The bunny basics
While we outline some clever tips below, it’s helpful to brush up on the basics of how to look after a rabbit when the temperature rises. For example, a rabbit’s ideal outdoor temperature is between 12° to 21°C (55° to 70°F) and, while your bunnies can tolerate temperatures as high as 30°C (85°F), anything above that can increase their risk of heatstroke.
The best way to care for rabbits and keep them healthy and safe is to monitor the weather during the summer – and, on those (rare!) days when the maximum temperature is going to be above 30°C, bring them into a cool room indoors. When your rabbits are outdoors, ensure their enclosure has all-day shade and plenty of ventilation, as well as a constant supply of fresh water.
Four keep-cool tricks
1. Wet towels
Soak a large towel in cool water, wring it out thoroughly and place it over the top of your rabbits’ enclosure (making sure you don´t close off its ventilation). This is especially effective when combined with an electric fan, as the towel will both provide shade and help to cool the airflow. Remember to rinse and repeat if the towel dries out.
2. Use ice
By simply freezing water, you can help your rabbits in a number of ways. On hot days, place ice packs beneath your rabbits’ enclosure and leave them to cool the area from the bottom up. Make sure your bunnies also have access to cool water by adding two to three ice cubes to their water dispenser. And, during especially warm spells, freeze a water bottle, wrap it in an old towel (one you won’t mind getting chewed) and place it in the enclosure to create a cool spot for your rabbits to lie against.
However, keep in mind that you should never apply ice directly to your rabbits’ bodies – doing so may lower their temperatures too quickly and cause shock or stress.
3. Spritz water
Rabbits lose heat through their ears, so misting them might help to keep your bunnies cooler. Fill up a spray bottle with cool (not icy) water, and then gently spritz the fleshy parts of your rabbits’ ears – making sure not to get water into the ear canal itself. As the mist evaporates your rabbits should feel immediate relief.
4. Trim fur
To keep your rabbits from holding on to any more insulation than is necessary, brush them regularly in the summer months to get rid of any extra hair. Make sure to brush from head to bottom, keeping your strokes light. If your bunnies are a longhaired breed, you might also consider visiting a groomer to clip their coats to a more heat-friendly length.
What should I do if my rabbit does get heatstroke?
It’s vital to ensure heatstroke is treated early, so check your bunnies regularly and watch them for signs such as lethargy, rapid or shallow breathing, hot ears, wetness around the nose, or stretching out fully with sprawled feet and a limp tail.
Be especially watchful of rabbits that are overweight, injured or more than five years old. These rabbits tend to be more sedentary and may not get up to drink water as often, which can lead to dehydration.
If you suspect your bunny has overheated you should:
- Wrap him in a damp towel, but never submerge him in cold water or place ice on his body as this could put him into shock.
- Offer him a little cool water at a time (make sure it’s not ice-cold as this could once again lead to shock).
- Take him to your vet or an emergency clinic as soon as possible.