A balanced diet is important to keep your small pet healthy and one of the most essential elements of a balanced diet is water. Without adequate hydration your pet’s body cannot function properly.
Rabbits and guinea pigs, like most mammals, are mostly made up of water. Water consumption is vital for your pet’s overall well-being; it’s necessary for regulating body temperature, helping with digestion and waste elimination, keeping joints lubricated, and increasing oxygen and blood flow to the brain.
Water plays a major role in the complex digestive systems of rabbits and guinea pigs. It helps keep food hydrated so that it’s properly digested and moves easily through the gastro-intestinal tract. If ingested food is too dry, it can be difficult to pass through the digestive system, possibly creating a blockage which can lead to serious health complications. When not enough water is consumed, fluids are drawn from the intestines and tissue to hydrate the food, which in turn causes dehydration in the animal.
Calcium is an important mineral for rabbits and guinea pigs, promoting the formation of strong bones and healthy teeth. These small animals naturally absorb a high amount of calcium when they eat, with rabbits in particular absorbing almost all of the calcium they ingest.
Unfortunately, too much calcium can lead to bladder and kidney disease – caused by an excess of calcium depositing in the bladder, commonly referred to as sludge. Bladder and kidney disease can cause discomfort, pain and can be life-threatening. Under normal conditions, excess calcium is filtered through the kidneys and flushed out through the urine. But if the kidneys are overworked and stop filtering, the risk for the development of bladder sludge increases.
Encourage your pet to increase water consumption by ensuring it has access to a constant supply of fresh, clean water, which helps prevent bladder sludge by flushing excess calcium out of the kidneys.
Low calcium, high-water content fresh, leafy greens can also help to increase water intake, although they should not replace fresh water.
It’s important to be able to recognize the signs that something may not be right with your pet. Some common signs of dehydration in rabbits and guinea pigs are:
If you notice any of these signs, call your vet as soon as possible.
There are a number of reasons why your rabbit or guinea pig may not be drinking water, and regular monitoring of their drinking habits and water intake will help you become familiar with what’s normal for your pet.
Some of the reasons your pet may not be drinking include:
Rabbits and guinea pigs enjoy room temperature water. If the water is too warm or too cold, your pet may avoid drinking it. Be mindful of your pet’s cage placement, if positioned too close to a window or heat source, the water can easily heat up.
The slightest change in the taste or smell of the water can throw your pet off. Make sure to clean the water bottle regularly to avoid this issue.
If your pet is experiencing dental pain, it’s most likely going to avoid drinking water.
A change in appetite and water intake can be a sign of illness. In addition, if your pet is drinking more than usual, this could also be an indication that they are in distress or pain.
Check with your vet if you notice any of these signs.