That furry fluffy coat that makes bunny rabbits so absolutely adorable as a huge drawback – it is simply not suitable outerwear for summer. Just imagine you had to wear a faux fur coat all summer long?
But it’s not just uncomfortable for rabbits experiencing the heat from summer. There are a variety of health risks and conditions that the little creatures can suffer from due to the heat.
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Most significantly, overheating can cause heat stroke which can be fatal. Rabbits can also suffer from skin conditions and myasis (flystrike) that are more prominent in the summer months.
Some top tips that you can use to keep your rabbits cool throughout the hot summer months include:
1. Location, Location, Location
It is highly recommended to ensure that your rabbits are located in a cool, shady area. So don’t build your hutch where there are no trees or other structures to provide some cooling shade.
If there isn’t the ideal shady area for the hutch, provide some artificial shade with shade cloth, sails or even umbrellas.
Also make sure that the hutch faces a direction that allows it to get the bulk of the shade during the hottest times of the day which normally occur between 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. Morning exposure to the sun is preferable to afternoon exposure.
Even in the winter this is fine as rabbits are much more able to tolerate cold than heat.
2. Moving Indoors
Keep an eye on the local weather reports and if extremely hot temperatures are predicted, move your rabbits indoors.
If you have an insulated shed or a barn, this is ideal. However, your basement can also provide great temporary shelter from a heatwave for the bunnies.
Keep in mind that it isn’t necessary to keep the rabbits inside 24 hours a day. When temperatures begin to exceed 85 degrees F (30 degrees C), it is best to move the rabbits indoors until the temperature begins to drop again.
It is always important to ensure that your rabbit hutch has good ventilation – there is nothing quite like a cool breeze to cool things down in the summer.
You can however provide your rabbits with a bit of additional moving air by providing them with a fan. Make sure that the fan has a tamper proof safety cover if you are placing it inside the hutch and keep all the wires well out of reach of the rabbits.
But don’t allow the fan to blow over the entire area and give your rabbits a place to go to seek cover from the constant wind.
You will probably find that your rabbits will gravitate towards the fan and laze in front of it for the hottest parts of the day.
4. Freeze It
Fill some empty, plastic water bottles and place them in the freezer. When they are frozen, place them around the hutch to cool it down.
This frozen water is not for drinking but rather to provide a way to cool the hutch and the rabbits.
You may even find a rabbit or two cuddling up to the icy, cold bottles and taking a cooling lick from the condensation.
For an additional cooling boost, place the frozen water bottles in front of a fan for a makeshift air-conditioner.
5. Sweat It Out
Rabbits do not sweat like humans do to cool themselves down. Their sweat glands are located in their mouths meaning that sweating relieves very little of the heat that high temperatures can cause.
A cool drink will help keep your rabbits from over-heating. If you notice that a rabbit is panting, it is trying to cool down and is probably close to suffering from heat exhaustion or stroke.
Take immediate measures to cool the rabbit down:
- Take your rabbit indoors – preferably into an air-conditioned space.
- Use ice packs placed on their bodies to lower their internal temperature faster.
- Spray cool water on their ears.
Continue the cooling process until they have stopped panting but keep them indoors in a cool area until they have recovered entirely.
6. Cut It Out
Give your rabbits a haircut this summer and this will help them cope better with the heat. This is especially important for long hair or Angora rabbits.
Just a trim will do and it isn’t necessary to shave them down to the skin, as this can have the opposite effect!
Brushing their fur regularly will also help get rid of the excess, thinning the fur and allowing for better airflow and circulation to reach the skin and cool the bunny down.
Although your bunny doesn’t sweat like we do, they are still prone to dehydration when the temperatures rise.
Make sure that your rabbits have constant access to clean and cool drinking water throughout the day. Place some ice cubes in the water to ensure that it stays cool for longer – non-melting cubes are ideal as they will last longer.
Alternatively, use a water dispensing system that allows for frozen water to melt down into a bowl providing a constant source of cool drinking water.
8. Cool Foods
Most of those leafy greens that are your rabbits favorite foods contain large amounts of water. Placing them in the freezer for a few minutes before feeding time will provide your bunnies with a cool treat. Alternatively, wash the greens in ice water before serving them up.
Always keep in mind that if you are hot, it is more than likely that your bunny rabbits are hotter. So take a little extra time this summer to keep your rabbits cool, comfortable and in optimal health.