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Is there a point when a rabbit can't live with bladder sludge?
Hello Dana :)
My daughter has a Dutch rabbit called Cookie. He is seven years old and an absolutely delightful member of our family. Bladder sludge has been becoming more persistent to the point where just over a month ago we had his bladder flushed. During the release appointment, the vet expressed concern regarding the inflammation in his penis. It bled more than usual and they had to increase the anaesthetic. Her most painful words were, "If this continues, there is a quality of life issue and euthanasia is the only option". This news was devastating. We were given two weeks antibiotics and Metacam.
Cookie is such a happy rabbit but the sludge has returned, as expected, and I am sure it is because he doesn't drink enough. At this stage I have no reason to question the quality of his life. My daughter has been expressing his bladder. Cookie co-operates but doesn't like it! I have bought cranberry juice and romaine lettuce.....I'll try anything to see if it helps.
I really need to know if there is a point where sludge becomes unmanageable and euthanasia is the only option? I would be very grateful for any words of advise. Thank you, Sally.

Dear Sally,

I didn't see what your vet saw.  But I have a hard time believing that bladder sludge would ever be a reason for euthanasia, as long as it's manageable with subQ fluid therapy and gentle bladder expression.  It's not for the vet to decide Cookie's quality of life:  he does not LIVE with Cookie, so he has no idea what Cookie is willing to endure.  I find it offensive when a veterinarian pretends to know more about an animal's quality of life than the person who LIVES with that animal and can see his/her daily behavior.

If Cookie is happy, eating well, acting fine and generally cheerful, then I would keep up with what you're doing (and perhaps add weekly fluid therapy to help suspend the sludge before expressing). I would also find a different vet (rabbit-savvy) for a second opinion.  Some vets are just gloom and doom when an animal is not perfect.  It drives me mad.  You have to be Cookie's advocate and stand up for him when you know you're right.

If there were ever a stage when you could not express the sludge and Cookie was in extreme agony, then surgical intervention could be attempted.  But I would not automatically jump to euthanasia if the problem could be treated surgically and you were willing to go that distance.

Hang in there.



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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.


I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:

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For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.


I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology

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