It is the keeper’s duty to provide their rabbits with enough water of the best quality. A poor water supply impairs health, feed intake, and performance.
With water, hygiene is more central than with any other nutritional component of rabbits. Unfortunately, it is often not sufficiently taken into account, even though the long-eared bats drink more than twice as much water as they eat. In the summer, the animals take in a large part of their liquid from green fodder. Nevertheless, it is important to monitor the water supply constantly and precisely. More than 60 percent of an adult rabbit’s body is made up of water. Just to maintain the metabolic processes and to transport the substances throughout the body, the animal needs a water-containing liquid in the form of blood.
According to science, the ideal temperature for rabbits is 21 degrees Celsius. It is called the “comfort zone”. As soon as the outside temperature is higher or lower, the organism needs the energy to maintain the body temperature. Incidentally, this is 39.5 degrees Celsius and only fluctuates within 0.2 to 0.3 degrees.
The “rabbit countries” in the south, such as Italy, Spain, Mexico, and Egypt, in particular, have to contend with high summer temperatures, where the animals are exposed to extreme stress. Various feed additives are used to reduce the animals’ stress in order to compensate for the reduced growth and well-being of the young animals under such climatic conditions. In Switzerland, there are only a few hot days that are comparable to the conditions in these countries.
How Much Water a Rabbit Needs Depends on Weight and Circumstances
The water requirement depends not only on the temperature but also on the weight and growth stage of the animals. In a productive doe, the level of milk production plays a crucial role. While some breeders assume a requirement of 2 to 2.5 times the feed intake, others assume a requirement of 50 to 150 milliliters of water per kilogram of weight.
Water is used as a solvent and means of transport; it also regulates cell pressure and body temperature. This means that all chemical processes take place in an aqueous form. The sensation of thirst arises from changes in osmotic pressure (cell pressure). Then there is a lack of water. However, this control mechanism decreases with the age of the animal.
The amount of urine a rabbit release depends on the amount of water consumed and the type of feed components. While dry fodder, pellets, and combination fodder contain little water, green fodder has a water content of around 15 percent. If the amount of urine formed is too low, the concentration increases with an increased risk of the formation of urinary stones. It is also known that bacterial colonization of the urinary tract becomes more likely.
Insufficient water intake increases susceptibility to many pathogens because they can enter more easily through dried-out mucous membranes. Even digestive problems in the form of diarrhea and constipation, as well as inflammation of the gastric mucosa, can be attributed to insufficient water intake.
Again and again, investigations are carried out with the question of which potions are preferred. More recently, another study confirmed that open drinkers (via feeders) are preferred over nipple drinkers. An observation in dwarf rabbits that shows the same result dates back some time. The popular dwarf rabbits as house pets take in significantly more and faster water through open vessels than when they drink through nipples. This study also showed that the droppings of the rabbits, which were supplied with water via nipple drinkers, are undesirably dry. On the other hand, hay leads to high water absorption and thus also to high urine excretion. The researchers explain that such diluted urine could prevent urinary stones.
In addition to the unnatural drinking posture of the animals with nipple drinkers, these are also difficult to maintain. The metal tubes are difficult to clean; often they also leak and may still drip into the dry food.
The Most Important Thing is Clean Dishes for Food and Water
The quality of the essential nutrient component water is determined by microbial, chemical, and physical factors. Water is the development site for many different microorganisms. If the number is high, the health of the animals is at the greatest risk. Fecal bacteria are a prime example.
Groundwater has a pH greater than 7. However, too high a pH value can cause physiological disorders, including digestive problems, for example. A deliberately aimed at lowering the pH value creates unfavorable conditions for bacteria such as salmonella and coli bacteria. A reduced pH in the upper gastrointestinal tract also increases the digestibility of nutrients and minerals; a healthy intestinal flora is also stimulated in the build-up.
Many rabbit breeders know about these connections and acidify the drinking water with vinegar. But nothing beats clean feeding gear. Especially in summer, the stagnant water should be replaced daily. This is the only way to give the heat and moisture-loving germs in the water no chance. If food remains in the bowl, the risk increases considerably. It is therefore advisable to place the dishes for feed and water separately in the stable so that no feed can get into the water and vice versa. This is the only way to prevent the uncontrolled multiplication of germs.