Nephrocalcinosis in rabbits – a case study
Varying degrees of kidney calcification have been found in New Zealand White rabbits used for in vitro physiological studies in our animal unit over the past 4 years. Histologically, the lesion is characterised by the deposition of calcified deposits inside tubular structures in the cortical and (cortico)medullary region of the rabbit kidney. The kidney calcifications could be so severe, that the isolation of renal resistance vessels, dissected for intended in vitro studies, was no longer possible. Because 40% of the rabbit kidneys had to be discarded at the start of the year 2000, since then, a routine histological check of all rabbit kidneys used until 1 January 2004, was performed. The yearly incidence of numbers of animals having kidneys with calcified deposits in cortex and/or medulla as compared to the total number of rabbits used, ranged from 16 % to 63%. Kidney calcifications were seen in both sexes. A large interindividual variation in the degree of nephrocalcinosis was found. Of the dietary factors involved in the ethiopathogenesis in rats, phosphorus (P) concentration is an important determinant for kidney calcification. Also in rabbits it has been proven that dietary phosphate supplements and increased dietary P-levels in semipurified diets will lead to kidney calcifications in higher frequencies and degrees of severity. The recommended dietary Plevel for growing rabbits is 0.22%, according to the National Research Council guidelines of 1977. Commercial, natural-ingredient rabbit diets always have dietary P levels that exceed 0.22%. It is therefore considered recommendable to lower dietary P concentration in marketed rabbit diets, in order to reduce or prevent nephrocalcinosis in rabbits.