Typically, as long as your pet rabbit has access to fresh water, they will take care of the water they need without any help from you. If your rabbit stops drinking for some reason, then you have a complicated scenario on your hands.
First and most obviously, make sure their water supply remains clean and fresh. Trying a different means of supply might encourage them if they have gone off their previous form, while adding fruit and vegetables to their food supply will also help to hydrate them. Dehydration can ultimately prove fatal, so you’ll need to focus on finding a solution.
Often, rabbits just become picky, for whatever reason, and something new to draw them will fix the problem. Other times, however, failure to drink might indicate calcium buildup in the bladder, or a blockage like Gastro-Intestinal Stasis, which will be fatal if untreated.
Why Is Your Rabbit Not Drinking?
Rabbits can be choosy creatures, meaning that any strange sensation convinces them to no longer trust their regular water supply.
Consider their method of drinking. While vertical water bottles are a great way to prevent spillage, not all animals will take to them. Very young or older rabbits, for example, might need a more accessible source.
Also, be aware that suddenly going off drinking could indicate another problem. Examples can include problems with teeth, making them feel discomfort when drinking, along with mouth sores or other issues that make drinking less desirable. Your vet may be able to identify the problem if you can’t.
Signs of Dehydration in Rabbits
Drinking is crucial for rabbits to survive and stay healthy, with digestive and nervous systems, as well as circulation, all dependent upon hydration. Rabbits are no different from humans in this respect, if not more sensitive. We might be able to survive up to three days without water, but your rabbit no more than 24 hours – even less for small rabbits or their young.
Size does dictate how much water your pet will require but, generally speaking, somewhere between 50ml–400ml is advised.
It’s useful to be aware that your rabbit is likely to hide any pain or discomfort they’re experiencing. By nature, they are quiet creatures, not attention seekers. Being familiar with their daily behavior, therefore, may be vital for responding to an issue.
- Overly warm body temperature. Without water levels regulating the body, a rabbit is likely to overheat.
- Dark urine. This can also be a giveaway. Although a dehydrated rabbit will urinate less, when they do the urine will be darker and have a stronger smell. Getting enough fluid is vital for your rabbit to get rid of waste, making this a clear sign they are lacking.
- Skin elasticity. When your pet rabbit is adequately hydrated, its skin will be tight and elastic, rather than loose. You can check this by lightly tugging the back of their neck. Expect the skin to snap quickly back into place. If you find that the skin does not do so, leaving a raised fold, then you will need to act.
- Laziness and indifference. Although it’s possible you might have a rabbit that isn’t particularly active, if you notice this suddenly becoming an extreme feature then it could be caused by lack of water.
- Appetite loss. When rabbits stop drinking they will also feel unable to eat. This doesn’t always mean that appetite is a cause, but it will be an additional symptom.
Overheating is a symptom that can be especially likely during warm weather. Your rabbit does not perspire like you do to regulate temperature, so having a thick fur coat makes them vulnerable to hot conditions. Their water consumption will rise as the temperature does, so expect to have to give them a greater quantity. If your rabbit does have a hydration issue, this will only become more pronounced during these times, so you’ll need to stay vigilant.
Tips to Encourage a Rabbit to Drink
1. A Fresh Water Supply is Crucial
A water supply that is changed daily is essential for keeping the supply fresh. Water that becomes stale will be rejected and it doesn’t take too long for this to happen.
2. Regularly Clean Dishes and Bottles
We’ve already confirmed how rabbits are very sensitive to peculiar scents. Examples that can cause a rabbit to reject a water supply include the buildup of algae or bacteria, which can easily happen with drinking vessels. Just like humans, they will need any artificial drinking vessels to be regularly cleaned, as well as being cleansed of any subsequent cleaning product residue.
3. Adjust the Forms of Water Consumption
Relying on one consistent approach to give your rabbit water access could become problematic. Consider whether they need a bowl that is less likely to spill or be knocked over. Water that is not stored in a vertical drinking vessel tends to be better for rabbits with issues, as if the water source is lying around then this is closer to how they would drink in the wild.
4. Consider Purified Water
Although water out of a tap is usually okay, you might be amazed at just how much the quality differs. Perhaps your area has something in the water that explains why they are not taking to it, so deciding to purchase purified water in bottles may be a good move.
5. Interact to Encourage Their Drinking
Some owners might overlook this approach because rabbits do not appear overly responsive to our actions, but a rabbit can in fact read you as well as a dog or cat. They may understand if you encourage them to drink by petting them, offering affection, and giving them treats for doing so.
6. Source Fruit and Vegetables with High Water Content
Typically, your rabbit’s hay and grass consumption will make up around four-fifths of their diet. Fruit and vegetables are more of a treat, though can be useful for certain vitamins not found in the hay or grass. Plus, for rabbits with dehydration issues, fruit and vegetables like lettuce, which has high water content, will help them to get the fluids they need – although they still need to drink water as well. Some examples are:
- Bell peppers
- mustard greens
- apples (no seeds)
- grapes (no seeds)
As with the water supply, be mindful of sugar content. Relying on fruits or veggies that are overly sweet can make them ill.
7. Sprinkle Water on the Veggies
You might be tempted to let veggies dry after rinsing them, but it’s actually much better to keep them wet. Some rabbit owners even use vegetables to construct miniature bowls, so their pet might also drink at the same time. Even if your pet does not realize it is taking in more water, doing so may be very beneficial for its health.
8. Add Herbs to Water for Flavor
As with unsweetened juices, your rabbit might respond favorably to water with herbs included. Rabbits tend to enjoy herbs and they are nutritious as well. Some options are:
9. Using Syringes or Eyedroppers
Although this should be reserved for the most problematic of cases, it is possible to make sure your rabbit gets water by using these options. A syringe or eyedropper can allow for getting a few drops of water onto your pet’s lips. This method is also a dead giveaway for any rabbit that needs a vet’s attention, as if they show no response and still refuse the water then they need professional help right away.
When to Call the Vets?
The clearer any of the above indications become, the more likely you will need professional help. As with any health issues, spotting the signs early is best for acting and safeguarding your pet’s well-being. Consider acting straight away if any of these symptoms are obvious and not easily remedied.
The professional’s advice is to act before several hours have passed if getting your rabbit to drink more does not fix their symptoms. In these cases, a vet’s help and advice are vital.