Why Is My Rabbit Drinking a Lot of Water?

Has your rabbit been drinking water like there’s no tomorrow? Do you find yourself constantly refilling the water bottle or bowl, even though nothing else has changed? Excessive thirst and increased drinking in rabbits is a condition called polydipsia. While all that hydration may seem harmless on the surface, it could be a sign that something more sinister is going on inside your bunny. From diabetes to liver disease, many dangerous health conditions first appear as increased drinking habits. Don’t take polydipsia lightly – excessive thirst in rabbits must be addressed promptly. Keep reading to uncover all the potential reasons your rabbit is suddenly drinking excessively, and what you need to do about it. Your rabbit’s health may depend on it!

How Much Water Should My Rabbit Drink?

Rabbits need access to clean, fresh water at all times. The amount of water a rabbit drinks can vary based on factors like age, size, activity level, and diet. On average, most rabbits drink about 30-50 mL per kg of body weight per day. That means a typical 4 lb rabbit will drink around 60-100 mL per day.

Young rabbits and lactating does tend to drink more. Rabbits on high vegetable diets also tend to consume more water. Always make sure your rabbit has unlimited access to water in a tip-proof bowl. Check the water level at least once a day and change it out frequently.

Monitor your rabbit's water intake. Notice any significant increases or decreases. If you rabbit is suddenly drinking a lot more water, it could signal an underlying medical issue that needs veterinary attention.

What are the Symptoms of Polydipsia in Rabbits?

Polydipsia refers to excessive or abnormal thirst and increased water consumption. If your rabbit is drinking significantly more than normal, it may be exhibiting signs of polydipsia. Here are some of the key symptoms to look out for:

  • Drinking much more water than usual. You may notice your rabbit's water bowl becoming empty faster even though the environment and diet are the same.

  • Frequent urination. The excess water is removed from the body through increased urination. You may see your rabbit urinating larger volumes or urinating in places outside the litter box.

  • Urine appears very diluted. The urine will seem almost clear or nearly colorless rather than the typical yellow color.

  • Dampness around the mouth from excess licking. Rabbits may lick water bottles or bowls excessively.

  • Change in appetite. Increased thirst is often accompanied by increased appetite and food consumption.

  • Weight loss. Despite increased eating and drinking, polydipsia can result in weight loss over time.

  • Lethargy. As dehydration sets in, the rabbit may become less active.

  • Dry nose and dry, flaky skin. Dehydration leads to overall skin dryness.

If your rabbit displays persistent polydipsia over the course of several days, take them to your rabbit-savvy vet for an examination. The excessive thirst is a sign something more serious could be wrong.

What Can Cause Excessive Thirst in Rabbits?

There are many possible medical causes for polydipsia or excessive thirst in rabbits. Here are some of the most common reasons behind abnormal water consumption:


Dehydration itself can trigger polydipsia as the rabbit's body tries to compensate for fluid loss. Diarrhea, drooling, and watery eyes are signs of dehydration. Make sure ample fresh water is always available. Offer flavored rehydration fluids if needed.

Changes in Diet

Diet changes, especially an increase in dry food or starchy veggies, causes rabbits to consume more water. Do dietary adjustments gradually and always ensure access to clean water.


Heat stress and overheating causes rabbits to drink more to stay cool. Make sure housing temperatures do not exceed 75°F. Offer frozen water bottles and tile for rabbits to lay on.


Dental disease, gastrointestinal stasis, and other sources of pain can lead to excessive drinking. Rabbits may drink to soothe oral pain. Have your vet examine mouth, teeth, and abdomen.

Urinary Tract Disorders

Issues like kidney or bladder stones, cystitis, and urinary tract infections increase thirst as the body tries to flush out bacteria or minerals. Urine scald, blood, difficulty urinating, or straining could point to a UTI.


Diabetes, especially in older, obese rabbits, is a common cause of excessive thirst and urination. Glucose in the urine pulls water from the tissues, causing frequent dilute urination. Diagnostic bloodwork can check for diabetes.

Renal Failure

Kidney disease and renal failure is a serious condition in rabbits that leads to polydipsia. The kidneys cannot properly concentrate urine, resulting in excessive thirst and urination. Diagnostics like bloodwork and ultrasound assess kidney function.

Liver Disease and Damage

The liver helps regulate hydration. Liver dysfunction from conditions like hepatic lipidosis causes polydipsia. Weight loss, inappetence, or jaundice may also be seen. Evaluate with bloodwork and other liver tests.

Behavioral Causes

Stress, boredom, anxiety, or compulsive disorders can cause abnormal drinking in some rabbits, especially if paired with urine dribbling. Make sure housing is sufficiently enriched. Discuss behavior modification with an experienced rabbit vet.


Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. It can happen rapidly in cases like diarrhea or drooling. Gradual dehydration may result from increased urination. Symptoms include dry skin, sunken eyes, weakness, lethargy, cool extremities, rapid heart rate, and dry sticky mucous membranes. Always provide ample fresh water. Offer flavored rehydration fluids. Seek emergency veterinary treatment if severe. Address underlying causes of fluid loss. Monitor hydration status daily during recovery.

Changes in Diet

Diet changes impact thirst and water intake in rabbits. Gradual diet changes help limit excessive thirst. Here are some dietary reasons rabbits may drink more water:

  • Increase in dry food – The extra carbohydrates and decreased moisture in dry food prompts more drinking.

  • Increase in starchy vegetables – Starch from veggies like root vegetables and beans also increases thirst.

  • Decrease in leafy greens – Reduced moisture from greens means rabbits drink more.

  • New fruits and veggies – Unfamiliar watery fruits or veggies may temporarily increase drinking.

  • Citrus fruits – The acidity causes rabbits to drink more to dilute the urine pH.

  • Salt addition – Added dietary salt prompts thirst to dilute the extra sodium.

To minimize excessive thirst from diet changes, do adjustments slowly over 1-2 weeks. Ensure unlimited fresh water always. Choose higher moisture foods, and limit starchy items.


Heat stress and overheating causes rabbits to drink more water to cool down. Here are some tips to prevent heat-related polydipsia:

  • House rabbits in a temperature controlled area kept under 75°F.

  • Avoid direct sun exposure which can cause dangerous temperature spikes.

  • Freeze water bottles for rabbits to lay against.

  • Provide ceramic, marble, or granite tiles for rabbits to sprawl on to cool down.

  • Set up fans to circulate air in rabbit housing areas during hot weather.

  • Offer fresh cucumber, watermelon, and mint as cooling treats.

  • Spray or mist rabbits with cool water, avoiding the face and ears.

If housing areas will be warmer than 75°F for a prolonged period, consider purchasing air conditioners or cooling units to maintain a safe temperature range for rabbits. Monitor all rabbits closely for signs of heat stress during hot weather.


Many sources of pain and discomfort can lead to excessive drinking in rabbits. Here are some examples:

  • Dental disease – Incisor malocclusion and molar spurs cause significant oral pain. Rabbits may drink to help soothe mouth pain.

  • Gastrointestinal stasis – Slowed motility and gas pain prompts drinking behavior. Stasis requires urgent veterinary treatment.

  • Sore hocks – Ulcerated hocks from wire floors or standing cause discomfort and more drinking. Use soft flooring.

  • Musculoskeletal pain – Arthritis, bone fractures, and muscle injury leads to increased thirst. Provide padded, low-impact housing areas.

  • Urinary tract infection – Lower urinary tract inflammation and irritation promotes drinking. Diagnose and treat with appropriate antibiotics.

  • Surgery – Post-operative pain following spays, neuters, removals leads to polydipsia. Use analgesics as directed.

  • Abscesses – Internal or external abscesses, especially dental related, are very painful and cause thirst. Drain and treat abscess; address underlying cause.

If your rabbit shows signs of increased drinking along with lethargy, reduced appetite or body condition, weight loss, tooth grinding, or abnormal posture, have your vet thoroughly assess for any source of pain or injury. Address the underlying cause to relieve discomfort and return drinking to normal levels. Provide ample fresh water at all times.

Urinary Tract Disorders

Several urinary tract disorders can lead to excessive thirst and abnormal water consumption in rabbits:

  • Kidney stones – Mineral deposits obstruct urine flow, causing postrenal azotemia. Stones may require surgical removal.

  • Bladder stones – Crystals and stones cause irritation, infection, discomfort, and blockage. Diagnose with radiographs and treat accordingly.

  • Bladder sludge – Thick, gritty sediment accumulation leads to polydipsia. Flush sludge from bladder using sterile saline.

  • Cystitis – Bacterial infections cause bladder inflammation and frequent, painful urination. Culture urine and prescribe appropriate antibiotics for duration of treatment. Avoid antibiotics like enrofloxacin.

  • Kidney infection – Pyelonephritis causes kidney swelling, pain, and dysfunction. Treat with culture-directed antibiotics.

  • Kidney inflammation – Glomerulonephritis damages filtration ability, prompting excess thirst. May require steroids, IV fluids, and supportive care.

  • Ureter obstruction – Blocked ureters from stones, strictures cause hydronephrosis. May require surgery for obstruction removal.

  • Neoplasia – Bladder, kidney, or urethral tumors can impair normal urination. Surgical excision or palliative care may be options.

Diagnostic tests like laboratory work, urinalysis, urine culture, radiographs, or ultrasound are needed to determine specific urinary tract disease. Treating the underlying condition resolves polydipsia in most cases. Fluid therapy, pain management, and supportive care aid recovery.


Diabetes mellitus is a fairly common endocrine disease in rabbits, usually occurring in older, obese rabbits. It is caused by reduced insulin production resulting in hyperglycemia. The excess blood glucose gets eliminated in the urine, pulling water out of body tissues due to osmotic diuresis. This leads to polydipsia and polyuria.

Rabbits exhibit increased thirst and diluted, higher volume urine output. They often have a ravenous appetite but still experience weight loss and muscle wasting over time. Diagnosis is made from bloodwork showing high blood glucose, elevated fructosamine, and low blood potassium.

Treatment depends on the type of diabetes. Most rabbits have insulin-resistant diabetes requiring oral medication. Twice daily insulin injections may benefit some rabbits. Tight regulation of blood glucose helps resolve polydipsia. Diet change and weight management aid treatment. Regular vet monitoring is needed for best outcomes.

Renal Failure

Kidney disease and renal failure are serious conditions carrying a grave prognosis in rabbits. Gradual kidney dysfunction leads to an inability to properly concentrate urine. This results in excessive thirst (polydipsia) and frequent large volume urination (polyuria).

As kidney decline advances, rabbits display poor appetite, weight loss, lethargy, and eventual uremia. Diagnosis is made by laboratory work showing elevated BUN, creatinine, phosphorus and low blood calcium. Urinalysis shows low specific gravity urine. Radiographs and ultrasound confirm small, irregular kidneys.

Treatment focuses on supportive care and symptom management. Fluid therapy, anorexia aids, vitamin supplements, and medications help slow progression. But renal failure cannot be reversed. Euthanasia is often elected once clinical signs advance. Providing ample fresh water and limiting protein intake can help extend quality of life.

Liver Disease and Damage

The liver plays an important role in regulating hydration balance in the body. Liver dysfunction and liver disease can contribute to polydipsia. Possible causes include:

  • Hepatic lipidosis – Fatty liver disease causes organ damage and impaired water regulation. Aggressive treatment may reverse lipidosis if caught early.

  • Liver lobe torsion – Twisted lobes impair function and lead to excess thirst. Surgical correction may help if treated promptly.

  • Liver cancer – Hepatic neoplasia directly impairs liver function. Palliative care options may be available.

  • Toxin exposure – Ingestion of toxins like lead, mycotoxins, or chemicals damage liver tissue. Remove toxin source. Supportive care and medications aid recovery.

  • Cholestasis – Impaired bile flow leads to jaundice, poor appetite, and polydipsia. Supplements help support liver function.

  • Hepatic necrosis – Sudden cell death causes acute liver failure. Aggressive treatment needed immediately for chance of survival.

  • Hepatitis – Liver inflammation from bacterial or viral infection causes systemic illness. Appropriate antibiotics or supportive care.

Diagnosing the specific liver issue requires bloodwork, radiographs, ultrasound, cytology, or biopsy of liver tissue. Addressing the underlying liver disease may resolve polydipsia in uncomplicated cases. However, advanced liver disease carries a poor prognosis.

Behavioral Causes

In some cases, excessive drinking may be related to behavioral issues in rabbits such as:

  • Stress or anxiety – A stressful home environment or major change prompts polydipsia. Ensure housing meets all physical and psychological needs.

  • Boredom or understimulation – Inadequate enrichment and exercise leads to drinking from boredom. Provide ample stimulation and activity opportunities.

  • Compulsive disorder – Neurotic compulsion manifests as obsessive drinking habits. Behavior modification under guidance of rabbit-savvy vet.

  • Attention-seeking – Rabbits learn increased drinking gets owner's attention. Ignore poor behavior; reward good habits.

  • Marking territory – Urine dribbling communicates territory ownership. Neuter/spay; increase litter boxes.

  • Pain or illness – Physical discomfort promotes compensatory drinking habits over time. Vet exam to assess health.

While emotional factors can cause excessive thirst, they should never be assumed. Always have a veterinarian assess for underlying physical illness first. If no medical cause is identified, implement behavior modification strategies with guidance from your rabbit-experienced exotics vet. Ensure housing meets all physical and psychological needs.

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