Dehydration is the loss of water from the body of an animal and is quite severe as a health problem. It results in the body being unable to transport nutrients, regulate body temperature, and the accumulation of poisons. It can be caused by various factors, but is usually a result of disease or poisoning which if left untreated can result in the death of the animal. The earlier you recognize the symptom, the better for your pet.. Rabbits are susceptible to this problem and it is important to recognize the symptoms of dehydration in rabbits.
For starters, the rabbit will start urinating less and the urine will become concentrated. This will result in stronger colors and in a stronger smell of ammonia. Less fluid is a result of the body trying to conserve water and the stronger smell is resulting from the waste products becoming concentrated. The uric acids are becoming concentrated as there is less water to dilute them.
The body fluid is becoming limited and not reaching the extremities during dehydration. A watchful owner will also notice that their pet is becoming more sluggish and the ears start to droop (not as noticeable on Lops) while the eyes become sunken and dull. The pressure in the eyes decreases as the fluids become more scarce, sunken eyes are a good symptom of dehydration in rabbits or any animal.
The rabbit will also become sluggish. What is happening is the toxins that the body normally produces which are removed are starting to accumulate. These effect the muscles, nervous system and even breathing. Body temperature will start to increase and this can increase evaporative loss, which aggravates and increases the dehydration, it becomes a spiraling effect.
The skin will then start to become dry and lose its flexibility. You can grab the neck skin and pull it up. On a healthy, normal animal it will go right back down. With a dehydrated rabbit in will sink slowly back to normal or in severe cases just stay like it is.
So, you start smelling strong urine odors in the rabbit's pen but the litter seems dry look at your rabbit closely. Check for sagging or pale ears, sunken eyes, and plastic like skin. Also see it it seems to be running a fever. If it has these problem, it is getting dehydrated. Give the rabbit lots of water but also take it to the veterinarian as it is either ill or eaten something it should. Get the cause treated rather than just the symptoms!