At this time of the year it is important to keep our little rabbit friends out of the heat – after all, they are used to dim caves and underground tunnels and therefore overheat quickly. While Bunny is mostly indoors and enjoys our air conditioning, we did have to fall back on less modern ways to keep Bunny cool when our AC was broken a few months back. Also, while he is not an outdoor rabbit, we do like to take him outside with us every now and then, so the following ideas will be great for rabbits both indoors and outdoors.
How to Keep Your Rabbit Cool:
- Lightly moisten your rabbit’s ears, neck, head, and the inside of their hind legs with a wet washcloth. Rabbits cannot sweat the way humans do. Instead, they release heat via body surface, primarily the ears. Just a little bit of water will help cool down your pet. Also use this method when you suspect overheating – while on the way to the vet.
- Freeze a water bottle, wrap it in a kitchen towel, and offer it to your bunny. Just leaning against it can have a refreshing effect. Make sure you don’t forget the towel – after all, you don’t want to freeze your rabbit or make it uncomfortable.
- Offer your pet a cool surface with rounded/safe edges, such as a tile, marble, or brick to rest on. Make sure it can support the rabbit’s weight to avoid injuries. Especially slightly rough surfaces are preferred. Alternatively, you can put ice packs (NOT the gel ones) on the ground and place a wooden tray or plastic plate upside down on top of it. Spread a towel over it and you have a great cool spot for your bunny to rest!
- Set up a fan somewhere your rabbit can’t reach and have it blow just a little bit into the room or a part of the cage. Be sure that your bunny has the opportunity to step out of the breeze if it wants to and don’t overdo it – a draft will only cause illness.
- Always place the cage in the shade or offer enough shady spots in case your rabbit doesn’t have a cage, like Bunny.
- Keep the air circulating. Rooms without air flow or cages with solid walls all around will trap heat and should therefore be avoided.
- Hang a damp towel on the side of the cage . This works well in combination with the fan or a slightly windy spot – let the air flow through the damp towel for an even better effect. Alternatively, you can also place a bowl of water somewhere in the room (evaporation).
- If your rabbit is indoors, close the blinds from the early morning hours on to keep the heat out from the beginning.
- If at all possible, keep your rabbits indoors, especially during the hottest hours of the day. Even short outings should happen in the early morning or late evening and in the shade. Outdoor rabbits should have the opportunity to dig and rest in the cool sand.
- If your rabbit has long hair, you can cut it a little bit to help keep your pet cool. Rounded baby nail scissors work best. Make sure you don’t pull on the fur and pay close attention to where the skin starts to prevent injury.
Other Things to Consider:
- During the summer, it is important to clean your rabbit’s litter box more often, because the heat increases the impact of the ammonia – especially the smell.
- Do not leave your rabbit in the car. EVER. Even the shortest amount of time in such heat can be fatal. Even when a cloud suddenly hides the sun or the car seems cool enough for you. If you absolutely have to run errands right this second, bring your rabbit inside with you.
- Don’t put your rabbit on the balcony and assume an umbrella will provide enough shade – it doesn’t and the sun moves.
- Don’t turn the air conditioning on at full blast when you are in the car – moderate use of the AC will prevent colds and a stressful situation for your rabbit’s little body.
- Always make sure your rabbit has enough water. Even when you take your rabbit somewhere outside of the home – the vet, for example – it should have access to water or fresh vegetables. Offer water in bowls, not just bottles. They are unnatural and your rabbit gets less water out of them.
- If you do need to transport your bunny in the heat, it is best to choose a carrier that does not have solid walls that prevent the flowing of air.
- Pregnant or nursing rabbits are even more affected by heat and need special care.
- Diarrhea is always a cause for concern and especially when it is hot. See a vet immediately in case your rabbit is sick.
- Fresh food does not replace water. Even if your rabbit eats vegetables high in water content every day, it still needs water.
Signs that your Rabbit may be Overheated:
- resting too much, has no energy
- shallow, quick breaths
- body shakes uncontrollably
- running in circles without resting
- wet mouth (from constant panting)
- tense muscles, with the head leaning all the way back
- apathetic behavior, no reaction when spoken to
What to do when your Rabbit is Overheated:
- bring down the heat slowly – do NOT throw your rabbit in cold water or cover it in ice, as the sudden change in temperature only shocks the little body more and may be fatal
- wrap moist towels around your bunny’s body (moist, not wet)
- as mentioned above, take a wet washcloth and lightly moisten your rabbit’s ears, neck, head, and the inside of their hind legs
- wrap ice or a frozen water bottle in a towel and place it near your rabbit (blank would be way too cold)
- offer water (place it near the rabbit, but do not force it to drink)
- find a vet as soon as your rabbit has cooled down a little and becomes more agile (same day, not tomorrow or once it fits into your schedule)
- if you fear for your pet’s life, wrap it in moist towels and drive to the vet immediately
With all of these tips and tricks you should be good for the summer! Please feel free to share any other ideas!