Guinea pigs are prone to several health problems, and getting bladder stones are one of them. Guinea pig bladder stones are a painful problem that can be life-threatening. Once you know your pig has bladder stones, they should not be ignored.
What Are Uroliths?
Uroliths are also commonly referred to as bladder stones. Bladder stones in guinea pigs can be big or small and can stay in the bladder or get stuck in the urethra. Sometimes stones are so small that they can be passed when your guinea pig urinates, but sometimes they can get stuck in the urethra or cause irritation to the bladder tissue.
Uroliths are painful, can cause bloody urine, or even prevent a guinea pig from being able to urinate if they get stuck. They are basically small stones that, if unable to be urinated out, need to be surgically removed.
How Do Guinea Pigs Get Uroliths?
The pH of urine can change, and when it does, it can form crystals inside the bladder by using minerals and proteins within the urine. These crystals can eventually accumulate and form one or many stones, or uroliths. Diet and water intake may play a role in bladder stone formation, but just like in people, we don't know 100 percent of the time what causes guinea pig bladder stones to form.
Can Bladder Stones be Prevented?
Since we don't know what exactly causes bladder stones, it is difficult to say how to prevent them. You can start by making sure your guinea pig diet is the best it can be. Offer clean water and make sure your cavy is drinking it. More dilute urine has a less likely chance of forming stones. Reduce the amount of high calcium-containing plants in your guinea pigs greens- like spinach and kale.
How to Know If a Guinea Pig Has a Urolith
If your cavy is urinating blood, has a painful abdomen, vocalizes while attempting to go to the bathroom, or is not urinating normally or at all, your pig may have a urolith. An exotics vet will be able to positively diagnose your guinea pig with bladder stones after doing a physical examination and possibly a urinalysis and/or radiographs (x-rays).
If a stone is present, it might show up on the radiograph, and a urinalysis will tell the vet if there is an bacteria in the bladder, blood in the urine, or crystals present that need to be treated. Never ignore anything strange that your guinea pig does. If you think something just isn't right, even if you can't put your finger on it, it is best to have your pig checked out by a vet. They are trained to find things you don't.
What to Do If a Guinea Pig Has a Bladder Stone
Your options may vary depending on a few factors. If your cavy has one or several bladder stones in his bladder that are too large for him to urinate out, surgery is your one option to save him. Even if the guinea pig doesn't have an issue when the stones are discovered, they could cause a block later on, depending on the stones shape/size, this could be uncomfortable. Supportive care can be elected until the stone results in blockage— then either surgery or euthanasia will be discussed.
If there is a stone stuck in the trigone (where the bladder turns into the urethra) or the urethra, your vet may try to remove it under sedation or try to push it back up into the bladder by using a catheter so that your guinea pig can at least urinate for the time being or before going to surgery. Sometimes, during this process, the stone or catheter tears the urethra and complications arise that require surgery.
This is a bad situation called uroabdomen, where the urine backs up and goes into the abdomen of the guinea pig. Euthanasia or emergency surgery, with a specialist, should be elected at this point.
If the stones are really small, your vet may have you increase your pig's water intake to help flush them out of his body before they are too big that he can't.
Regardless of your specific bladder stone situation, guinea pigs that have stones should be kept as comfortable and as stress-free as possible. If your guinea pig lives with another pig, bring that pig along to the vet and ask your vet for guinea pig specific pain medications and/or anti-inflammatories. Depending on the situation, you can help your guinea pig through this by just giving a little extra TLC. You might also consider surgery to remove any stones.