rabbit drinking from water bottle
Pound for pound, rabbits require more water than most other mammals. iStock.com/SeaShoreDesign

Water, coffee, milk, soda, tea, juice, sports drinks, beer, wine — the list of what people drink can be overwhelming. With the numerous drinks likely available in your home, you might be tempted to share this beverage bounty with your rabbit. Resist the temptation! Just because rabbits drink something doesn’t mean that it’s good for them.

Banned Drinks For Bunnies

The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center website includes an article about people foods that could harm pets. Included in the list are alcohol, coffee, chocolate, caffeine, citrus, grapes, milk, and xylitol. Additionally, it’s known that rabbits shouldn’t consume a lot of sugars, salts, or fats. When you think about it, that eliminates all drinks except water.

Water Reigns

Yes, water is your bunny’s best drink. This makes sense because, just like many mammals, rabbits are made up of about 73 percent water. Water is needed for the body to function. Rabbits need water for the same reasons people and other mammals do. Those reasons include ridding the body of wastes, regulating temperature, and lubricating and cushioning joints.

Without water, death can occur in a few days. Rabbits deprived of water stop eating after three days, as noted in the book “Ferrets, Rabbits, And Rodents Clinical Medicine And Surgery.” The book also states that rabbits have a high water intake compared to other animals, giving the example that a rabbit weighing 4.6 pounds drinks as much per day as a 22-pound dog. That’s almost 5 times as much water, so rabbits truly enjoy water.

Hidden Water For Rabbits

Drinking water is crucial to rabbit health, but rabbits also get some water from food they eat, especially fresh vegetables and fruit. This means that if your rabbit is acting normally and his or her drinking habits haven’t changed, don’t panic if your pal doesn’t seem to be drinking the recommended amount of water, which is 1.5 to 5 ounces per 2.2 pounds (50 to 150 mL/kg) of body weight.

Water Bottle Or Water Bowl?

Whether you provide clean, fresh water to your rabbit in a bottle or bowl is your choice. This topic sparks discussion, including on the website Reddit. Why the fuss? Because while properly maintained bottles keep water cleaner than properly maintained bowls, the bottles require more work by the bunny to get the water. Rabbits are messy though, and sometimes shun water in a dirty bowl. For this reason, many people who share their life with rabbits opt to provide both water bottles and water bowls. For bowls, choose those that can’t be tipped over by your rabbit.

Whatever water container you choose, maintaining it is vital to your rabbit’s health. Water needs to be changed daily, and the bowl or bottle cleaned regularly with hot, soapy water. Biofilm develops on bottles or bowls that aren’t cleaned. This can lead to growth of bacteria that cause illness.

Which Water For Your Rabbit?

These days, water comes in many forms: tap, bottled, filtered, distilled, reverse osmosis, well water, soft, de-ionized water, alkaline water, etc. The rule of thumb is to give your rabbits water that you drink. If you wouldn’t drink it, then don’t offer it to your rabbit. If your rabbit has any medical conditions, consult your veterinarian first before offering any of the less common forms of water like alkaline.

Some forms of water are actually unsafe to drink. This includes distilled water, water from a hose, puddle water, and pool water. While a little bit of distilled water is OK, long-term use can cause health problems. Drinking from a hose is unsafe unless the hose is rated as safe for drinking. This is because many hoses contain lead, which gets into water that flows through it. Also, water sits in hoses and can breed bacteria. Water in puddles or other standing water found outdoors can potentially cause illness if contaminated. The protozoa Giardia is commonly found in outdoor water sources and causes intestinal problems. Pool water is treated with chlorine and other chemicals that can be harmful to rabbits if ingested.

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