It is especially important to remember to keep an eye on your rabbit during the summer months. Rabbits do not tolerate heat well and can easily die from being overheated. Each rabbit will tolerate heat differently and it is important to observe your rabbit daily.
How do I keep my rabbit cool?
- Make sure your bunny has the option of shade. If they are confined to a cage or small room for part of the day, be sure that there is plenty of shady space for the bunny to rest.
- Set up a circulating fan that will circulate air in your rabbit’s area without blowing directly on him all day. You can also drape a damp towel over part of the cage so the fan will blow through the towel and create cooler air. Be sure to bunny-proof the fan cord!
- Place a ceramic tile or stone square in the cage or in your bun’s favorite place. The stone and tile stay cooler for them to lie on.
- Place a few ice cubes in their water crock so the water is tempting and they can also lie against the cool crock.
- Mist your rabbit’s ears. Rabbits dissipate heat through their ears and misting them might help keep the rabbit cool.
- Brush loose fur from your rabbit’s coat. Who wants to wear an extra fur coat in the summer? If you have a long haired rabbit, consider cropping your bunny’s coat short for the summer months.
- Fill 1 or 2 liter soda bottles with water and freeze them. Once frozen, put the frozen water bottle in bun’s area so he can lean against it to keep cool. Keep a few of these on hand in your freezer and cycle them out as needed.
- Be sure your bunny is getting their fair share of veggies to help maintain adequate hydration. See the HRS Veggie list.
- Be especially watchful of rabbits older then 5 years or ones who are overweight or incapacitated. These rabbits tend to be more sedentary and may not get up to drink water if they are too hot. This can quickly lead to dehydration which can lead to death or other health problems.
- Watch for signs of heat stroke. These include panting, lethargy, disorientation, seizures, salivation, weakness, and reddening of the ears or unusually red or pale mucus membranes.
What do I do if my rabbit experiences heat stroke?
- DO NOT submerge your rabbit in cold water. This could cause shock.
- Dampen your rabbit’s ears and body with cool water.
- Get your rabbit to a veterinarian or emergency clinic IMMEDIATELY. DO NOT WAIT!
What other concerns arise in warm weather?
Fly Strike or “myiasis” is when flesh-eating flies like green bottle flies lay eggs on rabbits and the newly hatched maggots eat the rabbit’s flesh. These flies are particularly attracted to wet feces, and at particular risk are aging, disabled, long-haired or overweight rabbits who are not able to clean themselves. Ongoing health problems like reduced mobility, bladder stones or sludge can also contribute to a urine-soaked hind end which is also likely to attract flies. Moisture, warmth, and odor attract flies. If open sores are present, or if thick fur is dampened with urine or feces, flies will head toward these warm incubation areas to lay their eggs. The chances are greater if the rabbit is outside, but it only takes one fly indoors to do the damage. The tiny cream colored eggs resemble the vintage Malt-o-meal cereal and are visible to the naked eye and are attached to fur with a yellowish glue. Within 24 hours of those eggs’ hatching, rabbits can enter a terminal state of shock due to maggot infestation. Close observation, keeping your bunny indoors, maintaining screens on doors and windows to exclude flies, and keeping your bunny dry and trimming or shaving (sometimes referred to as a ‘sanitary shave’) fur when needed are among the most critical preventative steps. More fly strike info…
Updated 2021/12/18 by Christie Taylor, PhD.