How Long Can Rabbits Go Without Food: tips to get them eating again

If you are searching for “How Long Can Rabbits Go Without Food” you likely have a rabbit that has decided to either go off feed for some reason or could be sick. First, let me answer that question and then give you all the tips and tricks I have found over the years to help you get your rabbit eating again. 

First off I would give you a ballpark of about 7-10 days before you would have a really hard time getting your rabbit back on feed and the rabbit survive after they did start eating. 

This is why you want to do your best to keep your adult rabbits feeding routine consistent as far as timing and what you feed them. Rabbits have a very sensitive digestive tract and constantly swapping new food in and out will cause stress on your rabbit.

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How to know if your rabbit is eating enough food

While I do feed my rabbits as much as they want I don’t think you should keep a constant supply of food that you keep filling up every time you see a little bit was eaten. That makes it very hard to know how much your rabbit has eaten in one day. 

I only feed my rabbit the amount of food that rabbit will clean up in 24 hours and will leave them ready to eat when you come out to feed them again the next day. I also try to feed around the same time every day because this helps me know how the rabbits are eating. I always recommend this to my new rabbit owners and buyers. 

Of course, you are going to have days when life causes you to have to change the time and that’s ok. Just take that into consideration when you go to feed your rabbits if you are early there will be food left and if you are a bit later then they are going to be a bit more hungry. 

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What to do if you notice your rabbit has not eaten as much as normal

First off don’t panic. Rabbits can have off days and one day of eating less doesn’t mean the end of the world. Check them over for any exterior signs of illness and if you find nothing take a mental note of it and see how they are doing the next day. 

If you feed the next day and they are still eating less or nothing at all its time to go into detective mode and see if you can find a reason why your rabbit stopped eating.

rabbit pellets in a bag

Top Reasons Rabbits Will Stop Eating or Drinking?

Let’s start with the less severe and work our way up. A rabbit’s digestive system is closely tied to the rabbit’s health overall. If your pet rabbit has slowed eating for a couple of days or has not eaten at all it’s a good idea to look for something health-related first. Then if they seem physically okay you can look external at their environment.

Something Is Different

Sometimes there are things happening you can fix and sometimes things you can’t but its helpful to know what the issue is and hopefully be able to fix it. 

In 2022 and 2023 there were some heavy Canadian fires that brought smoke down to the northern US for weeks. I had a few rabbits go off feed but the first of my does to pick up on it was off feed for almost two weeks before she died. I had no idea about the first round of fires until someone asked how the rabbits were doing with it…. Well, snap thats her issue. But the trouble with atmosphere issues is you really can’t do anything about it. You just have to get through it. 

Little things like that can cause your rabbit to go off feed and cause them a lot of stress. So if they go off feed and you can’t find anything wrong with them look for reasons that have changed in their life. Like a new home, new neighbor rabbits if you have a rabbitry where rabbits are housed close together. (No I do not recommend rabbits be in the same cage together find out why here)I’ve got a doe that just does not like neighbors period the end. She’s always testing them and will bite them if she can get a hold of them. But she’s super friendly with me.

Did you change feed or is there something new going on around your home like the fires we had? Or in our rural area are the farm fields being brought in which can stir up lots of dust and allergens.

rabbit food in a feed bucket with a feed scoop

Signs Of Stress

Signs of stress in rabbits can include changes in behavior, like increased aggression or excessive grooming, as well as decreased activity or a loss of appetite.

But don’t worry, there are things you can do to help your rabbit. Start by creating a quiet environment for your rabbit, with plenty of hiding spots where they can get away from what is scaring them. Often when we go to rabbit shows or travel we bring old towels to put over the rabbit’s travel cages to help them stay calm. You will also see experienced rabbit owners or showers go right for the head and put their hand over their head/eyes. Just like horses, this calms a rabbit down and you have a much better chance of getting them under control again.

If your rabbit is stressed need space and quiet not hovered over and pushed to be with people. Think of them as introverts, not extroverts. Keep and eye on their food levels as you tweak what is happening in their environment and take note of what seems to work so you know what to do next time or how they need their cages set up.

Be Careful Feeding Treats (The Joke “Bunny Crack” Is Real)

Feeding treats to your rabbit is a fun and rewarding way to bond with your furry friend. BUUUUT, it’s important to be cautious with how many treats you give them and how often.

Believe it or not, rabbits can get addicted to certain foods and only want that one thing and even go on strike from eating if they don’t get it. I’ve had this happen where a doe wanted a particular supplement because it was sweet tasting and she quit eating or only nibbled for two weeks and got sssssoooo skinny. She couldn’t survive on only eating that supplement anyway and so I was like “ok lets see who will win” and she eventually gave in. 

So when you want to give your rabbits treats do it sparingly and so spiraticly they can’t pick up on your routine of when you do it.

two jr french lop rabbits eating

Illness

When domestic rabbits are in pain or suffering from an illness or even minor health issues, their behavior can change and go off feed. They may experience a decreased appetite, reserved behavior or they even hide their head in the corner, or even teeth grinding. These are all signs that something is not right and your rabbit may need medical attention.

There are several potential causes of pain or illness in rabbits, including gut issues like GI stasis, blockage, bloat, and gas, as well as parasitic or bacterial infections. Other things like respiratory infections, dental disease, or even an abscess that has developed from a scratch they got somehow.

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Dental Problems

Overgrown teeth can cause pain and difficulty eating, often leading to malocclusion and jaw problems. Broken teeth or teeth that are two long and have started curling to the sides instead of being straight down. If left untreated, these issues can lead to infections, abscesses, and even tooth loss.

If you have a rabbit that has a broken front tooth it’s not hard to trim even with the others. BUT I would not bother trimming it unless the tooth is a lot shorter than the one next to it. If there is just a small chip it is likely that your rabbit will grind it out in no time. Just keep an eye on it.

While it’s not super common in young rabbits to have overgrown teeth senior rabbits can be less active in chewing which causes their teeth to overgrow.

Abscesses in the mouth can cause severe pain, swelling, and fever. If left untreated, they can lead to serious health problems and even spread to other parts of the body.

It’s important to address these dental problems as soon as possible to avoid further complications. Here is my post on treating abscesses to help you out.

My Rabbitry Must Haves

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How to Get Your Rabbit to Eat

First let me be clear that I have a very controversial approach to feeding rabbits. But it has served me well for decades and my rabbits have not had any issues with gastrointestinal stasis or any other digestive issues that I have not been able to help them with using herbs or any of these tricks that I have up my sleeve. 

I feed my rabbits high-quality pellets only and no I do not provide them with any grass hay. Before you freak out on me you can find out why here. Commercial rabbit pellets have at least 16% protein and 22% fiber. They are formulated to be a complete ration and have exactly what your rabbit needs for gut health and their daily intake.

Any kind of fresh fruit or veggies are given VERY sparingly and only as a treat AFTER they have eaten pellets. They certainly don’t get cups of vegetables a day. There is no real nutritional value in those foods and rabbits need 16-18% protein. Want to take a stab at how much fruits and veggies have? Less than 3% in most cases. So you see why pushing that a rabbit’s diet be mostly fruits and veggies is so harmful. Feeding pellets is the best way for your rabbit to get a well balanced diet.

If your rabbit is turning up their furry little nose at their pellets, it might be time to mix things up a bit. It’s a sign that you have been feeding them too much food that falls into the treat category. If your rabbit doesn’t hold weight or also had trouble raising litters this can also be a sign that your rabbit is not getting the right type of food.

It depends on what you think the issue is

If your rabbit is having an external health issue you need to fix that first before trying to get them to eat. Like I said before the digestive system of a rabbit is closely tied to their overall health. So your work will be in vain if they are not healthy in every other aspect. 

If your rabbit has stopped eating and they are having diarrhea you need to treat it as a bacterial type of issue. Lavender has done wonders for me in this respect. You can read more about how it works here. But I try to keep lavender on hand either in the garden or dried during the winter. I would feed a minimum of 5 inches of the plant twice a day until you started seeing an improvement. 

dried lavender flowers on pellets.
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If your rabbit is not eating and you can’t find any physical issue try feeding mana pro calf mana. It’s an all-stock feed supplement for just this sort of situation. Often used when traveling or for show animals at shows to make sure they don’t go off feed. Only put a tablespoon or so on your rabbit’s feed and don’t do it for an extended period because it is sweet and it is one of those feeds your rabbit could get addicted too.

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The next thing you can try is some kind of dry fresh food (by dry I mean it doesn’t have much water in it like iceberg lettuce or cucumbers) like an apple or carrot break the skin on what you give them and hold it under their mouth so they can get a smell of it and leave the food in front of them on the floor. 

The next thing you can try is alfalfa hay or some other kind of VERY DRY fresh hay. Again I don’t feed this to them regularly because it can cause other issues but when you are trying to get your rabbit to eat you need to do what you can. Ideally, you want to get your rabbit eating within 3-4 days before you have any major issues.

Rabbits do have sensitive digestive systems and it’s not a matter of if but when you will have an issue. But if you do your best, look for any health or dental issues, and try what you can to trick them back into eating that is all you can do. 

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