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Why Is My Rabbit Not Drinking Water? (8 Causes & Solutions)

Why Is My Rabbit Not Drinking Water? (8 Causes & Solutions)
The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care. In addition, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Rabbits drink up to three times more water than animals of the same size. They can easily drink around a quarter of a liter of water per day and even more during the summer season.

If a rabbit isn’t drinking as much water as he should, it can be a cause for concern. Due to dehydration, a rabbit not drinking water can become fatal if not treated immediately.

To help you with this issue, we’ve listed some potential reasons why a rabbit isn’t drinking, plus some tips to encourage him to drink. Let’s dive right in!

8 Possible Reasons Why Your Rabbit Isn’t Drinking His Water

Here are some of the top reasons why your rabbit isn’t drinking enough water:

1 – The Water Smells or Tastes Weird

Here’s a little known fact about rabbits: they can be incredibly fussy with the taste and smell of their water. If the “flavor” or scent changes just slightly, they might stop drinking it entirely.

Think of it this way; would you keep drinking your water if it tasted or smelled funny? The same goes for rabbits.

Rabbits have a strong sense of smell, so they can easily smell the chemicals in the water. On top of that, they can taste any changes in flavor due to the 17,000+ tastebuds located in their mouth and pharynx.

So if your rabbit stops drinking his water, you may want to check your water quality, especially if it comes from the well or tap. You might need to switch his water to filtered or bottled.

2 – The Water or Water Bowl Is Dirty

Since rabbits are prey animals, they’re biologically programmed to avoid dirty-looking water.

Rabbits need to have 24/7 access to fresh, clean water. As such, their water bowl or water bottle must be changed on a daily basis, sometimes up to three times a day if the rabbit is a messy eater.

Healthy rabbits empty their water container by the end of the day, so you should always make sure it’s filled up before you go to bed.

But don’t just fill it up and call it a day; you should take the water bowl/bottle and give it a thorough wash to ensure it’s nice and clean.

3 – The Water Is Too Hot or Too Cold

Yes, you read that right—some rabbits are finicky with the temperature of their water!

If the water is too warm or too cold, they won’t drink it even after several hours.

Rabbits don’t perceive time and temperature as we do; if the water was cold/hot when they tasted it, they’ll think that it’ll be the same temperature even hours later.

So when you’re refilling the water bowl/bottle, make sure the water is at room temperature.

If it’s summer or winter, occasionally check the water temperature throughout the day to ensure it doesn’t get too hot or too cold at some point in the day.

4 – Your Rabbit Is Suffering From Toothaches

Rabbit teeth are more sensitive than human teeth.

They have deep roots that can easily crack when chewing on hard food.

And since the teeth on the bottom of their cheek can overgrow, become mishappen or distorted, or even penetrate into their jawbones, it can make eating and drinking an extremely difficult and painful process.

This might be the reason why your rabbit isn’t drinking or eating as much as before.

Symptoms of toothache in rabbits are as follows:

  • Reduction or total loss of appetite
  • Drooling or wetness around the mouth
  • Runny eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced production of fecal pallets
  • Unexplainable weight loss.
  • Bad breath
  • Swelling or inflammation around the chin or jaw area
  • Teeth grinding

Ideally, you should check your rabbit’s front teeth every week.

Except for the vertical line down the center, the front teeth (incisors) should be creamy, smooth, and end in a neat chisel-shaped bite.

The back teeth can only be evaluated by a veterinarian with specialized equipment, so make sure to take your rabbit in for a dental check-up at least once every six months.

If your rabbit hasn’t had a dental check-up in a while, it’s time to take them to the vet.

5 – Your Rabbit Is Drinking Water From an Alternative Source

Your rabbit might not be drinking as much water because he’s either drinking water from an alternative source—like a leaky tap or a small puddle from outside—or getting enough hydration from the food he’s eating.

Leafy greens and fruits provide decent hydration for rabbits, but they can never fully replace water.

Keep in mind that rabbits require more water than comparable species.

A five-pound rabbit drinks as much water as a 25-pound dog. They need to consume at least 10% of their body weight in water daily.

Hydrating foods like lettuce and cucumber help reach this number, but they can’t do it alone. You might have to reduce the number of veggies/fruits you’re giving your rabbit so he won’t abandon his water bowl.

6 – Your Rabbit Is Experiencing Digestive Issues

Many rabbits would stop eating and drinking water if they were suffering from gastrointestinal issues. Usually, these issues are caused by contaminated water, molded food pellets or hay, bacteria from food, inappropriate diet, and parasites among others.

Some rabbits get stomach issues during pregnancy, mating season, or while nursing their kits but it doesn’t last for more than a few hours. If it does, you might want to consult a veterinarian.

Symptoms of gastrointestinal stasis in rabbits are as follows:

  • Loud teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Lethargy or antisocial behavior
  • Pressing abdomen on the ground
  • Hunched posture
  • Bloated stomach
  • Passing little to no stool
  • Small and/or malformed fecal pellets

7 – Your Rabbit Is Sick

Your rabbit might not be drinking water because he’s feeling sickly.

Reduced or total loss of appetite is a universal warning sign that our animal companions are sick.

For rabbits, any change in eating habits could be an indication of respiratory issues, uterine tumors, or even just a side effect of pain.

Usually, this is accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Change in the amount, size, or shape of feces
  • Slow movement or lethargy
  • Changes in gait and/or posture.
  • Hiding away
  • Quick or noisy breathing
  • Head tilt (torticollis or wry neck)
  • Sore hocks (heel of the rabbit’s foot)
  • Saliva around the mouth/chin
  • Strange vocalizations
  • Discharge from the eyes

8 – Your Rabbit Is Stressed

Stress in rabbits manifests in a lot of ways. Some become excessively jumpy or aggressive around people or other rabbits, while others hide away and stop eating or drinking.

Since rabbits are naturally anxious animals, even the slightest environmental change can trigger a stress response. This could be anything from a new rabbit companion to a new cage or location.

Rabbits can also get stressed when bored or confined in a single space, especially when locked in without regular activity and stimulation.

Other potential causes of stress include:

  • Overstimulated senses (sight, smell, and hearing)
  • Social stress (overactive animals or too many animals in one place)
  • Exposure to environmental hazards (lightning, storms, heat wave, etc.)
  • Lack of ventilation
  • Rough handling
  • Frequent handling
  • Dirty sleeping area and food/water bowl

If your rabbit doesn’t drink as much water as he used to, you might want to look at the factors above. Stressed rabbits are more susceptible to illnesses like heart disease, respiratory issues, and digestive problems.

8 Tips and Tricks to Get Your Rabbit to Drink More Water

Now that you know the reasons why your rabbit isn’t drinking water, here are some solutions to try:

1 – Increase Access to Water

Rabbits need to have easy access to water at all times of the day, especially if they’re free-roam rabbits.

Place multiple water bowls in a variety of locations throughout the house so water is never too far away.

Ideally, you should have at least three different water bowls placed strategically around their most visited areas.

2 – Ditch the Water Bottle—Try a Water Fountain Instead

Most rabbits prefer drinking from a water bowl rather than a bottle because it’s a more natural way to drink.

The downside here is that water bowls can very easily become soiled with bedding and litter, and can also be knocked over by overexcited rabbits. You can get a heavier bowl, but that only solves half the problem.

Water bottles are a good alternative, but they may prevent some rabbits from drinking as much water as they need. The solution? Water fountains!

Since lots of rabbits are drawn to running water, water fountains can help encourage your rabbit to drink more. Water fountains will keep the water fresh and clean, plus they’re heavy enough that your rabbit won’t be able to move it.

Just make sure the wiring is out of the way and the fountain produces enough water to last throughout the day.

3 – Add Some Flavor to the Water

Try adding about half a teaspoon of unsweetened vegetable or fruit juice to the water to add a bit of flavor to the water. The scent and flavor might tempt them to drink more water.

Carrot juice, apple juice, and pineapple juice are great options to try, but make sure they don’t contain any artificial sweeteners, flavoring, or coloring. They should be 100% pure.

You can also try adding some fragrant herbs to the bowl, such as:

  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Tarragon
  • Lemon balm
  • Clover
  • Comfrey
  • Lavender

Add several of these into the bowl and watch as they try to fish them out and eat them. While doing so, they’ll inevitably drink some of the water in the bowl.

Though these herbs are safe, don’t overindulge your rabbits. Two to three leaves/flowers a day is more than enough.

Also, make sure the herbs you’re adding to the water aren’t toxic.

It’s worth spending several minutes online to double-check the herbs’ toxicity to rabbits. Poisonous herbs include poppies, daffodils, figwort, hemlock, jasmine, and eucalyptus.

If your rabbit is drinking from a water bottle, try smearing a small amount of banana onto the sipper to coax him to drink.

This technique is helpful for kits that don’t quite know how to use the water bottle just yet.

Once your rabbit finished drinking, wipe away any excess banana mush to prevent bacteria and dirt from contaminating the bottle.

4 – Be Mindful of the Water Temperature

As discussed earlier, some rabbits are sensitive to the temperature of their drinking water.

If it’s too warm or too cold, they won’t drink it even if they’re thirsty.

Because of this, you should always be mindful of the water’s temperature when adding it to the bowl.

Generally, rabbits prefer room temperature water that falls between 100.5 and 103.5°F.

On warm days, when temperatures are above 75°F, rabbits prefer their water to be slightly colder, but not by much.

5 – Change and Refill the Water Multiple Times a Day

Don’t just wait until the end of the day or after your rabbits have run out of water to refill the bowl.

Change and replenish the bowl at least two to three times a day so they always have access to fresh water.

This tip is especially helpful for rabbits that tend to drink a lot right after you refill the water bowl.

6 – Frequently Wash the Water Bowl

Changing or refilling the water bowl isn’t enough; you have to wash them regularly too.

Rabbits won’t drink from dirty water bowls, so you should always make sure they’re washed daily to avoid any bacteria build-up.

7 – Sneak in Some Water When Giving Them Greens

Whenever you’re giving your rabbits fresh greens and veggies, add some water to the bowl or leave some extra drops of water on the leaves. This way, your rabbit will get the extra hydration he needs to complete his daily liquid requirement.

Also, make sure to give your rabbit veggies and fruits with a lot of water content. Examples include:

  • Cucumber (95% water)
  • Lettuce (95% water)
  • Watercress (95% water)
  • Zucchini (94% water)
  • Watermelon (92% water).

8 – Switch to a Metal Dripper

For such small creatures, rabbits have incredibly sharp teeth.

They use these razor-like incisors to slice through the rough, fibrous vegetation they eat.

But because their teeth are so sharp, some would accidentally puncture or damage the sipper straw part of a water bottle, causing them some pain.

This might be the reason why they’re drinking less than they used to.

Avoid this by switching to a metal dripper and discarding the plastic dripper.

How Much Water Does a Rabbit Need To Drink Each Day?

The answer to this question depends on a lot of factors, including age, weight, and overall health.

On average though, rabbits must consume anywhere between 50 and 150 milliliters (1/4 cup to 2/4 cup) of water per 2 pounds of body weight per day.

So if your rabbit weighs around 2.5 pounds, he needs to drink at least 75 milliliters of water per day.

On especially hot days, their water consumption could double that amount.

How Long Can a Rabbit Last Without Water?

Rabbits need a lot of water to survive. In fact, they need more water than other animals of their size.

Because of this, rabbits can’t go longer than 24 hours without water, and even less when the weather is hot.

Even if they survive, they might experience some serious consequences that can have a long-term effect on their health.

Rabbits should never go more than a few hours without water. If you’re taking your rabbit on a trip, always bring enough food and water to avoid health complications.

Rabbits that don’t drink a single sip of water past the 12-hour mark must be taken to the vet immediately.

The vet will likely give your rabbit an IV drip to save them from dehydration and organ failure. Then, the vet might give you instructions on how to syringe feed your rabbit to prevent this from happening again in the future.

What Are the Signs of Dehydration in a Rabbit?

If left untreated, dehydration can be fatal in rabbits. These are some of the biggest signs of dehydration to look out for:

  • Dark colored urine
  • Strong smelling urine
  • Stiff skin
  • Lack of interest in food and water
  • Lack of energy or disorientation
  • High body temperature (above 105°F)
  • Hard dry fecal pellets
  • Crusty eyes
  • Thick, sticky saliva

In most cases, dehydration in rabbits can cause drowsiness and apathy, renal insufficiency, and heart arrhythmia among others.

If you’re not sure whether your rabbit is dehydrated or not, perform a simple pinch test.

Gently pinch and lift your rabbit’s skin and examine its elasticity.

If the skin remains pinched and wrinkled for more than a few seconds before returning to its natural position, your rabbit is likely dehydrated.

Final Thoughts

Rabbits need to drink lots of water to survive. If they go longer than 24 hours without water, it can lead to organ failure and death.

If your rabbit isn’t drinking enough water, it might be because the water smells or tastes off, the water is too warm or cold, or the water bowl is dirty.

It might also be caused by more serious matters, like toothache, digestive issues, stress, and sickness.

Knowing the reason for your rabbit’s lack of interest in water is important to ensure he’s healthy and happy.

Good luck!

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