Tips to keep rabbits cool in the summer
- Mind the temperature.
- Provide plenty of shade.
- Have your cooling bottles ready.
- Lots of cool water.
- Limit outdoor activity.
- Brush your bunny to remove excess hair.
Keeping rabbits cool during the summer is imperative. In the wild, rabbits keep cool by hiding out in their burrows during the heat of the day. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for pet rabbits. But there are other ways to protect your bunnies from heat stroke and other problems. Now is the time to start planning.
1. Get Your Thermometer Ready
How hot is too hot? Your rabbit’s body temperature can increase faster than you might expect, especially in direct sunlight.
The perfect temperature for a bunny is 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). Temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.6 degrees Celsius) put your rabbit at risk of heat stress or even heat stroke. So keep a close eye on temperatures during hot weather and prepare to take action if they rise too high.
2. Provide Shade
If there’s a shady spot in your garden, move your hutch there now. If there is no shade, create some by using a shade cloth over your hutch and/or run.
Alternately, consider moving your hutch into the garage, if the garage is safe and well ventilated. You could even move your bunny into the house during the hottest parts of summer.
3. Prepare Your Cooling Accessories
There are products on the market, such as ice pods, that can help you keep your rabbits cool. You can also make your own cooling accessories.
Some bunnies love to snuggle up to frozen water bottles when it’s hot outside. Fill a one- or two-litre soda bottle most of the way with water and freeze it overnight. Use one per rabbit. Make a few spares so you’ll always have one ready to go.
Damp towels can help to cool your rabbit down, too. A ceramic tile in a shady part of the hutch can also help keep rabbits cool in hot weather.
You can also use a fan to keep your rabbit cool. Just be mindful of cords, cables, and spinning fan blades.
4. Lots and Lots of Cool Water
A rabbit drinks more water when it’s feeling hot. Also, when temperatures rise, water can evaporate more quickly from the water bottle or water dish than it normally would. So give your rabbits more cold water in more places than you would during the cooler parts of the year.
5. Adopt a Rabbit’s Schedule
Rabbits are crepuscular. This means that they’re the most active at dawn and dusk. Happily, these are some of the coolest times of the day.
Let your bunnies out into their run or other exercise area early in the morning and/or directly after the sun has set. This will allow them to stay active on their schedule while beating the heat.
As for the middle of the day — typically the hottest part — this is the time for your ice pods, hutch shades, fans, and cooling bottles.
6. Give Your Bun a Summer ‘Do
While a rabbit’s fur is great for insulating against the cold, it can make things miserable in the summer. A good brush-out can remove excess fur, which can help your bunny stay cool.
Short-haired rabbits should be groomed once a week. Long-haired rabbits can benefit from daily grooming. Some rabbits enjoy the process, while others might not like it at first. Some common grooming implements include:
- Blunt-ended scissors to cut out mats
- A bristly shedding brush to remove hair
You might also take advantage of grooming time to clip your bunny’s nails.
This video can give you an idea of the process.
7. Watch Out for Flystrike
Flystrike is a serious and potentially deadly problem that most often happens in the summer months. Flies lay their eggs on your rabbit, generally near their rear end. When the eggs hatch, the larvae (maggots) begin to feed on your rabbit. It happens fast — in a matter of hours. And it can become serious very quickly, as well.
Any rabbit can suffer flystrike, but some rabbits are more vulnerable than others, including:
- Obese rabbits
- Elderly and/or arthritic rabbits
- Females with large abdominal dewlaps
- Long-haired breeds
- Rabbits with dental problems
Any problem that makes it harder for your bunny to groom itself can make them more vulnerable to flystrike.
Signs of Flystrike
Symptoms of flystrike include:
- Lethargy and reduced activity
- Not eating or drinking
- Digging into a corner
- A strong smell coming from their enclosure
You may also find maggots on your rabbits. If you find maggots, you must take your bunny to the vet immediately. Call ahead if you can.
Prevention is the best medicine, so:
- Check your rabbits twice a day during the summer, and once a day during the winter.
- Make sure they’re eating a consistent, high fibre diet.
- Flies are attracted to urine- and feces-soiled fur, so keep your bunny clean.
- Your vet may be able to prescribe a “spot-on” medication to prevent flystrike.
8. Learn the Signs of Heat Stress
Like flystrike, heat stress can come on quickly and turn deadly fast. Here are some signs of heat stress:
- Rapid breathing
- Hot and/or red ears
- Wet fur below the nose
- Open mouth
- Flared nostrils
If your bunny appears overheated, place them on a cool, damp towel and seek medical attention immediately. Never place your rabbit in a cold bath.
9. Keep a Bunny Cool Kit
It’s easy to keep your rabbit cool if you have your tools prepared ahead of time. Here are a few must-haves for your list.
- Ice pods
- Ice cubes
- Run shades
- Water bottles for freezing
- Extra bottles and dishes for cold water
- A mister bottle
This video can give you a few more ideas.
Rabbits are more sensitive to heat than we are. And they can’t tell us when they’re feeling too hot. But with a little preparation and the right tools, you can keep summertime safe and fun.