Rabbit Stops Drinking Water

What can be done to encourage a rabbit to drink more water?

Q: My 7-pound Rex rabbit has never been much of a water drinker, maybe about a ¼ cup per day, but recently she decided not to drink water at all. This happened after she injured her leg or back. X-rays showed nothing, but she was hopping around on three legs for 10 days; now she’s recovering fine. My vet can’t find anything wrong with her other than that she might have arthritis. She gave me some medicine for that.

I was feeding her about 3 or 4 cups of organic greens per day consisting of parsley, cilantro, dandelion, carrot tops and romaine. Now I feed her about 5 or 6 cups to make sure she has enough fluids. She looks great, her fur looks beautiful, she eats ¼ cup per day of organic rabbit pellets, and she loves her Timothy and 3-way hay. But … is she really getting enough fluids? My vet is very rabbit-experienced, and she told me that sometimes bunnies stop drinking water, and then you just have to give them intravenous fluids the rest of their life. I really don’t want to do that unless I have too; she doesn’t handle it very well and gets really stressed. Is there anything I can do to encourage her to drink water?

A: If there is one thing a rabbit or any animal will do as long as possible, it is try to stay hydrated. If an animal has diarrhea or is urinating a lot, you will notice that the animal will drink more to replace the fluids. Rabbits may not eat if they have dental disease or if they are in pain, but unless there is something mechanically wrong with their mouth, they will always drink to remain hydrated.

If you believe your rabbit is truly not drinking as much as she used to, it is likely she is getting enough fluid through her greens and hay. Also, since you have limited her pellet intake, there is less “dry food” in her diet. If you think that she truly is not taking in enough water, your veterinarian can do a physical examination and a very simple blood test to see if she is hydrated enough.

If your rabbit is not taking in enough fluids, her litter box will be much drier than usual. If you notice this, then you and your veterinarian need to find out why she is not drinking enough.

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