Giffnock Vets share how to keep rabbits cool during summer

May 21, 2022

Due to their thick covering of fur, rising temperatures can become dangerous for rabbits as summer approaches. Rabbits can easily overheat and develop life-threatening gut problems or disease with these seasonal changes. Do not panic, the team at Rouken Glen Vets are here to help you learn how to prepare your small furry pets for the warmer months ahead.

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Rabbit checklist for dealing with rising temperatures

A big problem for rabbits during summer is overheating. Here are some ways to reduce that risk:

  • Position the hutch in the shade – if outdoors, maybe think about creating a burrow (that they cannot escape from) to help them mimic their natural ‘wild’ behaviours.
  • Rabbits do require some time in the sun during the day to get the vitamin D they need for digestion – give them short amounts of supervised time outdoors with shaded areas.
  • Make sure their water bowl/bottle is filled up with fresh water more regularly.
  • Wrap an ice pack or a 2-litre drink bottle of frozen water in a towel for them to lean on.
  • Provide a cooler space to lie on such as a cooling mat or a cold tile.
  • Use water in a misting spray bottle on their ears to cool them down – never soak them as this could put them at risk of respiratory problems if they catch a chill.
  • Make sure their hutch is well-ventilated – a fan can be used but avoid pointing it directly at your bunnies and make sure they have enough space to move away from it if they want to.
  • Give frozen veggies as a cooling treat.

The signs of heat stroke in rabbits include:

  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Disorientation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Head tossing
  • Red or hot ears
  • Seizures or a coma

If your rabbits are suffering from heat stroke, do not submerge them in water or leave them unattended for long periods of time. Dampen their fur, offer them cool water, and call our Rouken Glen Road vet practice right away for advice on 0141 620 2580.

Despite the warmer weather during spring and summer, there can still be cold spells, so make sure there is extra insulation and bedding if required. In addition, spring grass (which is high in sugars) can cause gut issues in your rabbits, so gradually introduce them to this within their feed.

Summer rabbit diseases

Another topic of concern is disease. During warmer months, the risk of diseases such as flystrike, myxomatosis, and VHD (Viral Haemorrhage Disease), as well as parasite infections increases. You can significantly reduce the risks with optimal hutch hygiene and the correct vaccinations. If you are concerned about any of these, contact us right away on 0141 620 2580 to book a rabbit check-up.

A great way to reduce both the risk of overheating and disease is grooming. Brushing can help to remove some of their thicker winter fur and any debris, which will help to cool them down. If your rabbits have long fur that needs a trim, it is wise to consider using a professional groomer for this as a rabbit’s skin is quite thin and easily damaged.

Should I bathe my rabbit to cool or clean them?

Rabbits tend to keep themselves meticulously clean. If your rabbit gets extremely dirty and needs some help, spot cleaning is the safest method. If they get hot, it is best to follow the advice above. Being bathed could frighten your rabbit, leading to injury from thrashing about. Also, they could catch a chill and suffer from pneumonia, respiratory infections, hypothermia, and other life-threatening health conditions. If your rabbit is struggling to clean themselves or you spot urine or faeces on their fur, contact our veterinary team as soon as possible as they may be at risk of
flystrike.

We hope our tips on how to keep rabbits cool and healthy in summer will help you have a happy and trouble-free season with them in East Renfrewshire.

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