Why Is My Rabbit Drinking A Lot Of Water?

Categorized as Bunny Facts

Last Updated on December 21, 2021 by Rei Garnet

Rabbits that are drinking a lot of water can be caused by a number of conditions such as dehydration, hot temperatures, diet changes, diabetes, chronic renal failure, lower urinary tract disease, liver problems, E. cuniculi, and clostridial enterotoxaemia.

Now that I’ve given you the gist of the article, read on as I explain in more detail why your rabbit is drinking a lot of water:

Symptoms of polydipsia in rabbits.

Rabbits that are experiencing polydipsia or increased thirst might be hard to detect because rabbits’ water consumption is highly dependant on their diet.

But here are the few things you should look for when you’re trying to decide whether or not your rabbit is experiencing polydipsia:

  • Frequent urination
  • Water bowl/bottle is empty more frequently
  • Light colored urine
  • Partially incontinent or having insufficient voluntary control over urination.

Possible reasons why your rabbit is drinking a lot of water.

Increased thirst in rabbits can be worrying especially if it happens all of a sudden. Here are the possible reasons why your rabbit is drinking a lot of water:

1. Dehydration

Rabbits that are drinking too much water can be due to dehydration caused by neglect or an illness like diarrhea. Here are the signs of dehydration in rabbits:

  • Dark/smelly urine
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Wrinkled skin

Rabbits that are neglected or not given unlimited amounts of clean drinkable water are susceptible to dehydration because most rabbit owners underestimate the amount of water their rabbits need.

Remember, rabbits drink 50-100 mL/kg of water every 24 hours. The amount I mentioned is highly dependant on your rabbit’s diet. For rabbits that are eating a lot of protein or dried fibrous food, their water intake is higher. So it’s much better to let your rabbit decide on how much water they need for the day and just give them a lot.

As for dehydration caused by diarrhea, it’s likely due to a wrong diet or you changed your rabbit’s diet too fast.

Here are the signs of diarrhea in rabbits:

  • Small, watery, foul smelling feces.
  • Soft feces sticking to fur.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased water intake
  • Lethargy

If you notice one or more of the following symptoms, bring your rabbit to a veterinarian. Diarrhea in rabbits can be fatal if not treated immediately.

2. Hot temperatures

Your rabbit might be drinking a lot of water because they are overheating or having a heatstroke.

Because rabbits don’t have any sweat glands except for a few on their lips, they are more prone to heatstroke, especially in the summer.

Also, rabbits cannot pant like dogs to signal their owners that it’s too hot because rabbits primarily breathe thru their noses.

Here are the most common symptoms of heatstroke in rabbits:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Gasping for air
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bluish or grey lips
  • Exhaustion

Here are some things you can do to protect your rabbit from heatstroke and what can you do if they already have it:

  • Never place your rabbit in direct sunlight
  • Place a bottle of cold water near them during summertime.
  • Provide them shade when they are outside.
  • Wrap your rabbit body with a moistened towel. Don’t wrap their ears because it helps them regulate the temperature.
  • Don’t soak your rabbit in water if you suspect them of heatstroke because it could provoke shock.

3. Chronic renal failure

Chronic renal failure could also lead to increased thirst in rabbits. This type of renal failure is slower and would progress slowly over longer periods of time.

Chronic renal can be caused by a number of reasons such as:

  • Trauma
  • Prolonged ARF
  • Tumors
  • Urinary tract obstructions
  • Diabetes
  • Infections (E. cuniculi)
  • Poor diet (very high dietary calcium intake, vtamin D toxicity)
  • Aging
  • Cancer (lymphoma, renal carcinoma)
  • Cysts (renal cysts)
  • Dehydration
  • Dental disease

Here are the symptoms that your rabbit might be suffering from chronic renal failure:

  • Inappetence
  • Polydipsia
  • Polyuria
  • Weight loss
  • Aneamia
  • Lethargy

4. Lower urinary tract disease

Lower urinary tract disease can also lead to increase thirst. Most of the time, LUTD is caused by a high calcium diet, loss of balance(middle ear disease, encephalitozoonosis), and loss of mobility (spinal pain, hip pain, or abdominal pain).

Here are the signs that your rabbit is suffering from LUTD according to Textbook of Rabbit Medicine:

  • Urine scalding
  • Pain on urination
  • Loss of litter training
  • Polydipsia/polyuria
  • Gut stasis
  • Hunched posture
  • Visual changes in urine (color change, presence of blood, increased turbidity or clarity)

5. Liver problems

Liver disease or damage can also lead to excessive thirst. As an example, rabbits that are suffering from hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease can lead to dehydration which can increase thirst.

Rabbits that are having liver problems would have the following symptoms:

  • Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the white part of the eyes)
  • Anorexia or loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain (loud teeth grinding, hunched body posture, depression, lethargy)
  • Neurological signs like confusion and clumsiness

You can read more about liver diseases in rabbits here.

6. Diet changes

Diet changes can also lead to increased thirst because rabbits’ water requirement is highly dependant on what food they eat. As an example, rabbits that are eating a lot of high-water content vegetables may not drink any water at all.

While rabbits that are on diets that are fibrous, salty, and dry would need to drink more than usual because this type of diet tends to absorb water in the intestinal tract which can increase thirst.

7. Behavioral

Your rabbit might also be drinking water more than usual because they are marking their territory. This is more common when one or both rabbits are unneutered.

The unneutered rabbits would likely become territorial once they reach sexual maturity. That’s why rabbits should be neutered to prevent this problem.

Be careful when your rabbits are doing this. The dominant rabbit would likely hoard all the water and food and would not let the submissive rabbit eat or drink.

A rabbit that’s not drinking or eating could develop serious health problems like GI stasis and dehydration.

8. Clostridial enterotoxaemia

Excessive thirst in rabbits can also be caused by clostridial enterotoxaemia. Enterotoxaemia is a fatal condition caused by rabbits that are fed a high-carbohydrate diet, especially in young rabbits.

Most rabbits that are suffering from this condition would not survive treatment.

Signs that your rabbit is suffering from Clostridial enterotoxaemia:

  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Polydipsia or increased thirst
  • Cyanosis or bluish discoloration of the skin due to lack of oxygen or circulation.
  • Tooth grinding
  • Hypothermia
  • Recumbency (paralysed)
  • Seizures

9. E. cuniculi

Rabbit with an eye infection caused by Encephalitozoon cuniculi Why Is My Rabbit Drinking A Lot Of Water?

Encephalitozoon cuniculi or E. cuniculi could also increase thirst in rabbits. E. cuniculi, a parasite that infects the eyes and nervous system, is one of the major causes of blindness in rabbits. E. cuniculi can infect the rabbit’s eye and brain within a month of exposure.

E. cuniculus is a serious condition that should be looked at by a veterinarian because, with enough time, your rabbit’s eye could develop cataracts, severe inflammation, redness, and swelling of the eye. If your rabbit is not treated immediately, it could lead to permanent blindness and even death.

Here are the signs that your rabbit might be suffering from E. cuniculi:

  • Mascular weakness
  • Emacipation
  • Excessive thirst or polydipsia
  • Excessive urination or polyuria
  • Occasional neurological sign

10. Diabetes

Diabetes in rabbits is extremely rare compared to humans, cats, and dogs. Diabetes in rabbits is barely mentioned in literature because it’s so rare, in fact, most veterinarians have never encountered a true case of diabetes in rabbits.

There are two types of diabetes in rabbits:

  • Type 1 – Type 1 diabetes happens when a rabbit’s pancrease does not produce enough insulin. These type of diabetes is exremly rare, with the exeption of some strains of New Zeal white rabbits.
  • Type 2 – Type 2 diabetes in rabbits happens when the rabbit’s cell developed a resistance to insulin. This type of diabetes in rabbits are more common on obese rabbits.

Signs of diabetes in rabbits:

  • Hyperglycemia
  • Excessive thirst or polydipsia
  • Excessive urination or polyuria
  • Excessive eating or polyphagia

The only way to truly know if your rabbit is suffering from diabetes is to bring them to a veterinarian and ask for a blood test.

How much water should a rabbit drink?

According to Brewer and Cruise, 1994, rabbits normally drink 50-100 mL/kg every 24 hours. But the amount I mentioned above is highly dependant on your rabbit’s diet.

Rabbits that are eating a lot of fresh green vegetables may not drink water at all because most of these plants are already high in water content.

While rabbits that are on a high protein diet need to drink more water than 50-100 mL/kg every 24 hours.

Finally, rabbits that are eating a lot of fibrous, salty, or dry foods tend to drink more water than usual because this type of food absorbs water in the intestinal tract which can increase thirst.

Can rabbits die from drinking too much water?

No, rabbits would never drink too much water for them to die from it. Increased thirst in rabbits is a symptom of a larger problem.

If your rabbit is drinking more water than usual, it’s best that you observe them for a while and see if other symptoms would show up. Drinking too much water can be caused by a simple diet change or a change in temperature.

Or it could be a life-threatening condition like kidney and liver failure. Always consult your veterinarian if you’re having doubts about whether or not your rabbit is healthy.


Cite this article:

Bunny Horde (January 28, 2022) Why Is My Rabbit Drinking A Lot Of Water?. Retrieved from https://bunnyhorde.com/why-is-my-rabbit-drinking-a-lot-of-water/.
"Why Is My Rabbit Drinking A Lot Of Water?." Bunny Horde - January 28, 2022, https://bunnyhorde.com/why-is-my-rabbit-drinking-a-lot-of-water/

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.