Can Rabbits Die Without Water? Here’s the answer.

Categorized as Bunny Diet

Last Updated on January 26, 2022 by Rei Garnet

Rabbits that are not drinking water can die from impactions, heatstroke, dehydration, and urinary stones. Your rabbit should always have clean drinkable water available to them.

Rabbits should never be left alone without access to clean drinkable water for more than 24 hours. Without access to clean drinkable water, your rabbit could suffer from dehydration especially if it’s hot and humid.

Now that I’ve given you the gist of the article, read on as I explain in more detail why your rabbits can die without water:

How can rabbits die without water?

A wild rabbit on directy sunlight which almost lead to dehydration

Dehydration

Rabbits would most likely die from dehydration first if they are not given water to drink for 24 hours. Rabbits need to drink 50-100mL/kg of water every 24 hours, without it, they can easily die from dehydration especially in the summer months.

It can also depend on your rabbit’s diet, rabbits that are eating a lot of vegetables may survive a bit longer even without water because most plants are high in water content.

Some rabbits can even go a whole day without drinking water if they’re fed large amounts of vegetables(which is bad for them).

While rabbits that are on a high-protein diet, fibrous, salty, or dry foods would likely die faster than usual because this type of food absorbs water in the intestinal tract.

Heatstroke

A rabbit sitting on direct sunlight, which can lead to dehydration if it doesnt have access to water

Rabbits that don’t have access to clean drinkable water in the summer months would likely die from heatstroke because rabbits are more sensitive to heat than cold.

Rabbits can’t sweat except for a few sweat glands on their lips. They also cannot pant like dogs and other animals to signal their owners that it’s too hot because rabbits primarily breathe thru their noses.

Impaction

Without water, your rabbit’s gut would not function properly because of the lack of moisture. This, in turn, could lead to intestinal blockage or impaction.

Impactions in rabbits can also be life-threatening if not treated.

Urinary stones

Lack of water would also make it hard for your rabbit to flush out the excess calcium in their diet, which in turn could lead to the development of urinary stones.

Urinary stones can lead to kidney failure and death if it’s not treated immediately.

How to tell if your rabbit is dehydrated?

A lethargic rabbit due to dehydration

To tell if your rabbit is dehydrated, you have to look for its symptoms which include dark and smelly urine, fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, and wrinkled skin.

You can tell that your rabbit’s urine is dark by its smell. Dark urine that’s caused by dehydration has a stronger scent of ammonia.

As for wrinkled skin, you can test dehydration by gently pulling a little bit of skin in the back of your rabbit’s neck. If the skin stays in place for a few seconds, it’s a good indicator that your rabbit might be suffering from dehydration.

As for fever, the only way to be certain that your rabbit has a fever is by taking a rectal temperature. I advise that you let your veterinarian do this one though because rabbits are very squeamish.

Finally, lethargy and lack of appetite is the end-stage of dehydration, when this symptom shows up, it’s time to bring your rabbit to a veterinarian.

What causes dehydration in rabbits?

The most common cause of dehydration in rabbits is the lack of access to clean drinkable water and diarrhea. Rabbits normally drink 50-100mL/kg of water every 24 hours.

Here’s a table that shows how much water a rabbit would drink depending on its breed:

Rabbit’s weight based on breedWater requirement per day
Small breed (1.1–3.5 pounds)25-158mL
Medium breed (6 to 10 pounds)136-454mL
Large breed ( 9 and 12 pounds)204-544mL

The amount of water that rabbits need to drink per day is highly dependant on a lot of factors. As an example, if it’s hot where you live, your rabbits might need to drink more water than usual.

Rabbits that are eating a lot of vegetables might not drink water at all because most vegetables that rabbits eat already have a lot of water in them.

The most common cause of rabbits that die due to dehydration is when a rabbit owner forgets to change/fill their rabbit’s bowl when they’re not coming home for a few days.

Also, rabbits that are caged outside in direct sunlight are also more likely to suffer from dehydration. Never cage your rabbit outside without any protection from the sun.

Finally, rabbits that are suffering from diarrhea are more likely suffering from dehydration too because they’re losing large amounts of water every time they poop.

Rabbits that have diarrhea are most likely exhibiting lethargy too, which can make them unable to drink the water they need. That’s why diarrhea is often life-threatening to rabbits if it’s not treated immediately.

How long can a rabbit survive before dying caused by dehydration?

The amount of time a rabbit before a rabbit could die caused by dehydration would depend on a couple of factors but it can be as little as 24 hours.

Rabbits that are eating a lot of vegetables might survive a bit longer even without access to water because most of these plants contain a lot of water.

Some rabbits can even go a whole day without drinking water if they are fed high-water content vegetables.

While rabbits that are dehydrated and experiencing heatstroke can die in under 24 hours.

How to prevent your rabbit from dying caused by dehydration?

Your rabbits should have access to clean drinkable water 24/7 to prevent them from dying from dehydration.

But if your rabbit is experiencing dehydration due to diarrhea, it’s best that you bring them to a veterinarian because most rabbits that are suffering from diarrhea would also experience lethargy.

Dehydration caused by diarrhea can make a rabbit so lethargic that it can’t drink on its own. Your vet might administer IV fluids to help your rabbit hydrate.

When should you bring your rabbit to a veterinarian to prevent them from dying caused by dehydration?

You should always bring your rabbit to a veterinarian the moment you notice any behavioral changes or changes in their poop/urine.

If you wait too late, your rabbit might not be able to survive even if you bring them to a veterinarian. Remember, rabbits can die within 24 hours from dehydration.

Conclusion

Rabbits would most likely die from dehydration first if they don’t have access to drinkable water. This can happen within 24 hours especially if it’s hot and humid where you live.

Rabbits can also die from urinary stones and impactions if they don’t have access to water. Without water, rabbits cannot flush out the excess calcium in their diet, which in turn can lead to kidney failure and death.

Finally, a rabbit’s gut needs water to function properly, without moisture, impactions or blockages could happen. This can be life-threatening if not treated.

Cite this article:

Bunny Horde (January 28, 2022) Can Rabbits Die Without Water? Here’s the answer.. Retrieved from https://bunnyhorde.com/can-rabbits-die-without-water/.
"Can Rabbits Die Without Water? Here’s the answer.." Bunny Horde - January 28, 2022, https://bunnyhorde.com/can-rabbits-die-without-water/

Sources

Image credit – FASTILY, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, Jessie Eastland – uploaded by Pocketthis at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, UsanaAngelou, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons, “rabbit” (CC BY 2.0) by Mostly Dans

By Rei Garnet

I’ve loved and cared for rabbits since I was 9 years old, and I’m here to share my passion for rabbits. My objective is to help rabbit owners give their rabbits the best life possible.