How Long Can a Rabbit Go Without Food?
When To Be Worried & What Can You Do

rabbit without food

March 3, 2022

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If you’re the owner of an adorable little bunny, you may be aware that rabbits cannot go very long without eating. They munch on hay throughout the day, and sometimes you may wonder if they ever stop eating.

The truth is, they don’t. Rabbits spend most of their time eating when they are awake. And when it comes to the volumes of hay they consume, you’ve probably noticed you’re always out of hay.

  • But how long can a rabbit go without food? Is it a few hours or a few days?
  • When should you be worried, and
  • What can you do if your bunny is not eating?

This article will answer all those critical questions so that you can keep your pet rabbit healthy and safe.

Let’s have a look at how long rabbits can actually go without eating.

How Long Can a Rabbit Go Without Eating?

First of all, rabbits have an extremely sensitive digestive system. They are used to eating constantly, and if you notice your bunny is not eating, you should immediately contact a vet to find out if there is an underlying problem causing your rabbit to lose its appetite.

How long can rabbits go without food before you need to worry?

A rabbit can go without eating for about 12 hours, after which there is a high risk of developing a potentially deadly condition called GI stasis.

If your rabbit has gone without eating for 12 hours, you need to contact a vet immediately to get your pet checked for any medical problems and to potentially start syringe feeding.

Continue reading to learn what the risks are and what you can do to help your bunny.

How long can rabbits survive without food?

If you’re wondering how long rabbits can survive if they stop eating, the answer is 3-4 days. Without any food, this is how long your rabbit could potentially survive before dying. Of course, your pet’s overall health, weight, and size will affect how long they live.

You should never allow them to go without food for more than a few hours.

Although a rabbit may be able to survive without food for a few days, going without nutrition for more than 12 hours is a severe health risk and could lead to gut stasis, which can be fatal.

Yet, although it may be possible for bunnies to live this long without food, you should never allow them to go without food for more than a few hours. It is critical that you make sure hay and fresh water are always available for your pet.

So, what are the risks if your rabbit is not eating or has refused food for a while? How concerned should you be, and what actions do you need to take?

We’ll get to that in just a moment, but first, we’ll explain why rabbits need to eat constantly.

Rabbits Should Have Access To Food Around The Clock

Rabbits are grazers, which means they are constantly eating grass or hay. Their digestive system is used to always getting food, so bunnies need to be eating throughout the day to keep their digestion healthy and functioning.

The basic bunny diet is divided as follows:

  • 80% of your rabbit’s diet should consist of hay
  • 10% should be veggies (75% of these being leafy greens and 25% vegetables)
  • 5-7% rabbit pellets made of timothy hay
  • 2-3% treats like fruit or healthy rabbit treats
rabbit food pyramid

The important thing is that rabbits should have access to food around the clock. What this means is unlimited hay and fresh water at all times.

As you may have noticed, your rabbit spends most of the time it is awake munching on food. This is because the constant intake of food is what keeps their bowel movements regular and their digestive system working. And if they are not eating constantly, they will get very sick very quickly.

We will soon explain what could result from your bunny not eating. But first, let’s have a look at what may lead to your pet refusing food.

10 Reasons Why Your Rabbit May Not Be Eating

Rabbits are very sensitive animals, so several reasons could lead to not eating. Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Illness or disease
  • Experiencing pain
  • Infections
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Stress or changes in the environment
  • An oral or dental problem
  • Overgrown incisors
  • Tumors or abscesses
  • Internal or external parasites
  • Poisoning

Many medical problems may prevent rabbits from eating or make them lose their appetite. In addition, any stress they experience may lead to not eating.

To prevent any such issues, ensure that your pet is checked by the vet regularly and provide a safe and comfortable environment.

The Real Risk Of Gut Stasis

Not eating or drinking may lead to many health issues like nutrient deficiencies, malnutrition, and dehydration. However, there is another problem with rabbits that is far more serious and quicker to emerge. That problem is gastrointestinal stasis.

What is gut stasis?

So rabbits have a digestive system that is used to a constant intake of food. They chew on hay all day long, so they have a fast metabolism, and their digestion is used to processing food all the time.

Gut stasis is a possibly deadly condition that develops quickly if your bunny stops eating.

Going without food for too long may cause what is called gastrointestinal or gut stasis (also known as ileus). This is a severe condition where the normal peristalsis (contractions of the intestinal tract that push the food forward) decrease or stop.

As a result, the rabbit’s digestion and bowel movements slow down or stop altogether. This condition is very dangerous for rabbits and may quickly lead to death when left untreated.

how long can rabbits go without food

In addition to not eating, GI stasis may also result from things like a diet that is too high in carbohydrates or not getting enough fiber from the diet.

How quickly can gut stasis develop?

Not eating for more than about 12 hours will slow down the digestion, causing dehydration that makes it harder for the food to pass through the digestive system. This will then cause a change in the pH in your rabbit’s gastrointestinal tract, a buildup of bacteria, and eventually gas.

Because this condition is painful for the rabbit, it will discourage them from eating, causing a vicious circle that quickly leads to deteriorating health.

Gut stasis is often referred to as the silent killer because it is a condition that may go unnoticed because there are no visible signs you can spot. Sometimes owners only notice the bunny not eating and becoming lethargic, and at that point, it can be too late to save their pet’s life. GI stasis can come about quickly. Therefore, you need to help your bunny immediately if you notice they have not eaten in a while.

Because of GI stasis that develops very quickly, it is important for your rabbit to keep eating. If your pet has been without food for 12 hours, you should always consider it an emergency and get help immediately. Gut stasis needs to be treated quickly, or it can be fatal.

In addition to not eating, GI stasis may also result from things like dehydration, stress, and not getting enough fiber from the food.

Symptoms of gut stasis

Because GI stasis may progress quickly and lead to deteriorating health in a short period of time, it is important to notice any potential symptoms early on to get your rabbit to the vet before it’s too late.

Signs of gastrointestinal stasis include:

  • Lethargy
  • Signs of pain including teeth grinding and hunched back
  • Excessive gas and bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Passing little or no stool
  • Smaller and harder droppings
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Consuming less water than normally

If you notice your rabbit is not eating normally and is suffering from any of these symptoms, you should suspect GI stasis and get your pet checked by the vet.

What Should You Do If Your Rabbit Is Not Eating?
7 Things To Try At Home

If you notice your rabbit is not eating and you suspect gut stasis, you need to take your pet to the vet as soon as possible.

To help your pet immediately, here are a few things you can do at home:

1. Massage your rabbit’s tummy

Massage your rabbit’s tummy to help get the digestion working again and to release gas.

2. Try to get your rabbit moving 

Try to get your rabbit moving, although they may be lethargic and reluctant to move. Taking even a few steps will help their digestion.

3. Keep them warm and comfortable.

4. Try to encourage your bunny to eat

Try to encourage your bunny to eat by offering some of their favorite foods. High-water foods are best because the fluids will help start the bowel movements.

You can even wave the food in front of their mouth in the hopes that they get annoyed and take a small bite that could encourage them to eat more. Try fresh grass, dandelions, parsley, or basil which are the favorites of many bunnies.

5. Try to get your bunny to drink

Try to get your bunny to drink because dehydration will make their condition worse. Have water in a bottle as well as a bowl so the rabbit can choose whichever feels more comfortable.

You can also try syringe feeding small amounts of water at a time using a small 1ml syringe. Make sure you only give 1ml at a time and do it slowly to prevent your rabbit from aspirating it to its lungs.

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6. Give your rabbit infant drops

You can syringe feed your rabbit 1ml of infant drops such as the Little Remedies Gas Relief Drops that contains Simethicone every 3 hours. It will help with the gas buildup and bloating.

7. Try syringe feeding your rabbit

If you are sure your rabbit is not suffering from an intestinal blockage, you can also help them stay hydrated and nourished and keep their digestion working by syringe feeding. To learn more about how to syringe feed your rabbit successfully and safely, take a look at this article on Syringe Feeding Rabbits.

If your pet is not eating, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and take them to the vet to get them checked.

How Long Can Bunnies Go Without Food?

Sometimes you may run out of rabbit food or hay, and you may be wondering if you need to rush to the pet store or if you can wait until the next day to pick up some more bunny food.

Rabbits should be primarily eating hay, so if you run out of rabbit food, your bunny can survive a couple of days without pellets until you get more.

However, if it’s hay that we’re talking about, you need to get more as soon as possible. Bunnies should be munching on hay all day long, and as we have discussed in this article, even a short period of time without their main source of food could lead to GI stasis and potentially death.

Your rabbit may be able to go a day without hay if you have some pellets and leafy greens, but we strongly recommend making sure your rabbit never runs out of hay. Pellets and hay will not provide enough crude fiber to keep your rabbit’s digestion moving, so it’s always a risk to have your rabbit go without hay or grass.

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Can I Leave My Rabbit Home Alone for the Weekend?

If you’re away for a day or two, it is ok to leave your rabbit at home alone as long as you make sure they have enough hay, fresh water, and food to last until you return. Having two water bottles is a good idea just in case one of them gets blocked or breaks. Also, you may want to have a hay feeder and a food dispenser to keep the hay and food pellets clean and edible.

If you’re going away for any longer than a couple of days, you should find someone to take care of your pet. They need to get fresh water and food, and their cage needs to be cleaned, which is why someone should check up on your pet daily.

Also, if you will be gone for more than 3-4 days, you will need someone that can keep your rabbit company, let them get exercise outside the cage, and clean the rabbit cage too.

Summing Up: How Long Can Rabbits Go Without Food?

To sums things up:

  • Rabbits are grazers and should never go without food for more than a few hours. To keep their digestion working, they need a constant supply of hay.
  • There are many reasons why a rabbit may stop eating, including several medical conditions and stress.
  • If your rabbit stops eating, it is always a reason for concern. Try to encourage your pet to eat as soon as possible.
  • If your rabbit has gone 12 hours without food and is showing signs of gut stasis, you need to get your pet to the vet as soon as possible. Gut stasis is a possibly deadly condition that develops quickly if your bunny stops eating.

So, rabbits can only go without food for a very short time. Therefore, as a responsible pet parent, you need to make sure you always have unlimited hay and clean water to offer your rabbit.

With the right diet and living conditions, most bunny owners never have to face such a situation. But if your pet is not eating, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and take them to the vet to get them checked.

Vet’s Comment

NOTE: Advice provided within this article by FeedingMyPet.com is not a substitute for veterinary advice. Please discuss your pet’s specific dietary needs (based on his breed, weight, age, and health status) with a veterinarian.

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