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. In this article, you’ll know what it is, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and my own experience with bladder stones.
What are bladder stones in guinea pigs?
Bladder stones are hard lumps of minerals that can form inside the bladder when it’s not empty of urine. It can be very painful and dangerous if not treated quickly and properly.
Causes of bladder stones in Guinea pigs
There are multiple causes for bladder stones to form in Guinea pigs. 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 I’m your Guinea pig’s pee can cause bladder stones as well.
However, 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 or drinks 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.
General Symptoms of bladder stones in guinea pigs
- White or cloudy coloured urine – the colour 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
- Blood in urine – this is very painful. If you see red streaks or red colour in your guinea pig’s blood, this is a sign of later stages of bladder stones. Your guinea pig may whimper while peeing red pee. Sometimes it might be just the colour pigments after eating red-coloured vegetables.
- Whimpering or painful squeaking when peeing or pooping – a sign of UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) or bladder stones. They may also pee or poo less frequently as well due to the pain.
- Not wanting you to touch its belly/bladder – since there are stones in the guinea pig’s bladder and it causes pain, your guinea pig will less likely be willing to let you pick it up or touch its belly, maybe even biting you when you’re doing so and whimper.
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 of 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.
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. However, these are some ways to decrease the chances of your guinea pig developing bladder stones.
- Once your guinea pig has grown up to be an adult, feed it on a lower calcium diet. Alfalfa hay has more calcium, so switch to Timothy Hay instead.
- 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
- ·Feed a balanced diet – 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
- ·Notice the early signs of bladder stones – this is very important, because the earlier the diagnoses, the less pain your piggy would go through.
- 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.
- Make sure you give enough vitamin c to your guinea pig, it helps!
- Your vet may also give supplements for your guinea pig (my vet gave my piggies potassium citrate)
My vet recommended this exact vitamin C supplement hay tabs for my guinea pigs, and it’s really helpful. Try it out!
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.
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.
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 of that 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.
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!