When the temperature rises and the clouds disappear our thoughts turn to barbecues and beaches. But for our little ones it can spell danger - from heatstroke, gastric issues and also a significant increase in the risk of flystrike and other insect-borne diseases.
There are many things you can do to make your little ones feel more comfortable during this time, and prevention is WAY better than having to deal with a sick animal - and don't forget heatstroke can be fatal. We all remember the message that dogs die in hot cars, well rabbits can die in hot hutches and cages too.
Rabbits and small animals can't sweat in the same way as us humans do; they have few cooling mechanisms of their own. This is why they need our help when the thermometer starts to rise.
Rabbits and others can also get sunburn too (especially the white ones!) so shade is a must. Check your little ones often to make sure they are OK - just like humans, if they are feeling unwell they may not take the best course of action (and remain in direct sunlight, for example), so will need your help.
We have a number of products in stock to help your little ones cope with the heat, but this post is not about selling - it's about helping you to ensure your little ones are safe. If you don't have cool pads and bottle covers, then don't worry, keep reading for some handy hints - but prepare now to ensure you are ready for when the heat arrives.
We've added some useful information below to help you get through the hot summer days, along with what to look out for if things go wrong.
We all remember the message that dogs die in hot cars, well rabbits can die in hot hutches and cages too.
Prevention is WAY better than having to deal with a sick animal. Heatstroke can be fatal.
Cool The Area
Ice pods and cool pads are a quick and easy way of adding a cooling zone for your little ones, but if you're stuck then check out the following:
- Part fill a plastic bottle with water and freeze (make a few so you can be using some and freezing some at the same time, so always have some on standby). Only part fill as water expands when it freezes and a full bottle will split, then leak as it melts! Put in your little ones' area covered with a towel or pet safe cover to prevent from direct contact with a frozen surface and possible skin damage.
- Move your little ones' accommodation out of direct sunlight if at all possible.
- Create a makeshift shade cover out of sheets, umbrellas etc - keep them away from prying teeth and make sure they are secure and do not restrict air flow.
- If inside, close curtains and open windows a little (but ensure safety and security!) to block out direct sun but allow some airflow.
- Use a fan in front of your little ones area - keep all electrical cables well away from pet access (battery operated fans are available) - and put a frozen bottle/ice pack in front of the fan to cool the air as it circulates. Use an oscillating setting as some don't like direct drafts!
- Do NOT use non-pet safe ice packs in your little ones area - their contents may leak if pack chewed and contents can be unsafe.
- If you feed vegetables, then feed them rinsed under a tap and wet - this will add to their water intake.
- Do not make any dietary changes during the hot weather unless directed by a vet - the risk of digestive upset must be kept as low as possible
- Wet towels/sheets and hang over the side of accommodation to help cool ambient air. Change frequently and keep out of reach of teeth!
- Get some ceramic tiles form your local DIY and add to the accommodation for sitting on - ceramic feels cool to the touch even when the weather is hot.
- Dampen bunny ears (by hand) - ears are a rabbits cooling mechanism so a little dampness every so often will help.
- Increase grooming regime - this will help to remove any moulting fur, so helping prevent a blockage, but will also allow you to check your little ones over thoroughly.
- If indoors, let in the cool morning air before the sun gets too hot (if you're up early enough!), and again in the evening once things start to cool off.
Good hydration is important at the best of times, but critical during the hot weather. Slight dehydration can exacerbate gut problems through reduced motility, and continued moulting can increase ingested fur (so increasing the risk of a blockage).
It has been proven that drinking out of a bowl increases hydration - it's a more natural and comfortable way of drinking.
- Add a number of bowls in your little ones area in case one gets knocked over/filled with hay (or worse!!)
- Refresh the water twice daily at least - fresh water is more appetising than stale water.
- Know how much your little ones normally drink; this way it's easier to spot a reduction in fluid intake which may be an early sign of a problem.
- If you normally provide bottles only, add in a bowl or two too.
- A single ice cube can be added to help keep water cool - don't add any more as this may make it too cold and reduce intake.
- Bottle covers will help keep bottles cool (check out the Water Bottle Snug), but if you don't yet have one, cover in tinfoil. Ensure the foil cannot be accessed by little mouths.
The risk of flystrike is at its' highest during the hot summer months - and even more of a risk if your little ones are a bit more lazy than usual! And don't forget house rabbits are susceptable too.
- Good hygiene is the best defence - along with fly screens, ensuring your little ones have a good diet (lots of hay) so minimising the possibility of a mucky bum, and making sure they are not overweight or having difficulty reaching their bottoms to clean.
- Clean out litter trays daily
- Check for signs of flystrike as often as possible - eggs can be laid and maggots hatch within 20 minutes or so!
- If flystrike a risk (following ill health, obesity etc) apply Rearguard or seek veterinary advice asap.
- If you see maggots, pick off as many as you can with a tweezer and rush to the vets - this IS an emergency. Do NOT wet the fur as it makes spotting maggots more difficult.
- If possible, fit flyscreens around the accommodation - but ensure it can't be got at by inquisitive teeth!
- Don't forget that flystrike is often fatal.
Signs of Heatstroke
There are several signs of heatstroke to watch for - but by far the most important sign is to watch for any change in normal behaviour. If you have ANY concern about your little ones' health, take to the vet immediately. It's better to waste a consult fee for no reason than be too late in getting help.
Clear indications that there is something wrong and veterinary help is necessary include (and this list is NOT exhaustive):
- rapid breathing/panting
- open mouth breathing (very unusual for rabbits)
- Weakness/reluctance to move
- Convulsion in the latter stages - if seen, GET TO THE VET - NOW!
Prepare in advance.
React Quickly if you feel something is wrong.
If you have any concerns about the health of your pet, please take it to a vet as soon as possible.
Heatstoke can kill, but is easily avoidable.