Administering Fluids to Rabbits

An ill rabbit may not drink enough water on its own to do well.  Your rabbit may be dehydrated if you see any of these problems: thick sticky saliva, crusty eyes, poor appetite, small amounts of dark colored urine, or hard dry fecal pellets.

In order to correct dehydration, extra water must be given to your rabbit.  Sometimes this can be done by helping the rabbit drink.  Some rabbits need to have fluids given by other methods, either by subcutaneous fluids, intravenous fluids, or intraosseous fluids.

Using A Syringe To Help Your Rabbit Drink

A rabbit may drink from a syringe that is placed in the corner of its mouth.  The water should be offered slowly with frequent pauses so the rabbit can swallow and rest.  If the water is just dribbling out of the mouth, stop what you are doing.  Try again in 30 minutes.  If the rabbit still will not drink, your veterinarian may prescribe subcutaneous fluid.

Subcutaneous Fluids

Subcutaneous fluids are fluids that are injected beneath the skin. They may be abbreviated as SQ fluids or SC fluids.  This may be used for a rabbit that is still alert and is not in critical condition.  SQ fluids may be something that your veterinarian will want you to give to your rabbit at home.

Different kinds of fluids may be used in different situations.  Lactated ringer's solution and saline are two of the more commonly used SQ fluids.

In order to give SQ fluids, you should wrap your rabbit in a towel. The towel should be somewhat loose but prevent the rabbit from backing up or suddenly moving forward. Make sure your rabbit can breathe easily in the towel. To give the fluids, expose the skin over the rabbit's shoulders.  Pinch the skin together with your forefingers so that there is a small "tent" of skin elevated above the shoulders. The needle should be inserted from the back to the front into the upside-down "V" below the skin tent. Advance the needle in about half of its length and then try giving the fluids.  If you were given a syringe, press on the plunger firmly to administer the fluids. If you were given a bag of fluids, open the valve on the fluid line and squeeze the bag. If the fluids flow easily, you are successful. If the fluids are hard to give or your rabbit seems uncomfortable, you may not have the needle in the right spot and should slowly advance it or take it out and try again. Once you are done given the fluids, pull out the needle and gently pinch the hole where the needle was to prevent fluids trickling onto the skin.

A bag of fluids should be thrown out within 30 days if its first use.  If at any time you notice that the bag of fluids is cloudy, throw it out and get a new replacement.

Intravenous and Intraosseous Fluids

Some rabbits have medical problems where they need a constant supply of fluids directly into their circulatory system.  These rabbits are in critical condition and would not do well on SQ or oral fluids alone.

Intravenous fluids (IV fluids) are given through a catheter that is inserted into a vein on the rabbit's forearm, leg, or occasionally ear.  Intraosseous fluids (IO fluids) are given through a catheter that is inserted into the bone marrow of an arm or a leg.  Fluids given this way must be closely monitored to ensure that the rabbit is not getting too much or too little.  In most situations, the rabbit will need to stay in the hospital while it is on IV or IO fluids so that the technicians and doctors can respond to any sudden changes.