Rabbit Urine: What Pee Tells You About A Rabbit’s Health


Everybody pees! And that includes rabbits. And, just like humans, rabbit urine can vary in color and consistency depending on their diet and hydration levels. But what about red pee? Or white pee? That can’t possibly be normal, can it?

Normal rabbit urine can span anywhere from a yellow color to a golden orange. Red, brown, or white pee are worth looking into and talking to your vet about, but these also could be perfectly normal for your rabbit. The real danger comes if you see any kind of small sand-like particles or blood in the pee, since these can be an indication of larger health problems.

You are probably reading this because you’re worried that something is wrong with your rabbit’s urine. So let’s go through all of the characteristics of normal pee and how to know when it’s time to go see the rabbit doctor. 

Color of rabbit urine

Rabbit pee can be many different colors and still be healthy pee. Usually rabbits will pee anywhere from 2-8 times a day and it will be a golden yellow or amber orange color.

The color will get a little darker and more concentrated if your rabbit is dehydrated. And it will frequently change color based on a rabbit’s diet. For example, if your rabbit has a lot of carrots one day, their pee could come out being a brighter orange than usual.

Normal rabbit pee will usually be a little bit murky, not completely clear. Rabbit’s pass excess calcium along with their urine. But if the pee looks excessively cloudy or murky, that is a sign of a more serious bladder condition.

rabbit urine color chart
Golden, amber, red, and clear urine are all possible colors of your rabbits urine. Brown or dark urine typically means your rabbit is a little dehydrated. White ‘urine’ is just a calcium deposit and it’s nothing to worry about. Bladder sludge is when you see sediment or sand-like particles in your rabbit’s pee, and this is cause for concern. Blood in urine is extremely rare, but you will know it’s present if it’s spotted rather than uniformly red.

Rabbit Urine Color Chart

YellowThis is normal pee.
OrangeThis is normal pee, but your rabbit might be slightly dehydrated. Try encouraging them to drink more water.
RedUsually there is no need to worry. This is probably caused from food in your rabbit’s diet. The color will usually return back to normal within a week.
BrownPossibly dehydrated, encourage your rabbit to drink more water.
TransparentThis is normal pee. If your rabbit’s pee isn’t usually transparent, pay attention to see if their drinking habits have changed. Excessive drinking may be a sign of kidney problems in rabbits.
Red spotsThis could be a sign of blood in your rabbits urine. But it could also be from food in your rabbits diet. Check with your vet to see if there are any health problems that need to be addressed.
WhiteOccasional white discharge is normal for rabbits. It is how your rabbit releases excess calcium from their diets. If this is a frequent occurrence, check with your vet to make sure there are no underlying conditions to be concerned about.
CloudyIf your rabbit has cloudy or chalky pee, this is a sign of bladder stones or a urinary tract infection. It’s best to get your rabbit to the vet as soon as you can.

Red pee — when is it bad?

For the most part, if your rabbit has red pee then there is nothing to worry about. While it’s not necessarily a ‘normal’ rabbit urine color, it’s rarely a sign of any health concerns.

If the rabbit pee is a uniform, consistent red color (bright or dark red), it is almost certain that the coloring is not from blood. It’s rare for rabbit urine to have blood in it, but if it does the blood will more likely appear in splotches, rather than uniformly throughout the urine.

What are the main causes of red rabbit urine?

  • Antibiotics: sometimes rabbit pee changes color when they are taking an antibiotic treatment.
  • Cold weather: When the temperature first starts to drop in the fall, some rabbits will inexplicably have red pee for a few days.
  • Diet: If a rabbits diet is high in beta carotene (carrots, spinach, etc.) or red berries (strawberries, raspberries, etc.), their pee may become a red color.

Hydrogen peroxide test

If you are still worried that there might be blood in your rabbits pee, or the color has not returned to a golden or amber color after a few weeks, you can perform a hydrogen peroxide test to determine if there is any blood in your rabbit’s urine.

Get a sample of your rabbits pee and pour a little bit of hydrogen peroxide on it. Hydrogen peroxide shouldn’t react to plain urine, but if there is blood present, the mixture will start to foam up.

Orange or brown urine

Orange or brown urine are usually nothing serious to worry about. This could be a completely normal pee color for your rabbit, but it could also mean that your rabbit is a little bit dehydrated.

In general a darker, more concentrated color of pee is a sign that your rabbit isn’t drinking as much. But if your rabbit isn’t showing any signs of distress, then this isn’t an emergency. It is probably advantageous to encourage your rabbit to drink more water though

Here are some ideas to help your rabbit stay hydrated:

  • Switch to using a water bowl instead of a water bottle. It’s easier for a rabbit to drink out of a bowl, so they will usually drink more if that’s how you give them their water.
  • Give your rabbit fresh leafy greens. Leafy greens contain a lot of water in their composition, so just eating fresh greens will help with hydration. To get your rabbit to drink even more water, leave some extra water droplets on the greens after you wash them.
  • Refill your rabbit’s bowl with cool water a few times a day. Renewing your rabbit’s bowl with fresh cool water can renew your rabbit’s interest in it. So if you’re afraid your rabbit is dehydrated, try refreshing the water a couple times a day.
  • Use a running water fountain. You can get a pet water fountain that will cause the water to constantly flow. This can be more interesting for rabbits and helps the water taste fresh.
  • Add a couple drops of flavoring to the water. You can try adding a little bit of unsweetened apple or carrot juice to their water bowl. This can make the flavor a little sweeter so your rabbit will like it more.

White or milky urine

Sometimes rabbits will excrete a white, milky substance with their urine. This is just excess calcium that your rabbit doesn’t need. It will dry into a chalky white substance.

Rabbits are very efficient in the way they absorb calcium from their food. In fact, they usually have a much higher blood calcium level than most other animals we have as pets. They absorb as much calcium as they can from their diets and then excrete the excess through their kidneys and out with the pee.

So it’s perfectly normal to occasionally find a splotch of white in your rabbit’s litter box. If you do find this happening very frequently though, it might be time to take a look at your rabbit’s diet and reduce some of the calcium high food. 

If you are feeding your adult rabbit alfalfa hay or pellets, you’ll want to transition over to timothy-based alternatives. Alfalfa is very high in calcium, which makes it great for young, growing rabbits. But it’s a little too nutrient dense for healthy adult rabbits.

If your rabbit is excreting calcium frequently, you might also want to consider talking to your vet to see if they want to perform any check-ups to make sure your rabbit isn’t developing any health problems.


Related Post

What Rabbit Poop Tells You About Their Health


Bladder sludge and bladder stones

Two of the most frequent urinary health problems that exist in rabbits are Bladder stones and the related bladder sludge. Bladder stones occur when clumps of excess calcium harden and form stones in the kidney and ureters. Bladder sludge is similar, but it is comprised of the thickened calcium that never quite forms into stones.

Both of these conditions can be painful for a rabbit. If nothing is done about it, these can lead to much more dangerous conditions. Bladder stones or sludge can also be a sign of a bladder or kidney infection, so if you notice these signs it’s important to get your rabbit to the vet as early as you can. Your vet will be able to do some tests and determine the best treatment approach for your rabbit.

Signs of bladder sludge and bladder stones

When a rabbit first starts to develop bladder sludge, there are very few signs and it is difficult to detect. But as the condition progresses, you might notice any combination of these signs:

  • Peeing more frequently than usual. Your rabbit might be peeing more than usual, they might seem to be going only a little bit at a time though. A healthy rabbit will pee between 2-8 times a day, so it’s best to compare this to your own rabbit’s urination habits.
  • Urinating outside the litter box. If the rabbit is litter box trained, peeing outside the box could be a sign of bladder troubles. Rabbits that have not been neutered may spray other areas around the house, but if your rabbit  typically has good potty behavior this could be cause for concern.
  • Dribbling pee. If you see your rabbit dribbling urine or seeming unable to control their bladder, this is a sign of bladder sludge or stones.
  • Having difficulty peeing or not peeing at all. If your rabbit is holding their tail up and sitting in a position where they are trying to pee, but they only manage to pee a little bit, this is a big indicator of bladder sludge or stones. They may look like they are constipated when this happens, but more often it is because of difficulty peeing than pooping. If your rabbit doesn’t manage to pee at all, then you should treat it as an emergency. It’s possible that a bladder stone has completely blocked their urethra.
  • Sludge in urine. Sludge will make the urine look cloudy and murky. When dried, it will have a rough, grey, chalky residue and may even have the consistency of sand. The sludge will often leave traces on the rabbits fur around their hindquarters.
  • Urine scald. Urine scald is a skin rash that occurs when comes into contact with urine for an extended period of time. A rabbit with bladder problems may be dribbling pee a lot leaving their hindquarters and back legs wet from the urine. Over time the skin will become irritated and develop a urine scald skin rash.

Causes

While doctors aren’t sure of the exact cause of bladder stones, there is some connection to these risk factors that may be the reason why a rabbit develops this condition.

  • Genetics. Sometimes rabbits just have bad genes, so they are more likely to produce bladder stones or sludge.
  • Not drinking enough water. Staying hydrated keeps urine less concentrated and makes it easier to flush out the excess calcium in the rabbit’s body. If your rabbit doesn’t drink enough water, it can lead to a build-up of calcium in the kidney making it more difficult to pass.
  • Lack of exercise. If a rabbit is sitting still all day, they are more likely to have calcium crystals form. Being inactive also makes a rabbit less likely to drink and pee often, so the calcium has more time to form crystals in the urinary tract.
  • Inappropriate habitat. If a rabbit’s cage is too small it can lead to a rabbit being less active. If their enclosure is not cleaned frequently, some rabbits will be hesitant to use the bathroom because they want to keep the area clean. They will urinate less frequently and cause the buildup of calcium crystals.
  • Kidney disease. Sometimes bladder stones and sludge are a symptom of a more serious kidney disease.
  • Bladder disease. Bladder stones and sludge can also be caused by infections, tumors or inflammation in the bladder.
  • Diet high in calcium. A diet high in calcium can sometimes contribute to the formation of bladder stones and sludge, but it is usually not the sole cause.

Prevention

Some rabbits will develop bladder stones no matter what we do to try to prevent it. But there are still steps we can take to make this condition less likely for our rabbits at home:

  • Encourage your rabbit to drink more water. Drinking water keeps the urine flowing and keeps it from becoming too concentrated. So do what you can to make sure your rabbit is staying hydrated.
  • Removing alfalfa based food from the diet. Alfalfa based food are high in calcium and generally not recommended for a healthy adult rabbit (it’s okay for young rabbits though). Check the ingredients of your rabbit’s pellets and transition to a timothy-based blend instead.
  • Feed lots of fresh leafy greens. Fresh leafy greens are good for keeping a rabbit healthy and hydrated.
  • Encourage exercise. Being active keeps a rabbit’s body moving and the juices flowing. It also encourages your rabbit to drink more water.
  • Clean your rabbit’s litter box daily. Having a clean litter box will encourage your rabbit to continue using it regularly.
  • Annual vet check-ups. Taking your rabbit to the vet once a year for a check-up can help catch any signs of sickness early.

Urinary Tract Infections in Rabbits

The other common urinary health problem for rabbits is urinary tract infection (UTI), also known as Cystitis. A UTI is when the bladder becomes inflamed due to a bacterial infection. Urinating will become uncomfortable or even painful for the rabbit.

If you believe your rabbit has a UTI, take your rabbit to the vet. Your doctor will be able to do some testing to determine the cause of the symptoms in your rabbit and prescribe antibiotics for the infection.

Signs of a UTI in rabbits

The symptoms of a UTI appear very similar to the symptoms of bladder sludge in rabbits. In fact, the two can often occur simultaneously since bladder sludge build-up is sometimes the root cause of a bladder infection.

The symptoms to look out for include:

  • Peeing more frequently, but only a little bit at a time.
  • Appearing constipated while trying to urinate.
  • Thick sludge in pee.
  • Urine Scalding
  • Grunting while trying to pee
  • Losing weight.
  • Reluctant to move around.
  • Blood in urine.

Causes 

UTIs are caused by a build up of bacteria that inflame or obstruct the bladder and urinary pathway. The root cause of the infection can usually be pointed to one of two origins. First and most common is when bladder stones or sludge block or clot up in the ureters, causing everything to get backed up and a build up of bacteria. The second, and much less common cause, is when the ureters become injured, usually from a cancerous growth.

Prevention

Luckily, the steps for prevention of UTIs are virtually the same as the steps you should take to prevent a bladder sludge build up:

  • Make sure your rabbit has fresh, clean water.
  • Give your rabbit fresh leafy greens.
  • Make sure your rabbit gets exercise.
  • Clean out your rabbit’s litter box daily.
rabbit pees outside the litter box
A rabbit who is litter trained may pee outside the litter box if they are spraying to claim their territory or protesting an unclean litter box.

Peeing outside of the litter box

Even if your rabbit is litter box trained, you might see them peeing outside of it. Sometimes this is because of medical reasons, especially if you notice your rabbit is peeing and dribbling just a little bit here and there. But peeing outside the litter box is not always an indication of a medical emergency.

Spraying

Unneutered rabbits are notorious for spraying urine around the house to claim their territory. This is a behavior that’s more common in male rabbits, but is also seen in female rabbits. More often, rabbits will try to spray on vertical surfaces, rather than flat surfaces, but that’s not always the case. It just depends on your rabbit’s personality.

The only way to really get your rabbit to stop spraying all over the house is to get them fixed. Getting your rabbit spayed or neutered can fix a number of behavioral issues, and it’s better for their overall health.

Peeing on your bed

There are a lot of stories about rabbits who will hop onto their owners bed and take a whiz on the sheets even if they have been fixed. Not all rabbits do this, but it is surprisingly common. I believe that rabbits do this because your bed is covered in your scent. So when the rabbit hops up on the bed, their territorial instincts kick in and they have to pee to claim the bed as their own.

I have not found a good way to prevent this behavior, so if your rabbit is one who likes to pee on the bed, you should consider completely banning them from the bed. Otherwise you’ll be cleaning up pee stained sheets very frequently.

Protesting a dirty litter box

The other time that I have found rabbits tend to pee outside their litter box is when the litter box needs a cleaning. In these cases, the rabbit will usually pee directly next to the litter box. Your rabbit wants to be clean, so they’ll try to keep the soiled area of their cage to just one spot. But if the litter box is too messy, they’ll be forced to do their business outside of it.

The obvious solution to this is to make sure you clean out your rabbit’s litter box daily. This will improve their litter box habits and it’s a preventative measure against urinary infections and urine scalding.

Is rabbit pee supposed to smell bad?

Unfortunately rabbit pee does have a very distinct scent to it. Rabbit urine has a relatively high ammonia content, so it will smell like diluted ammonia. This is generally the only strong scent that a pet rabbit will have, so once you’ve learned to deal with rabbit pee, you won’t have to worry about your house smelling.

A couple steps to help keep your house from smelling like rabbit pee:

  • Get your rabbit spayed or neutered. The pee of a fixed rabbit smells a little bit less.
  • Clean your rabbits litter box every day. This prevents the pee smell from building up.
  • Use an HEPA air filter.

Is rabbit urine harmful to humans?

For most people, there is no reason to be wary of rabbit urine. Practicing basic personal hygiene by washing your hands after you come in contact with rabbit pee is all you really need to do.

However, some rabbit pee does contain a microorganism fungus called E. cuniculi. Many rabbits will be carriers of this and shed spores in their urine. While technically possible, infections from this for people with healthy immune systems is extremely rare. However, E. cuniculi could pose a risk to people with AIDS or otherwise compromised immune systems.

Sources:

  1. Ackerman, Sandi; Deeb, Barbara, DVM. “Red Urine: Blood or Plant Pigment?” House Rabbit Society, rabbit.org/journal/3-1/red-urine.html.
  2. Brown, Susan, DVM. “Bladder Stones and Bladder Sludge in Rabbits.” House Rabbit Society, Sept. 2006, rabbit.org/health/urolith.html.
  3. Krempels, Dana, Ph.D. “Urine Scald: A Symptom of a Greater Problem.” University of Miami Biology Department, House Rabbit Society of Miami, www.bio.miami.edu/hare/urinary.html.
  4. “Rabbit Bladder Problems.” Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/rabbit-bladder-problems.

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Related Questions

Can rabbits be litter trained?

It is a little more difficult to litter train a rabbit than a cat, but with a little patience it is entirely possible. It is much easier to litter train a rabbit who has been spayed or neutered, since this will limit the amount of territorial spraying of the rabbit.

How to know if a rabbit is sick?

The first signs to look out for to know if your rabbit is sick, are whether or not your rabbit is eating and pooping. Rabbit’s have sensitive digestive systems that are easily disrupted when a rabbit doesn’t feel well.

Amy Pratt

Amy Pratt is a lifelong rabbit owner who has been specializing with rabbits at the Humane Rescue Alliance. She helps to socialize the rabbits and educate volunteers on the care and behavior of these small mammals.

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