes produce more secretion and the excretion of some substances is impaired.
This can change the composition of urine, which also affects the odor.
Therefore, if no other reason for the stench is found, a thorough and comprehensive examination should be performed, including a blood check.
Urine and feces should also be checked to detect parasite infestation or infection early and treat accordingly.
There is, of course, no blanket answer to this, as treatment depends on the underlying disease.
Antibiotics or remedies against parasites are often used.
You can additionally support the medical treatment by strengthening the immune system. Make sure you eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise and avoid stress.
Prevent infections and parasites
A clean environment and a strong immune system, as well as regular check-ups, will help keep your rabbit healthy.
It is also important to consult a veterinarian if there are any changes in behavior. This is because animals are sensitive, but usually show symptoms late. This makes immediate treatment all the more important.
Cause 8: Medications
Some medications have as a side effect the stress of organs and can lead to an altered urine odor due to their chemical composition.
Remedies against parasites
Therapy for arthritis or arthrosis can also be noticeably reflected in the urine.
Treatment and prevention
Prevention is not possible, as these are side effects of necessary medications.
However, if the changed odor remains, this is not problematic.
If, on the other hand, symptoms appear, a change in medication must be considered.
Cause 9: Lack of hydration
Rabbits tend to drink too little.
If they are also fed dry food and hay, they also do not obtain fluids from the food. The urine is then very concentrated, which makes it smell more intense.
This is not only unpleasant for human noses, but can also increase the risk of health problems.
Treatment of dehydration
Insufficient fluid intake can restrict the flow of vital processes.
If the urine is very concentrated and is only released in small quantities, the veterinarian can directly counteract this by infusions and supply the organism with water.
A gradual change in diet with a larger proportion of green fodder and vegetables rich in water, treatment of diarrhea and plenty of exercise are also sensible.
Proper husbandry and feeding, as well as controlling the amount of water drunk, are critical.
Weak tea infusions can make your rabbit drink more. In addition, you can try offering water in more than just a water bottle. This is because some rabbits tend to prefer drinking from a bowl.
Vegetables and greens help to keep your rabbit hydrated and may still be slightly moist after washing, for example, when you offer them to your pet.
In addition, you can adjust the taste of the water. For example, put a slice of cucumber in the drinking water before you fill it into the bottle, or crush a berry in it.
When does the rabbit need to go to the vet for smelly urine?
If there is a sudden change in the smell and if it is not just due to the onset of sexual maturity, you should see a vet immediately.
This is also true if there are other symptoms besides the smell:
loss of appetite
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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