Written by: Alison Laurie, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness
Rabbits are fairly hardy animals; however extreme heat can cause them stress. In high summer temperatures rabbits can quickly overheat and heat-stroke can be fatal.
With good care and an appropriate environment, you can ensure that your pet rabbit will be safe, cool and comfortable during the hot, summer months.
Make sure that your rabbit always has access to cool, clean drinking water at all times. In the summer, water can evaporate quickly, so check the amount of water in bowls or water bottles regularly. You may want to provide water in both a both a bowl and in a water bottle on hot summer days.
Misting your rabbit gently with a fine mist water spray can help it stay cool. Use a standard handheld spray bottle, gently misting your rabbit periodically. Use a very light mist only and only periodically during a hot day.
Additionally, place a plastic bottle of frozen water in his hutch to keep him cool. Rabbits will lie next to this to stay cool.
To help protect your rabbit from overheating, place their hutch in a spot where there is ample shade, such as under a tree or an overhang on the house, or use a hutch that has a design that includes built-in shade. Another key element to hutch placement is airflow. Lack of adequate airflow during the summer months can cause overheating, even if the animal is in the shade. An example of a shady spot with bad airflow is in a garage. Although the interior of a garage is shaded, the three walls and door of the garage prevent adequate air movement. In addition, keeping a rabbit in a garage is not a good practice because of vehicle exhaust fumes and other hazardous elements. Placing the rabbit in a shady spot outdoors that gets plenty of natural wind and airflow but not too exposed is ideal.
Rabbits that are kept inside and therefore used to daily adjustments in their surrounding temperature do not need to acclimatise. On the other hand, owners who keep a rabbit outside in an outdoors hutch do need to take precautions if you want to bring your rabbit in to the relative cooler environment of the house in the summer months. Be careful as rabbits are very sensitive to sudden temperature changes and stress, and so suddenly bringing your rabbit inside could cause other health problems. If you choose to house your rabbit indoors in the summer months, do plan ahead and move him inside earlier in the spring/early summer before the hot weather begins.
Handling your rabbit during the heat of the day can cause increased stress. If you have to handle your rabbit, do so in the early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler.
Do check your Rabbit over thoroughly each day for any evidence of matted fur, wounds, faecal or urine staining or flystrike, which can be fatal. Clean your Rabbit's cage daily to guard against flystrike and remove any uneaten food and do provide fresh food and clean water each day.
Remember also to keep up to date with preventative healthcare treatments: Rabbit vaccinations and worming /flea treatments and use a good product to protect them against flystrike throughout the summer months.
Contact us for good professional advice on your pet Rabbits' health and care.