If your rabbit doesn’t drink enough water or doesn’t drink it at all you have to find the cause.
Water is an essential part of the rabbit’s diet. Rabbits are drinking more water comparing to other animal species. Some normal daily consumption of water is 50-150 ml on every 2 pounds of rabbit’s body weight.
Rabbits need water to survive, that is for sure. If your bunny won’t drink water that could be disturbing. Rabbits are very sensitive creatures that can dehydrate very quickly. This condition may be very dangerous, even can lead to death.
So if your rabbit won’t drink water, let’s find out the reason.
Maybe your rabbit is not drinking water doesn’t know how to use a water bottle or you have changed the bottle lately? Maybe the water bottle /bowl is not perfectly clean or something is wrong with the water itself. It might happen that your bunny is distressed or in pain so that is why he is not drinking water. Rabbits with upset stomach also refuse to drink water. Maybe the water is too cold or your bunny feels too cold that he doesn’t want to come out from his warm hiding place…
If you have that problem, you are anxious to find the reason and the proper way to solve it, keep reading our article.
Why Do Rabbits Need Water?
Rabbit’s digestive system is very complex. Bunnies eat food that is very rich in fibers so they need a lot of water to digest it.
Rabbits have a very fast metabolism, food is moving very fast through the rabbit’s gut and for that water is essential.
Bunnies also produce two types of droppings. The wet type of poop called cecotropes is very useful and important and bunnies eat it usually right from the anus in order to digest it again and use all nutrients that haven’t been used during the first time.
If the rabbit doesn’t drink enough water won’t be able to create cecotropes so overall without the proper amount of water, the rabbit’s digestive system cannot work well.
In less than 24 h without water, rabbits may develop a life-threatening condition called GI stasis – rabbit’s gut stop working.
If the rabbit doesn’t drink water and doesn’t poop for 12 h that is an emergency!
And not just the digestive system, kidneys are also jeopardized if your bunny doesn’t drink water. Kidneys’ main task is to filter toxins and without water, they cannot do their job. If kidneys don’t work as they should, toxins will stay in the rabbit’s system causing different health problems.
Without water, rabbit’s blood circulation is much slower.
Why Does My Rabbit Won’t Drink Water?
Let’s start with simple things that you can fix easily.
The water bottle can be an issue. Either your rabbit doesn’t know how to use it, especially if he /she is a younger bunny or may not have the strength to use it if he/she is an older pet.
Some rabbits simply don’t like water bottles. It can happen that your bunny drinks water from the water bottle and then one day stop using it for no reason. In that case first check the bottle, if it works properly.
If it does, then check how clean it is. Some rabbits are super picky and won’t drink water unless the bottle is extra clean. So scrub the bottle thoroughly and try again.
If you recently have changed the bottle, your bunny might refuse drinking water from a new one. Maybe the new one is bigger, different or simply he needs time for him/her to get used to it.
I have heard that some people put an extra tiny piece of banana on the bottle nozzle to attract bunny. When bunny smells the banana he will go for it and taking the piece of banana he will start drinking water as well. I don’t know if it works but I certainly know that this is not a long-term solution. You can try once, just to see what happens but you cannot put a piece of banana every day to make your bunny drink water.
Another thing – if your rabbit roams free around the house and you have other pets ( dogs or cats) check if he is drinking from your other pet’s bowl. It can happen!
Sometimes the problem is water. If the rabbit smells something strange, he could refuse to drink water. Even fluoride in city water may discourage the rabbit to drink
Another thing that could be the reason is the temperature of the water. Rabbits like lukewarm water and if you serve them cold one, that could be an issue.
Make sure your bunny has easy access to freshwater. If he has some problems with the water bottle, replace it with a nice, ceramic water bowl. It is a lot easier for the rabbit to drink from the bowl. Make sure you change the water frequently to avoid dust or other dirt reach the water.
Think about the period of the year. Generally, rabbits drink less water during wintertime and quite opposite during summers.
If the environmental temperature is not appropriate ( the ideal temperature is between 10-20 C or 50-70 F according to RSPCA), rabbits may not drink water. Maybe it is too cold and your bunny doesn’t want to leave his warm hiding place or it is too hot he will be too lethargic to move and go for the water. Pay special attention to those rabbits older than 5 years or obese bunnies. They tend to be more sedentary and might not get up to drink water.
Have you changed your rabbit’s diet lately? If the answer is yes, that could be the reason why your bunny drinks less water. Maybe you are giving him more fresh veggies from which he can take water as well.
Of course, we have to consider some more serious reasons for not drinking water. Your rabbit might have some health issues. If you suspect something like that, visit a vet.
Maybe he ate something bad such as moldy hay or contaminated pellet. If he is attacked by some bacteria or he is struggling with some virus, that could also cause him to drink less water.
You may notice that rabbits during mating season drink less water. Same as nursing or pregnant bunnies.
If the bunny has some abdominal problems such as an upset stomach, he /she will drink less water then usual.
Rabbits that are stressed won’t eat nor drink. If your bunny is frightened food and water are low on his list of priorities. He will be on high alert as long as the threat is present. Only after the danger passes you can expect your bunny to start eating and drinking.
How Can I Make My Rabbit Drink (More) Water?
After you detect the reason why your rabbit won’t drink water, act immediately and try to solve the issue. As we mentioned before, rabbits can dehydrate quickly which can be pretty dangerous.
If you have noticed that your bunny is not drinking water, check the litter box. It is very important if he/she urinates or not. You won’t have any trouble checking it, especially if you have some larger rabbit as they have quite big bladders 🙂
In case your rabbit pees regularly, most likely you don’t have to anything to worry about. Most probably he gets water from another source(veggies)
What about your rabbit’s diet, does he consume a lot of hay? Or his diet is composed of pellets and treats? Remember one thing- the more hay your rabbit takes, the more water he drinks. Why? Because he needs a lot of water to digest hay which is high in fibers.
Perform a simple test to check if your rabbit is dehydrated. Pinch the fur ( with some skin of course, although this can be rather challenging if you have small rabbit ) and then release. If pinched fur/skin bounce back quickly, your rabbit is fine, he is not dehydrated.
If you don’t see any obvious sign of illness and you have changed the bottle, washed it, checked the water, practically did everything and your bunny still doesn’t want to drink then you can do the following.
Soak the fresh veggies into the water, let it be there for 10-15 min and then give it to your bunny while still wet. He will get the water from the leafy veggies plus the water that has been retained on the leaves!
If your rabbit is weak or old or you think that this would help- you can try giving water by using a syringe or eyedropper.
Pay attention that both of them ( syringe and eyedropper) be perfectly clean, without any smell. Let your bunny sit in your lap, then gently drip one drop of water on your rabbit’s lips or in the corner of his mouth. Don’t give him more than one drop at the time as he can breathe water which would not end well.
Observe and listen to your rabbit. If you notice that he moves differently or strange, he might be in pain. Take that chance when holding your bunny in the lap to listen to his breathing. If you hear a rattle, that could indicate an upper respiratory infection. In both cases, you need to go to the vet.
Another reason to go to the vet is if you suspect that your bunny has dental issues. Maybe his teeth are too long or there some other dental issues so as a result, your bunny is struggling with pain every time when he moves his tongue to drink.
If your rabbit is stressed and that is the reason why he doesn’t drink water, try to discover the source of stress. Maybe the problem is in some prey animal in his vicinity ( that could be dog or cat)
To find out more how stressed bunny looks like and how can you help him, read our article ”How to read rabbit’s language( Vocal and Body ) ”
I also read one tip – if you have checked your rabbit’s health and he is OK, he just won’t drink water, put one-two drops of 100% natural pineapple or apple juice into the water bowl. Same as with a tiny piece of banana in the bottle nozzle, this cannot be a permanent solution. Even those two drops contain sugar that is not good for the rabbit. If you put one-two times, that’s OK but it is not OK that your rabbit gets used to the water with the taste of apple.
People are often concerned if tap water is safe for rabbits. Tap water is considered safe for rabbits but if you think that it is compromised in any way give your bunny bottled water.
Although rabbits can survive several days without food, lack of water could cause death is in a very short time.
Some rabbits need more and some other less water but they all need water. Remember if your rabbit’s diet contains a great deal of leafy, dark green veggies, he might drink less water then you think he needs.
If you suspect that your rabbit has any gastrointestinal or dental problem and that his water intake is poor because of that, do seek the vet’s help immediately.
Always pay close attention to your rabbit, does he eat properly, does he drink water on a daily basis, does he have energy, etc. Your bunny cannot tell you if something is wrong, but if you observe him every day you will detect any problem quite easily.