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Rabbits Need Water

Fresh water is an essential part of a rabbit’s daily diet.

By Margaret A. Wissman, DVM, Dip. ABVP — Avian Practice

rabbit
Rabbit Sesame/©Courtesy Connie Zeng
Rabbits require a lot more water than comparable species.

Although we don’t think of water as such, it is a vital nutrient. All animals require water for life, but rabbits require more water than comparable species. For example, in one day a 5-pound rabbit drinks as much water as a 24-pound dog. In fact, the average rabbit consumes between 50 and 150 milliliters of water per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight per day.

Bottle It!
A water bottle with a sipper tube is the ideal way to offer water to your rabbit. Almost all rabbits quickly learn to use the water bottle. Encourage your rabbit to investigate the new water bottle by smearing a little molasses or sweet jam on the end of the tube.

Discontinue the sweet treat once your rabbit begins regularly drinking out of the tube. Check the sipper tube several times per day to ensure that the water flow is unobstructed and free-flowing when touched.

Using a water bowl presents several problems. If a rabbit’s dewlap is constantly wet from leaning over the water bowl, it could develop a skin infection. Breeds with pronounced dewlaps should definitely use a sipper tube. Water bowls are also more prone to contamination with fecal material or urine. The bowl must be checked, cleaned and replenished several times per day (as necessary). If you use a bowl for your rabbit’s water, choose one that heavy enough to prevent the rabbit from tipping it over.

Food & Water Go Hand-and-Hand
When a rabbit does not have access to food, it drinks excessive amounts of water. After three days of food deprivation, a hungry rabbit might increase its water consumption by six and half times its normal intake. Conversely, if deprived of water, a rabbit’s food consumption declines. After three days of not being able to drink water, it will stop eating entirely. This is an extremely dangerous situation.

Although it seems almost like an afterthought when you consider rabbit care, potable and abundant water is vital for a rabbit to remain healthy. Remember to always provide your bunny with access to fresh water.

Rabbits Can’t Stand The Heat
Rabbits cannot endure water deprivation for more then 24 hours (even less during hot weather) without serious health consequences.

Rabbits generally tolerate cooler weather (if acclimatized and provided with adequate shelter) much better than elevated ambient temperatures. Temperatures above 84 degrees Fahrenheit are dangerous to rabbits, because they cannot sweat — except for sweat glands located only on their lips. Although dogs pant to dissipate excessive heat, panting does not work for rabbits. If a rabbit becomes dehydrated, it ceases panting. As the ambient temperature increases, rabbits usually drink less water, which can result in life-threatening dehydration and heat-related illness. Keep your bunny cool and protected from the heat on warm days.


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Reader Comments
I disagree 100% with the water bottle being superior. Many water bottles frequently use plastic components that are now thought to have long-term toxicity risks. Additionally, the materials in water bottles are harder to disinfect, and cannot be autoclaved. Finally, in just about every case, I have found rabbits do not drink nearly as much from the unnatural position of a water bottle than from the natural position from a bowl. The risks are greater. Use a metal or ceramic water bowl that can withstand being boiled and cleaned with a disinfectant such as accelerated hydrogen peroxide, lactic acid, or PCMX. Periodically clean the bowl using either the heat or chemical disinfectant. This is to remove the potentially lethal microorganisms that you cannot see.

Even though the rabbit may not be making direct contact with the surface inside a water bottle, lethal pathogenic organisms can (and will) replicate inside that water bottle if it is not being properly disinfected periodically. However, boiling plastic components have toxicity concerns, and chemical disinfectants have the same concerns of boiling plus accelerated wear. Even the glass water bottles often use plastic components, and most glass water bottles are not using glass with strong heat resistance.

With free roaming & litter trained house rabbits, place the water bowl in a corner area away from the litter basket, and train the rabbit to not flip the bowl using the same reinforcement techniques to curb nipping.

One easy test is this...give the rabbit both options for a few weeks and note which one gets used the most. Then, use only one for a few weeks and log how much water is being consumed with each. In my experience, the rabbit will drink a ton more water from a water bowl. As is the case with people, people who don't drink a lot of water tend to have health issues, so my preference is for whatever method ensures more water is being consumed. But the above is why I disagree strongly when people say to use water bottles with rabbits. YMMV.
Zac, Sefa, ME
Posted: 4/25/2016 11:11:31 AM
You should try a running hose of fresh water. Place it by your deck and put a carrot by the streaming water coming out of the house. She will eat the carrot, taste the water and hopefully start drinking it, maybe eventually she could try and get use to a sipper that you can attach to your deck..my rabbit is tamed and came from a pet store so she is use to a sipper
Destiney, longs, SC
Posted: 10/22/2014 11:26:08 PM
I have a rabbit i feed carrots to each day but with no rain the rabbit doesn't get water; she is a older rabbit so i don't know how to give her water she isn't a tamed rabbit but she does sit for me in front of the deck and i throw her a carrot she doesn't get real close but she knows i take card of her so she stays around here all the time. Any suggestion on how to give her water other than a bottle
Jodi, Springfield, IL
Posted: 8/30/2013 11:47:44 AM
Every living being needs water.
vs, belgrade
Posted: 7/21/2013 12:19:04 AM
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