Calcium Homeostasis in the Rabbit

Key Points

  • Most mammals maintain blood calcium levels within a narrow range by controlling the absorption of calcium from the diet according to need.
  • Rabbits possess unique calcium metabolism. Blood calcium levels vary substantially with the calcium content of the diet. Rabbits absorb nearly all calcium ingested and excrete the excess by means of the kidneys.
  • Calcium precipitates in the alkaline urine of the rabbit and is excreted as insoluble crystalline salts in thick, cloudy, white urine or “bladder sludge”.
  • “Bladder sludge” in rabbits is principally composed of calcium phosphate or calcium carbonate crystals.
  • A massive aggregation of crystals may form a concretion or urolith within the urinary bladder over a matter of weeks.
  • Recommend low-calcium, grass-hay based diets for maintenance diets in adult rabbits.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, and the majority of total body calcium is found within bones and teeth. Most mammals make only one or two sets of teeth in a lifetime, however rabbit teeth continually grow throughout their lifetime. This continual tooth eruption plays an important role in the rabbit’s long-term calcium needs . . .

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