All animals need water for survival. Domestic rabbits have the luxury of sipping from a bottle or a bowl, but what about wild rabbits? They’re left to fend for themselves, finding their own sources of food and water. How and what do they drink?
Wild rabbits drink water from the ground as well as sip morning dew. If they come across a puddle or a stream and it’s clean, they’ll use that as a source of water as well.
In this article, we’ll explain in more depth how wild rabbits stay hydrated. We’ll also share some tips for feeding baby rabbits if you happen to come across an orphaned one. Keep reading, as you don’t want to miss it.
How Do Rabbits Drink in the Wild?
There’s no random bowls of water left out for wild rabbits to drink unless through human intervention. Thus, they must get crafty when it comes to how they stay hydrated. Given that they’re wild animals, rabbits have no qualms about drinking water from ground sources such as puddles after a rain.
If a wild rabbit is near a stream or another small body of water, they might sip from this as well. The dew that appears on plants in the morning or after it rains will also provide sustenance to these animals.
How Much Water Do Wild Rabbits Need?
Wild and domestic rabbits tend to have similar hydration needs. That’s because how much water they drink is dictated by their body size rather than where they live. If the rabbit in question weighs four pounds, then they should consume about a cup’s worth of water in a span of 24 hours.
The rule of thumb is this: for each kilogram of rabbit weight (wild or domestic), expect them to drink 50 to 100 milliliters of water. A single kilogram is the equivalent of about 2.2 pounds. Thus, a four-pound rabbit would drink 100 to 200 milliliters of water daily. Bigger rabbits can consume as much as 600 milliliters each day.
Let’s say you’ve spotted a few wild rabbits on your property. They seem orphaned, but you’re waiting a few days to see if the mother will come back before you do anything. If you’re tracking how much water these rabbits consume but you have yet to offer them any, don’t be surprised if they don’t drink quite as much as domestic rabbits. They will consume what they can when it becomes available to them. If it rained a lot, then the grounds will be wet with the stuff. Puddles may linger and ponds will fill with more water. Wild rabbits thus have far more options and may consume as much, sometimes even more, than the recommended daily water levels above.
In drier, warmer conditions, a rabbit might not want to go far. They take what they can get that’s close by. Also, keep in mind that you won’t see every last instance the baby rabbits drink. These animals will forage once the sun goes down, and they’ll drink then as well. This way, they’re less likely to become a hungry predator’s dinner.
What Are the Signs of Dehydration?
How do you know whether a wild or domestic rabbit is getting enough water? Those who don’t will exhibit dehydration symptoms.
The quickest way to diagnose dehydration is to check the rabbit’s urine. It tends to smell more odorous in dehydrated rabbits due to its higher concentration. It also has a much darker hue.
Sometimes dehydration is accompanied by diarrhea, but not always. We don’t recommend you use that as a benchmark for determining whether your rabbit has dehydration. Instead, the best method for getting a clear indicator besides reviewing their urine is to do the skin test.
You want to get close to your rabbit and reach out for their scruff or neck. Give this loose skin a slight tug for a moment, but don’t hurt the animal in the process. Now watch your rabbit’s skin when you’re done. Does it bounce back to where it was? If so, they’re likely not dehydrated. Does the skin stay pinched or tented for seconds before slowly moving back? That’s a pretty big sign of dehydration.
Now, you can’t exactly get close enough to wild rabbits to do the skin test, at least not right away. Therefore, you will have to track their urine as best you can if you sense they’re possibly dehydrated. You can also look to their eyes and ears. The eyes will sink in a bit and the ears won’t stand as erect as they usually do.
These animals need treatment immediately. Smaller, undersized rabbits are more likely to die of dehydration compared to their bigger counterparts, but you should still treat dehydration seriously.
They need a drink that replaces lost electrolytes, such as Gatorade or Pedialyte. Try to get sugar-free Gatorade if that’s the beverage you choose. Don’t delay either, as time is of the essence.
That’s because dehydrated rabbits may develop gastrointestinal stasis. This condition causes a rabbit’s digestive system to cease working. When this happens, bacteria accumulate in the gut, pushing gas into their bodies. This will make the rabbit stop eating and drinking as well as cause them to bloat up.
Rabbits can develop gastrointestinal stasis through a lack of crude dietary fiber, intestinal blockages, having urinary tract disorders or other pain sources, dehydration, and stress. If the dehydration itself doesn’t kill a rabbit then, gastrointestinal stasis very well could.
How Do You Feed a Wild Baby Rabbit?
Whether you sense your wild rabbit is just thirsty or dehydrated, you want to step in and feed them. You think that unfortunately, the mother has died somehow, so now you have several orphaned bunnies on your property.
To feed a baby wild rabbit, you cannot put out a bowl and hope for the best. These animals need more individualized care. You’ll need to use a squeeze bottle or syringe for the job. For their caloric needs, we recommend feeding the rabbits kitten milk replacer or KMR, which we’ve written about on this blog before. Again, only use a squeeze bottle or syringe for KMR.
You should give the rabbits KMR two times throughout the day. If you do three feedings at first until the rabbits adjust to your presence, that’s okay. Just don’t make it a habit or the bunnies could gain too much weight.
Your wild rabbit might not take to the KMR once you first bring them inside. This could be due to the conditions they lived in before. If it’s especially cold outside, then your bunny’s body temperature could have lowered. Rabbits will rarely eat if they’re this cold, and this can go on for a day or two. The fastest way to get them to accept food and water is by warming them up. You can gently heat up a sock and then put beans or rice in there and use that on the rabbit. Also, a hot water bottle that’s only slightly toasty gets the job done as well.
Make sure you don’t scald the rabbits accidentally. Baby bunnies are sensitive, so treat them gently.
Wild rabbits have to drink water from whatever sources they can find. These include groundwater, puddles, dew, and streams. How much water they consume varies based on availability. That means it’s hard to track how hydrated your wild bunnies are.
Dehydrated rabbits will have darker, smellier urine. Their ears might not stand and their eyes can sink in. The skin test tells you quickly how dehydrated a rabbit is, but you can’t go around touching wild rabbits. By giving a rabbit electrolyte restorers like Gatorade or Pedialyte when dehydrated, you can possibly save their lives.