Rabbits need continual access to fresh hay, as we all know. But what about water? Are rabbits equipped to handle long periods without drinking? If so, for how long? Here’s everything you’ll need to know.
So, how long can a rabbit go without water? A rabbit in good health may be able to go without water for up to 24 hours, although rabbits should be drinking several times a day. Factors like temperature, age, and activity levels will influence this time. In hot weather, for instance, your rabbit cannot go even a few hours safely without drinking water.
A rabbit’s body is made up mostly of water, so they need to drink throughout the day.
And just because they may be able to survive without water for a period of time does not necessarily mean it’s optimal.
Far from it.
And while it is the responsibility of us owners to ensure our rabbit has enough access to water, sometimes, our rabbits take it upon themselves to stop drinking altogether.
If that is the case, if your bunny is reluctant to drink, you will need to promptly find out why and contact your vet quickly.
Bunnies soon become very ill and can die in even as little as one day if they haven’t had enough water.
As we shall now see below:
- 1 Why Rabbits Must Consume Water
- 2 What Happens If Rabbits Don’t Drink Water?
- 3 How Much Water Should A Rabbit Drink A Day?
- 4 How Do I Know If My Rabbit Is Dehydrated?
- 5 How To Ensure Your Rabbit Drinks Enough Water
- 6 Finally
Why Rabbits Must Consume Water
Water is crucial for rabbits for the following reasons:
- Water keeps your rabbit’s digestive tract working smoothly so that they can eliminate waste from their bodies. Rabbits are constantly losing water not only through urine and feces but through their perspiration and their breath.
- Water helps your rabbit absorb nutrients from their food.
- Water helps your bunny maintain a normal range of body temperature (between 102 to 103 degrees F).
- Water keeps your bunny’s blood flow correctly so that their organs remain in optimum health.
- Water flushes excess toxins and minerals (calcium, for example), which otherwise could harm their delicate digestive systems.
Rabbits know the importance of water: wild bunnies build their warrens close to supplies of fresh water.
So If your bunny isn’t drinking, you need to find out why quickly.
What Happens If Rabbits Don’t Drink Water?
If rabbits don’t drink water, several potentially fatal problems can occur, such as:
- Organ failure
- Kidney stones
- Intestinal blockages
Rabbits can quickly become lethargic when they’re dehydrated, so if you see your bunny moving less than usual, check them immediately.
A rabbit that hasn’t had enough water can die in 24 hours or, in some cases, even less.
If you think your rabbit hasn’t had sufficient water, rehydrate them any way you can.
Rabbits can also stop eating when they haven’t had enough water.
How to Rehydrate A Rabbit
If you notice your rabbit isn’t drinking and urgently needs rehydration, here’s how you do it.
- Don’t just place a bowl of water in front of your rabbit. Your bunny is smart enough to know to drink, so perhaps they are already too weak to do so by themselves.
- Fill a syringe with fresh water and place it at the corner of your bunny’s mouth. Release some water in short and controlled bursts.
- Allow your rabbit time to swallow before putting another burst of water into their mouth.
How Much Water Should A Rabbit Drink A Day?
Your rabbit should be drinking a minimum of ten percent of its body weight in water. For example, a four-pound rabbit needs at least three-quarters of a cup (180 ml) of water per day. A very rough guide is about one cup of water per day for the average-sized rabbit.
Here’s what you need to consider to be sure your rabbit is getting enough water:
- The size of your bunny. The bigger the rabbit, the more they need to drink to stay healthy.
- The age of your rabbit. Young rabbits need more water than older rabbits to support their growing bodies.
- The temperature outside. Generally speaking, most rabbits will drink more when it’s hot than when it’s cold.
- Your rabbit’s diet. Bunnies who regularly eat dark, leafy greens will need slightly less water than bunnies who subsist exclusively on pellets and dry hay. All bunnies benefit from leafy greens in their diet – not only for extra hydration but also for vitamins and minerals. Plus, bunnies love them!
You may have noticed that water containers for rabbits will hold more than one cup of water.
These larger sizes are on purpose: first, because rabbits prefer to live in pairs, and second because you don’t want to risk an empty bowl.
It’s better to provide extra water for your friend than not enough.
You want to change your bunny’s water once a day and check for any dirt or impurities.
Water that has been left for a long time can develop bacteria rather quickly.
In addition, rabbits prefer clean water and will not drink dirty water if they can possibly help it. Their instinct knows what’s best for them.
How Do I Know If My Rabbit Is Dehydrated?
You will know that your bunny is dehydrated if you observe a change in its behavior, urine, or eating habits.
Bunnies can become dehydrated either because of diarrhea or because they don’t have access to enough clean water.
Some bunnies won’t drink if they don’t like the smell of the water.
If you wouldn’t drink it yourself, chances are it isn’t clean enough for your bunny.
Because dehydration can happen so quickly and can be fatal, you’ll want to know how to recognize dehydration in your bunny.
Look for any of the following:
If your bunny’s temperature goes above 103 degrees F, take them to the vet immediately as they’re in danger.
Urine That Smells Stronger Than Usual
A dehydrated rabbit will have quite strong-smelling urine (more like ammonia). The urine will also be darker than normal.
Clumsy Or Lethargic Behavior
If your bunny seems a bit extra floppy or clumsy, chances are they are disoriented. Dehydration can cause fatigue or clumsiness.
Extra Tight Skin
Gently pinch the fur around your bunny’s neck.
The fur should snap back into position quickly: if it doesn’t, your pet’s skin has lost elasticity and is most likely dehydrated.
Eating Less Than Usual
If your bunny isn’t getting enough water, they will often stop eating: after all, they’re unable to eliminate waste, so they will stop eating out of instinct.
Or it might be that they lack the energy to eat from the dehydration.
If your rabbit hasn’t eaten in 12 hours, get them to a vet immediately.
No food for 12 hours can lead to organ failure and death due to gastrointestinal stasis (the intestine no longer eliminating waste).
If you notice any of the dehydration signs above, do whatever it takes to rehydrate your bunny immediately, as they could die.
If your bunny is regularly drinking and you still think they’re dehydrated, bring them to the vet right away.
A vet can determine an underlying cause for their water loss, which needs to be rectified urgently.
How To Ensure Your Rabbit Drinks Enough Water
Some bunnies prefer water sippers and others prefer bowls. Some rabbits like tap water, and others only will drink filtered or spring water.
Regardless, here’s how to make sure your bunny friend is drinking enough water.
If your bunny is hesitant to drink, try one of these tricks:
- Smear a bit of ripe banana onto the water sipper to encourage your bunny. Once your bunny starts drinking from the sipper, wipe away the banana to avoid it spoiling and causing bacteria.
- Refill the water sipper every day, washing it regularly to avoid bacteria.
- Try a metal sipper instead of a plastic one. Bunnies have sharp teeth, which can damage the plastic and can even break off little pieces, which could cause problems if swallowed.
- If your bunny has been using a bowl, try switching to a sipper – or vice versa. Or better yet, provide both a sipper and a bowl so that your bunny can choose each day.
- Make sure your bunny is eating leafy greens as part of their diet, as these greens provide tasty hydration. Wash the greens before serving them, and serve them still wet. Get organic greens, if possible, as pesticides are not good for rabbits (or for us!)
- Clean any water recipients so that they have a neutral smell.
- Avoid warm water. Bunnies would naturally be drinking from cool streams in the wild – although some bunnies don’t like water that’s too cold. The best temperature for water for most rabbits is room temperature.
- Try adding some sprigs of fresh mint or basil to the water bowl: some bunnies like the flavor.
- If your bunny won’t drink tap water, try purifying it or use bottled spring water. Tap water can taste very different depending on where you live, and there could be small amounts of lead or other toxic chemicals in your water that you can’t taste but that your bunny can sense.
- Try adding some tasty liquids to your bunny’s water: small amounts (a few drops) of unsweetened fruit juice such as apple or carrot juice. Once your bunny is drinking again, decrease the number of drops of fruit juice gradually.
Rabbits need water, almost as much as they need hay.
Like most animals and even us humans, water is an essential chemical substance that literally enables life.
So you need to ensure your rabbit has constant access to it; and that it’s clean and fresh too.
While there is plenty we need to do as owners to keep our bunnies hydrated, we also need to be aware that rabbits can stop drinking on their own accord.
Monitor their behaviors and drinking preferences is the only real way we can get an understanding of how much they are drinking.
So do be vigilant.
Do keep checking their water bottles or bowls, and if you suspect your rabbit has stopped drinking altogether, it may be time to contact the vet.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.