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Rabbits/Bunny dribbles urine on herself in sleep, vet almost ran out of ideas


Hi Doctor Dana,

Aurie is a 17 month old Rex girl, she weigh 1.9-2.1kg, we adoped her from the shelter when she was 5 month old and she was already recovered from spay surgery so I'm guessing she was spayed at 4 month of age.
She is very active and passionate about food. We give our bunnies unlimited grass/straw hay we bought from a farm, leafy greens twice a day and 1/4-1/2 cups of Oxbow pellets each. We don't think diet caused her problem because we also has a 2 yo dwarf lop boy having exactly the same meals and being perfectly healthy.
She is deeply bonded with our boy bunny and very social with human too.
She was toilet trained.

2 months ago Aurie started to pee on herself, she's been on a dry-and-wet cycles the whole time.
She would still go to her litter box to wee, I can see she knows to lift up her tail when peeing, but the problem is she also pees or dribbles in her sleep without realising it and end up soaking her bottom & tail in urine.
We have one rabbit specialist vet in our small city, she's very caring and I think she's done all the correct things. She would also consult her professional colleges in Sydney for suggestions. But seems like we've done almost every test we could but still don't know what Aurie has. Below is the order of things we did in the past 2 months:
- Vet gave her Baytrill, 0.4ml/day for 5 days, didn't work.
- Vet did X-ray, ruled out Bldder Stone or spine problem.
- Vet checked urine under microscope, said she saw some small things moving but that doesn't necessarily mean it was bacteria, suggested to wait a week for Aurie's body to clear out Baytrill before doing a culture.
- Culture result came back negative.
- Vet did a quick ultrasound to check if there's anything left from spaying surgery but nothing unusual was found.
- Vet gave her Panacur for EC treatment, 0.4ml/day for 29 days.
- A week into Panacur treatment, we wanted to try Baytrills again because she didn't show any progression and when she first had Baytrill she was dry for 2 days which made us think Baytrill worked but it didn't clear UTI out completely, so vet gave her 0.5ml/day for 10 days.
- Aurie finished Baytrill and Panacur last weekend but still weeing herself and being very smelly.
- Yesterday vet took her blood sample to test renal failure.
- Vet suggested if the kidney disease test come out negative we can try estrogen supplement. Then other than that, vet thinks maybe it's just how she is as a bunny, there's nothing medically wrong with her.

The vet shaved the base of her tail so her fur doesn't form dreadlocks. We change her bedding everyday and bought her a litter box twice the size as before. We use soft tissues to dry her bottom whenever we're home and gave her dry bath once per week. We tried wet bath once, that made Aurie very stressed, but I think we might have to give her once per month to wash off the bad smell.

We were wondering if there's any other medical possibilities? Are there many bunnies that don't have health issues but just incontinent? Any thought is appreciated!

Megan and Lochie

Dear Megan,

Your vet has been very thorough, and has ruled out several possibilities that I would have suggested.  However, there are a few other things that might be the culprit:

1.  Anaerobic bacterial infection.  Anaerobes are notoriously hard to culture, as exposure to the air kills them.  Very special (and pain in the butt) sampling and handling techniques are necessary to obtain an anaerobic culture with live organisms.  If this were my bunny, I would ask to try an antibiotic known to have broad efficacy against anaerobes (which Baytril does not), such as dual-acting Penicillin G/Benzathine (50,000-75,000IU/kg Q 48 hr), chloramphenicol, or metronidazole.

2.  Hysterectomy damage.  Though this is far more common in humans (whose bladder support ligaments can be damaged upon hysterectomy, and our upright posture makes this worse), it's possible that scar tissue or other damage (nerve?) might have occurred during her spay, making her incontinent.

3.  Hyperthyroidism.  This is kind of weird, but we have had a few cases of bunnies with incontinence having bloodwork done to check hormone levels, and found to be hyperthyroid.  It's recently been shown in humans that hyperthyroid women have a significantly higher rate of urinary incontinence than normal, healthy females.  So that might be something to check.

4.  Low estrogen levels, which are always going to be the case in a spayed rabbit, can also contribute to urinary incontinence.

Some of the above are treatable, and some might not be easily treatable.  But I hope this gives you a few new avenues to take.

Good luck!



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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:

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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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