How Long Can Rabbits Go Without Water?
Risks Explained

can rabbits go without water

March 8, 2022

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If you’re the lucky owner of a cuddly and adorable little rabbit, you probably know that bunnies need to have access to fresh water and hay at all times. But sometimes, you may notice your pet is not drinking, and you start to worry if it is dangerous and could lead to severe consequences.

If a rabbit is not drinking, it is always a reason for concern.

Or maybe you found a rabbit in your garden, and you put out water, but the bunny is not drinking. It looks like the rabbit is not feeling well, so you may be wondering if not drinking is the cause of their health problems.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about..

  • how long can rabbits go without water,
  • what are the health risks, and
  • how you can help a rabbit if it is not drinking.

If a rabbit is not drinking, it is always a reason for concern. Often, it is a critical situation that needs to be solved immediately. If you’re worried about your bunny, continue reading to be able to help your rabbit.

But first, let’s have a look at what bunnies drink.

Rabbits Drink Water

Rabbits drink water, and they should always have a supply of clean and fresh water in their cage.

It is not recommended to give rabbits juice because it is very high in sugar. Milk is also a no-no because a rabbit’s digestive system is not designed to digest it, so it will cause tummy problems.

Just like with most mammals, about 70% of a rabbit’s body is water. This means that rabbits need to stay hydrated. They constantly lose water when they urinate or sweat through their sweat glands (which are actually located in their mouth!).

To keep their body’s water level normal, they need to replace the water that is exiting their body by drinking fresh and clean water. Otherwise, they risk health issues like dehydration and gut stasis.

We’ll get to the health risks in just a second, but first, let’s answer the question you are asking.

How Long Can a Rabbit Go Without Water?

In general, a rabbit cannot go for more than 24 hours without water. If it’s summertime and the weather is hot, the period that rabbits can go without drinking is even shorter.

Generally, it is advised that rabbits are not left without water for more than a couple of hours if, for example, they are being transferred. This is because having no water for even a few hours may already start to affect their health.

If your pet rabbit has not been drinking in the last 12 hours, you should be concerned. We recommend contacting a veterinarian and monitoring your pet closely while trying to encourage them to drink.

After 24 hours, the situation is considered an emergency, and you need to get your rabbit to the clinic so they can help by hydrating the rabbit.

When it comes to rabbits and water, every passing hour counts. The sooner you can get them drinking, the better their chances of survival. If you cannot coax the rabbit to drink, they will need medical attention as soon as possible.

How long can a rabbit live without water?

A rabbit can live without water for about 3-4 days. However, this does not mean they will survive being this long without water, and you should never keep a rabbit without water for more than a couple of hours. It is just a rough estimate of how long a rabbit may be able to survive without water before it dies.

rabbit drinking water

Rabbits need to drink several times a day, or their health will deteriorate quickly. Even a short period without drinking could quickly lead to severe health issues that need veterinary attention.

Next, we’ll talk about those serious health consequences that going without water may quickly lead to in rabbits.

What Can Lead To Your Rabbit Not Drinking?

Rabbits are very sensitive animals, and there are several reasons why they may refuse to drink water or be unable to do so.

Here are some of the most common reasons that may cause your rabbit not to drink:

  • Stress or a change in the environment
  • The water tastes funny or is too cold
  • The water bowl or bottle is dirty
  • Dental issues such as incisors that have grown too long
  • Oral problems like lesions
  • Illness or fever
  • Stomach upsets

Sometimes, the rabbit may get the moisture it needs from the food or another pet’s water bowl. If it seems your bunny is drinking less than before, see if the veggies you are feeding could be the cause or if the rabbit has access to your cat’s or dog’s water.

Health Risks Related To Not Drinking Water

If your rabbit is not drinking water, it is at risk of many severe health issues.

See, for example, water

  • keeps the blood at a correct thickness and ensures it flows well
  • flushes calcium from the body, preventing urinary stones
  • keeps all organs functioning

However, there are two serious issues we would like to discuss, as they may quickly lead to worsening of your bunny’s condition and even death. Those problems are dehydration and gut stasis, both of which progress quickly if your rabbit stops drinking.

Dehydration

If your rabbit is not drinking or does not have access to water, dehydration is the obvious consequence. It happens when your rabbit is losing more moisture from its body than it is gaining from eating hay and veggies or drinking water.

After a certain point, dehydration will lead to kidney problems and organ failure.

However, the problem with dehydration is that it can quickly lead to gut stasis that may lead to worsening health very quickly. We will talk about GI stasis next. But first, you need to know the sign of dehydration in rabbits.

How to tell if the rabbit is dehydrated and how to help

If your rabbit is not drinking water, they may soon become dehydrated. If your suspect dehydration, make sure your rabbit is not hot and try to get some fluids into their body.

Symptoms of dehydration you should look out for are:

  • Dark and smelly urine
  • Wrinkled skin
  • No appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Sunken and dull eyes
  • Thick saliva
  • Crusty eyes
  • Dry fecal pellets

If you notice any of these signs and you suspect dehydration, it is important to get your pet to a vet as soon as possible. In the meantime, you should try to hydrate your rabbit. We will tell you more about that later. But, first, let’s find out more about gut stasis and why it is called the “silent killer.”

rabbit without water

Gut stasis

Rabbits are used to eating constantly, which means their digestive system and metabolism is designed to always process food. Because grass and hay are relatively low in calories, rabbits eat large quantities of them, and their digestion has evolved accordingly. With grass, bunnies get some water, but hay is drier, and rabbits need some extra water for their digestion to process it.

If your rabbit is not drinking water for more than 21 hours, you may expect gut stasis to develop fairly quickly.

With gut stasis, also known as ileus or gastrointestinal stasis, what happens is that the rabbit’s digestion slows down or stops completely. The normal peristalsis, which are the contractions of the digestive tract that push the food forward, decrease or cease altogether.

Often GI stasis is brought on by stress or the rabbit refusing to eat. Another reason is dehydration, which is caused by not drinking enough water.

Slowing down of the bowel movements leads to dehydration and bacteria buildup that produces gas and causes bloating. Because the condition is painful, it will discourage the rabbit from eating and drinking, only making matters worse.

Symptoms of gut stasis and how you can help your rabbit

Gut stasis is often referred to as the silent killer. This is because the owner may not be able to notice any symptoms until it is too late to save the rabbit.

This is why it is important to monitor your bunny closely if your suspect they are not drinking properly and could be developing ileus.

The signs of GI stasis you should look out for include:

  • Lethargy
  • Hunched back
  • Teeth grinding as a sign of pain
  • Excessive gas and bloating
  • Decreased or no droppings
  • Soft stool or diarrhea

If your rabbit is not drinking water for more than 21 hours, you may expect gut stasis to develop fairly quickly, which is why you need to get in touch with a vet as soon as possible.

To help your rabbit:

1. First, you need to make sure what is causing the condition.

If it is a blockage in the intestinal tract, your vet will be able to help. In such a case, you should not try to feed your bunny.

If gut stasis is not brought on by a gastrointestinal obstruction, you can gently encourage your bunny to eat and drink by offering them their favorite treats and veggies. Do not offer fruits or juice as sugar may only worsen the situation.

2. If your rabbit has not been drinking water, you can gently try to give them water with a syringe. Use a small syringe with 1ml of water at a time and keep your rabbit in a sitting posture with its head straight to prevent them from aspirating the water into their lungs.

3. You should also keep your bunny warm and try to gently massage their belly to get the bowel movements going again.

4. Because GI stasis can be lethal and the situation may worsen unexpectedly, take your rabbit to the vet as soon as you can.

Do Rabbits Need Water?

Yes, rabbits need water. Although they do get some water from the leafy greens, veggies, and fruits they eat, they also need to have access to clean water at all times.

Just like humans, rabbits need to keep drinking water because they are losing fluids through sweating and urinating. Not drinking will quickly cause problems.

How much water does a rabbit need?

A rabbit needs about two ounces of water per pound of bodyweight every day.

This means that an average rabbit weighing eight pounds will need approximately 16 ounces of water per day, which translates to two cups.

Keep in mind that bunnies may need more water if it is hot.

Also, if a rabbit is eating a lot of leafy greens and veggies that have a high water content, they may need a little less water. However, they should still have water available so they can drink when they need to.

Do bunnies need water at night?

Yes, bunnies need water during the night. Rabbits are crepuscular animals, which means they usually graze during dawn and dusk to avoid predators. However, pet rabbits often eat during the night, too, so they definitely need water as well.

Rabbits should have access to clean water 24/7, so make sure their water bottle or bowl is filled up for the night.

how long can rabbit go without water

How to Help Your Rabbit Drink

If your rabbit is not drinking water, there are a few ways you can encourage them:

  • Make the water bottle and bowl easily accessible. If your rabbit is sick and not feeling well, it may not be able to drink on its own. Make sure they can reach the water with minimum effort and try using a shallow bowl.
  • Try giving your bunny some of their favorite vegetables with high water content. You can even add a few drops of water on top of veggies or spray the leafy greens with water to get some extra moisture into their body.
  • Syringe feeding water is a good option if your rabbit is too weak to drink by itself but needs the water and is willing to take the syringe. Make sure you have a small syringe and only fill it with 1ml of water at a time. Keep your rabbit in a sitting position, hold them close, and keep their head straight. Giving only small amounts at a time and doing it slowly without making the bunny tilt its head backward will help the bunny avoid aspirating the water. You can read more on how to syringe feed your rabbit here.
  • Soak some basil leaves in water so it will have a nice flavor that may encourage your bunny to drink.
  • Make sure the water is not cold. Many rabbits don’t like water that is too cold. This applies especially to baby bunnies that are used to drinking their mother’s milk. Warming up the water may get your rabbit drinking.

If you cannot coax your rabbit to drink within 12 hours, contact the vet so they can assess the situation. Often, you may need to take your pet to a veterinary clinic so they can administer intravenous fluids and possibly medication.

Rabbits and Water – FAQ

How do rabbits drink water?

In the wild, rabbits get most of the moisture they need from the foods they eat. Grass and other plants contain a lot of water, so they are a good source of water. Rabbits may also drink from a stream or puddle or sip the dew on plants, but mostly they get the needed moisture from their food.

Pet rabbits, however, eat hay that is quite dry. They do get veggies as well, but because hay makes up 80% of their diet, they need water in addition.

For pet rabbits, the most natural way to drink is to drink from a small bowl. The bowl should be heavy, so it is not tipped over easily, and so it gives you bunny easy access to the water. Here is one product we recommend.

Another option is to get a water dispenser that allows your rabbit to easily drink water while making sure it stays clean. This Lixit waterer is a great choice for that.

Although drinking from a bowl is more natural for rabbits, they can be taught to drink from a water bottle with a metal spout. Many pet rabbits have learned this skill at a very young age, and you can get them a reversible water bottle that hangs on the side of the cage and keeps the water clean and fresh.

This bestselling Lixit water bottle is a favorite of many bunny parents.

Can rabbits drink out of a bowl?

Yes, rabbits can drink out of a bowl. Actually, it is more natural for them than drinking from a water bottle because, in the wild, they drink from puddles and streams if they need to.

You can get your rabbit a sturdy ceramic bowl like this Living World Ergonomic Small Animal Food Dish or a water dispenser such as the Lixit Reversible Waterer for Rabbits that will keep the water clean through the day.

Can Rabbits Drink Juice?

No, rabbits should not drink juice. Although it is sometimes suggested you offer juice to dehydrated rabbits to get them drinking, juice contains a lot of sugar and may only make matters worse by adding to the excessive growth of harmful bacteria in your rabbit’s gut.

Juice is also high in sugar which rabbits are very sensitive to. Getting too much sugar from their diet may lead to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, or tummy upsets like diarrhea.

 I forgot to give my rabbit water – what should I do?

If you forgot to give your rabbit water, the first thing to do is ask yourself how long your pet has gone without access to water.

If it’s just a few hours, fill up the water bowl or bottle immediately and try to give your rabbits some veggies that are high in water to get some moisture into their body.

If it’s more than 12 hours, you should be very concerned about your pet’s health. Make sure they have access to water, try to give them vegetables for moisture, and monitor them for signs of gut stasis or dehydration.

Symptoms of dehydration include

  • Dark and smelly urine
  • Wrinkled skin
  • No appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Fever

While signs of gut stasis you should look out for are

  • Lethargy
  • Hunched pack
  • Teeth grinding as a sign of pain
  • Excessive gas and bloating
  • Decreased or no droppings
  • Soft stool or diarrhea

If your rabbit has gone without water for 24 hours or more, the situation is potentially fatal, and you need to get your rabbit drinking as soon as possible.

Fill up the water, offer them veggies that contain a lot of moisture, and try to give 1ml of water at a time with a syringe. Make sure not to tilt your rabbit’s head backward to prevent them from aspirating it.

Also, if your pet has gone this long without water, you should contact a vet immediately to get them to assess the situation and to give you more advice on how to help your rabbit.

Do baby rabbits drink water?

Baby rabbits under 8 weeks will drink their mother’s milk and get most of the moisture they need from it. However, young rabbits start drinking from the water bowl or bottle in the cage at about 3-4 weeks following their mother’s example.

If you have baby rabbits, make sure that from the age of 3-4 weeks, they have a water bottle or bowl that is accessible to them and filled with fresh water at all times.

What do wild bunnies drink?

Wild bunnies don’t actually drink that much. They get most of the moisture their bodies need from the grass and other plants they eat, and they rarely need to drink water as such. However, if it’s hot or their diet consists of plants that do not contain enough water, rabbits may drink from water sources like puddles and streams. They are also known to sip the dew on plants.

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Summing Up – How Long Can Bunnies Go Without Water?

Now, going back to the question we had in the beginning:

How long can rabbits go without water?

In general, rabbits can go without drinking water from a few hours to about 12 hours. However, each passing hour without water will increase the risk of potentially fatal health problems. Therefore, you should never intentionally leave your bunny without water for more than a couple of hours if you’re taking them to the vet or there is another reason you can’t provide them with water.

Although rabbits can live without water for 3-4 days, it doesn’t mean they will survive it. After 12 hours without drinking, you should be very concerned about your pet’s health and try to get them to drink. Contacting a vet at this point is advisable.

After 24 hours of not drinking water, your rabbit’s situation should be considered an emergency, and you need to get the rabbits to the vet immediately.

If you need to feed your bunny with a syringe to ensure the intake of water and essential nutrients, please follow this guide on Syringe Feeding Rabbits to do it correctly and safely.

Read Next: What do Rabbits Eat And Drink?

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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