The summer has arrived and while many of us are enjoying the wonderful hot weather of the season, our pets may not be enjoying it quite so much.
Rabbits in particular are vulnerable to heat stroke and rely on their owners to provide them with cooler conditions during the summer months. Wild rabbits go underground or hide under shrubs and bushes to keep cool, so here we look at how, as pet owners, we can help in keeping rabbits cool in the hot weather.
Give your Rabbit Plenty of Shade
Keep your rabbit hutch out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Metal hutches in particular can warm up very quickly and will retain the heat throughout the day. Placing your hutch in a shaded area of your garden is ideal, preferably under a tree or large bush in order to allow some light to shine through, whilst protecting your rabbits from intense heat. If you are unable to move your hutch, then try placing a large sun umbrella close by. This will help to break up the intensity of the sunlight.
The same applies to your rabbit run, as they are mostly made of wire mesh and are completely exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. A lightweight cover that allows the wind to circulate and keep it ventilated, but also offers shelter from the sun, will ensure they can enjoy their exercise time without overheating.
Try placing some ceramic or slate tiles inside the rabbit hutch. They are a cold material and your rabbits will like the cooling feeling against their body as they lie on top. A tunnel or hideaway is also a great idea for inside the hutch, perfect for an extra layer of shade.
Offer your Rabbit Fresh, Cool Water
A fresh supply of water is always essential and this should be replenished at regular intervals throughout the day during the summer months. A combination of water bowls and bottles will give your rabbit access to plenty of liquids and you may find that they even enjoy lying in the bowls when the weather is extremely hot.
Adding ice-cubes to the water bowl will offer some cooling relief, as will offering a supply of fresh vegetables. These naturally contain a large amount of water and your rabbit will enjoy munching on them during those long hot days, whilst being kept hydrated at the same time.
Keep Flies at Bay
Flies are perhaps the most annoying thing about summer! They are the most persistent of creatures that can drive us to distraction and unfortunately, they have the same effect on our rabbits.
Flies can cause serious harm if they lay eggs on your rabbit, so keeping them away from your rabbit hutch is vital. Scrupulous hygiene is essential and only regular cleaning of your pets bedding and litter will help keep these critters away. If you see flies around your rabbit hutch consider hanging some flypaper nearby (out of your rabbits reach) and check your pet regularly for any signs of infestation. Keeping your rabbit groomed and removing excess hair will not only help to keep them cooler in the heat, but it will also give flies less places to lay their eggs.
How to Spot Heat Stroke Symptoms in Rabbits
Heatstroke in rabbits can be fatal, as for other small animals. If you can spot the symptoms of heat stoke in the early stages, then you will have time to reverse the effects. The main symptoms to look out for are;
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Wetness around the nose
- Breathing rapidly from an open mouth whilst throwing their head back
- Hot ears
If you are worried that your rabbit has heat stroke, take them indoors and into a cool, well ventilated room immediately. Do not submerge them in cold water as this can send them into shock, but do apply a cool compress to their ears. Offer them plenty of cool, fresh water and keep them calm. If they do not appear to be getting better within a short space of time, take them your local vet straight away.
Keep your rabbit cool and fresh this summer and avoid them becoming a hot cross bunny!