Wild rabbits would not be out in the hot sun, but instead in their nice cool burrow underground. But we keep rabbits as pets above ground so we need to help them keep cool. We have some advice and tips on how to do it.
Make sure your rabbits are kept in a shady area of the garden or house, eg under a tree, or away from a window. Offer more shade to the exercise area or enclosure using a parasol, sail-cloth, tarpaulin or towel. You can also put in some things which crate share such as a tunnel or a box. For indoor rabbits, position your rabbit’s cage away from direct sunlight. If possible, move rabbits to a cool garage or into your home during the hottest days.
If you have an exercise area away from the hutch, it is very important that you ensure there is water shade and cool items available there as well as in their run.
Make sure your bunnies have plenty of water to drink and if possible replace it during the day to make sure it is cool and not warm. Provide both a bowl and bottle of water and add ice cubes to keep them cool- rabbits can get a bigger drink out of a bowl. Check the spout of the water bottle daily to make sure it is working properly. We do not advise giving them frozen treats or ice cubes because they can cause intestinal problems.
You can safely used battery operated fans which can be attached to an indoor or outdoor hutch. Ensure that your rabbits have the choice whether to sit in the air flow or not. If the hutch is in a shed make sure it is well ventilated – open the door. You can consider fitting a wire door to the shed.
In the wild rabbits live in underground warrens that are very cool in summer (and warm in winter) if you can provide an earth base to their enclosure, or big soil filled tray, which you keep cool by making it damp is an alternative. Marble or ceramic floor tiles can also be placed in their enclosure (out of the sun) as a cool place to rest. The ceramic will stay cool, even in warm weather and will be a great place for your rabbits to relax on.
You can use a plant spray/mist bottle to gently spray water on your rabbit’s ears which can help them to cool down.
Bunny cool blocks
You can use a large 2 litre pop bottle filled with water and frozen (leave room at the top for the ice to expand). Give the frozen bottles to your rabbits so they can lean against them and keep cool. Have a spare bottle in the freezer, ready to swap out.
Give your rabbit a trim
Consider giving long haired bunnies a short summer haircut, remove as much excess hair as possible to help keep them cool.
Give your rabbit lots of fresh green things to eat
Wash the greens in cool water to help your rabbits get extra water and make them more appealing
Heat stroke can be fatal, which is why it’s important to keep your rabbits cool in hot weather. If you think your rabbit has heat stroke you should get them to your vet straight away. For the journey to the vet, wetting your rabbits’ ears and feet and draping their body in a wet towel can help. Never use ice, icy water or submerge a rabbit to try and cool them down.
Be aware of signs of heat stress
- Hot ears
- Wetness around the nose area
- Stretching head back to breathe
- Breathing rapidly from open mouth.
- A fully stretched out rabbit with feet sprawled apart and limp tail
- Sleepy or disorientated appearance
- Rapid/laboured/shallow breathing, tongue hanging out
Refusal to eat or drink
This can also be a symptom of heat stroke, if your rabbit does not drink or eat for more than six hours, contact your vet for advice.
In summer it is really important to check your rabbit two times a day for flystrike – do it when feeding them and refreshing their water.
Advice brought to you by Streetly Vets in Sutton Coldfield. If would like your rabbit (or any other pet) to join the Streetly Vets family then you can register them now by clicking here.