Fresh water is very, very important for rabbits, particularly if they are on a dry diet. If they don’t drink enough they are more likely to get urinary problems and other diseases. There used to be an old wives’ tale that rabbits fed on green stuff didn’t need water – a belief that must have led to much suffering among pet rabbits. Rabbits normally drink about 50-100 ml over a 24 hour period (Harcourt-Brown 2002). Getting enough to drink is important because if they don’t, this will may predispose them to urinary problems. If the rabbit already has urinary difficulties, then water intake is absolutely crucial (Harcourt-Brown 2011)
Most rabbit will learn to use a sipper bottle for water (Diethelm-Mader 2009) but this is not the best way to give water. Despite this, the water bottles with tubes are almost universally accepted and you will read about them in otherwise good rabbit literature. It is also important always to have water available, because if it isn’t when water is reintroduced rabbits drink less rather than more (Tschudin et al., 2011).
Rabbits prefer to drink from open dishes (Tschudin et al., 2011). They drink quicker than having to suck from a tube. Chose a low bowl heavy enough so that the rabbit cannot push it about. Drinking from the bottle is harder for them and painful for a rabbit with a sore mouth or tooth problems so they drink less. Enough water is particularly important for sick rabbits, rabbits in hot weather or those eating a dry diet. Rabbits who get dehydrated can die very suddenly.
Diethelm-Mader, G., (2009), ‘Rabbit medicine: a basic approach to veterinary care,’ Latin American Veterinary Conference Proceedings, 269-277
Harcourt-Brown, F., (2002), The Textbook of Rabbit Medicine, Oxford, UK, Butterworth-Heinemann
Harcourt-Brown, F., (2011), ‘Importance of water intake in rabbits,’ Veterinary Record, 185, 189-190
Tschudin, A., Clauss, M., Doron, D. & Hatt, J-M, (2011), ‘ Preference of rabbits for drinking from open dishes versus nipple drinkers,’ Veterinary Record, 168, 190.
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All normal safety precautions should be taken when dealing with animals. The advice in this section should be taken only at the owner’s own risk. All sick animals should be seen by a vet.
General advice of the kind found in this website is no substitute for an individual consultation with a vet or qualified behaviourist working on a vet’s referral.