Bladder stones in guinea pigs

Bladder Stones in Guinea Pigs

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Bladder stones in guinea pigs – my worst nightmare. (shortly followed by their death stares when I feed them 5 minutes and 11 seconds late XD)

Bladder stones in guinea pigs are unfortunately very common. And as someone who had a guinea pig develop bladder stones 3 freaking times and die from bladder stones (I know), I’m confident that I know a fair amount of information on this topic.

I compiled information from lots of research papers, and my personal experience, and asked my vet for this article. I’ll be sharing some screenshots and photos that I took too. You’ll learn what it is, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and my own experience with bladder stones. 

Now let’s get into it!

What are bladder stones in guinea pigs?

Bladder stones are hard lumps of minerals that can form inside a guinea pig’s bladder when it’s not empty of urine. It can be very painful and dangerous if not treated quickly and properly. 

bladder stones in guinea pigs

Causes of bladder stones in Guinea pigs 

There are multiple causes for bladder stones to form in Guinea pigs.

the most common cause of bladder stones in Guinea pigs is excess amounts of calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate or calcium carbonate

This means that when your piggy consumes foods with a lot of calcium and doesn’t absorb it all for nutrition or pee the calcium out, the leftover calcium stays in its bladder. 

Over time, the calcium forms into a sludge, which is the early stages of bladder stones. Soon if this continues, the calcium builds up and forms tiny stones – bladder stones. 

Genetics increases the chances of bladder stones too, like how despite everything I tried to prevent Popcorn from having bladder stones again, he still had to undergo surgery to remove his bladder stones again.

At the end of the day, my vet said that Popcorn may just be more prone to having bladder stones.

Poor urinary health or sudden changes in the pH levels (less than 8.5) in your guinea pig’s pee can cause bladder stones as well. 

General Symptoms of bladder stones in guinea pigs

White or cloudy-coloured urine

Just like humans, guinea pig’s urine shade can change on a day-to-day basis. However, that doesn’t mean all colours are healthy.

If the colour of your piggy’s pee is white or cloudy, that means there’s too much calcium in your guinea pig’s body, and calcium sludge is coming out. This can be quickly prevented with the right diet and a checkup with the vet, but it is also a sign of early stages of bladder stones.

one of the signs of Popcorn's bladder stones

Blood in urine

This is very painful. If you see red streaks or red colour in your guinea pig’s blood, It’s a sign of later stages of bladder stones. That means the stone is formed already and it’s much harder to just flush it out. Your guinea pig may whimper while peeing red pee from the pain too.

Fortunately, sometimes it might be just the colour pigments after eating red-coloured vegetables. So when you see your guinea pig’s urine is red, think back on what you fed it today. Is it red bell peppers? Beets? Watermelon?

If not and the colour doesn’t change within 24 hours, then you need to take it to the vet as soon as possible.

Whimpering/painful squeaking when peeing or pooping

If your guinea pig exhibits whimpering or painful squeaking while urinating or defecating, it could be indicative of a urinary tract infection (UTI) or the presence of bladder stones.

This pain and discomfort is a clear signal that your pet may be experiencing urinary issues that warrant immediate attention.

guinea pig resting in a wooden hideout - how to keep guinea pigs warm in winter

Peeing and Pooping less frequently

Did you know that a guinea pig poops an average of 100 poops every single day?

I know, weird. It’s one of the facts in this article 11 shocking facts about guinea pigs.

Anyway, my point is, your potatoes poop a lot. And if they’re pooping and peeing less, this is a bad sign.

Reduced peeing and pooping frequency compared to usual could indicate bladder stones. These changes can indicate a possible blockage or irritation in the urinary tract caused by bladder stones.

So keep an eye on your guinea pig’s bathroom habits for early detection of potential health issues.

Not wanting you to touch its belly/bladder

When bladder stones are present in a guinea pig, they can cause discomfort and pain, leading to a reluctance to be picked up or have their belly touched. Your guinea pig may show signs of distress, such as biting, whimpering, or showing aggression when you try to handle them or touch their belly area.

This behaviour is a protective response to the discomfort caused by the stones in their bladder. I mean, there’s a stone (or stones) in their bladder. Of course, it’ll cause pain.

So, it’s important to be gentle and understanding with your pet during this time and seek veterinary care.

guinea pig in a carrier

UTI vs Bladder stones in guinea pigs – what’s the difference?

UTI is an infection in the urinary tract, and symptoms sometimes come with a fever. On the other hand, bladder stones are little stones inside the guinea pig.

You can find out if your guinea pig has bladder stones by having an x-ray, and find out if it has UTI through a urine sample.

How can I be sure if my guinea pig has bladder stones? (Diagnosis)

The only way to be sure if your guinea pig has bladder stones is by going to the vet. There they will give your guinea pigs x-rays or ultrasounds to look for calcium sludges and stones. They may also get a urine sample from your guinea pig.

In our visits to the vet about Popcorn’s bladder stones, the vet gave him x-rays on multiple angles to see the stone placement and size better.

bladder stones in guinea pigs x-ray
my guinea pig, Popcorn’s x-ray. You can see the two bladder stones.

How to prevent bladder stones in guinea pigs

Unfortunately, there are no prevention methods that can guarantee your guinea pig to be bladder-stone-free, no matter how well it is taken care of.

If your guinea pig has had bladder stones before, they can easily have it again soon. And by “soon”, I mean as little as a few months.

My Vet, when telling me that my guinea pig had bladder stones for the second time

However, these are some ways to decrease the chances of your guinea pig developing bladder stones.

Feed a low-calcium diet

Adjusting your guinea pig’s diet is the key factor to prevent or delay your piggy’s body from developing bladder stones. As I said before, most bladder stones in guinea pigs are caused by excess amounts of calcium.

That’s why, when your guinea pig reaches adulthood, it’s advised to transition to a diet lower in calcium. Since alfalfa hay contains more calcium, consider switching to Timothy Hay instead.

Veggies make a nig part of it too, foods like dandelions are delicious but contain lots of calcium. Therefore, you should limit the amount of dandelions your guinea pig eats every week.

Another tip is to choose younger plants over older ones – you don’t see this tip very often, but it’s super helpful. That is because older plants contain more calcium oxalate, which is one of the factors that cause bladder stones.

Another major thing you can do to prevent your potato from getting the stones again is to notice which vegetables have high calcium content and feed them less frequently.

Using vegetables higher in phosphorus balances out the Ca: P ratio as well.

Check the veggies as well as pellets you give your guinea pigs. A lot of pellets for guinea pigs contain lots of trash ingredients too, here’s an example and recommendations on what type of pellets to choose

How to encourage my guinea pigs to drink more water

Increase their water intake

Give your guinea pig more water to drink to help flush out the calcium. Feeding veggies with high water content helps too, for example, cucumber cocktails for your piggy.

Also, filtered or boiled then cooled water contains less calcium than tap water, and that is why I always give my piggies fresh filtered water every day.

There are a lot of ways to encourage your guinea pig to drink more water. One way is to use the right water bottles that are comfortable for your piggies. Rinsing vegetables with water right before feeding your guinea pigs can also add a little bit more water to their overall consumption as well.

Vitamin C and Supplements

Don’t forget to provide your guinea pig with plenty of vitamin C to keep those bladder stones at bay—it’s super important for their health and happiness!

Also, your vet might suggest some extra goodies for your furry friend. For example, my vet gives my piggies some potassium citrate supplements to prevent bladder stones.

Notice the early signs

It’s super important to keep an eye out for any early signs that something might be up with your guinea pig’s bladder. Why? Because the sooner you notice if something’s wrong, the less pain your potato-shaped furball will have to deal with!

Just by paying attention to how your guinea pig acts and how often they pee or poop, you can catch any problems early on. And when you catch things early, you can get them fixed up quicker, which means less discomfort for your piggy.

So, keep an eye out and give your guinea pig some extra love and care!

Treatment – What should you do?

Depending on how severe it is, there are several treatments if your guinea pig has or has signs of bladder stones. I also put down some techniques I found useful to ease my guinea pig’s pain when he had bladder stones.

Surgery

It is the only way to remove bladder stones from your guinea pig once and for all. Fortunately, bladder stone surgeries in guinea pigs are one of the most common and safest surgeries a guinea pig can have, and the success rate is very high.

Full recovery is also 100% possible. Moreover, surgery is almost always necessary if the stones are big.

However, please talk to your vet about this, and if you do decide on surgery, remember to choose a vet who has experience with bladder stones in guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs are prone to anesthetic complications compared to other animals. They have a perioperative mortality rate of 3.80%. Which is quite high compared with 0.24% for cats and 0.17% for dogs.

My vet showing us how to feed Popcorn his meds

Other options

If your guinea pig only has calcium sludges or any stones, your vet may advise you to follow the prevention tips above, especially a low-calcium diet and more water.

That is because calcium sludges are completely “reversible”, meaning if you take cautious actions, your guinea pig may not have further calcium build-up to stones.

In cases where your guinea pig has small stone(s), it may be able to push them out itself! How great is that? However, the process is not guaranteed and it is painful. Bigger stones are, of course, a lot harder to push out, and please don’t expect your guinea pig to be able to push it out all by itself.

How to ease your guinea pig’s bladder stone pain

These tips are all from experience, but besides plenty of water, gently stroking them, especially their back, may help. I found that Popcorn, my guinea pig, liked his back being pet not long after discovering he had bladder stones. I’m guessing they feel like a message?

Sometimes letting them sit on pet-safe heating pads on low heat helps them too. Like humans, warmth is one of the best natural ways can ease pain.

If you’re using pet-safe heating pads like these, it’s best to add another layer to the heating pad and make sure your pet is comfortable being on it. They also should not be on a heating pad for more than 15 minutes at a time.

Conclusion

If your guinea pig has bladder stones or has it again, you’re not alone, don’t blame yourself. You’re here, learning more about it.

Remember, my guinea pig Popcorn has had bladder stones 3 times! He had surgery 2 times and pushed the stones out the first time. If you want to know about Popcorn’s bladder stones journey, from me finding out to recovery, check out the videos in the playlist I created!

You got this!

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