Like all rabbits, I hate getting too hot. The warmer weather can be very dangerous for us, so now that the temperatures are rising I’m starting to think about how to stay cool and safe. A lot of this comes down to you, so here are my top five tips for keeping me and any other small, furry family members happy over the summer:
1. Provide water on tap
We bunnies need a lot of water – at only 5 pounds I drink just as much water as a dog weighing around 24 pounds! Drinking plenty of water is even more important in hot weather, when we can quickly become dehydrated and seriously ill. An extra-large water dispenser can ensure that we always have lots of fresh water available, but you should remember to check that the drinking tube doesn’t become blocked. You can also help us to stay hydrated over the summer by getting a little creative. Why not try dampening our veggies before dinner? Or you could even treat us to a small piece of deseeded watermelon, which has a very high water content (as well as lots of sugar, so don’t let us get carried away).
Another idea for encouraging us buns to drink more water is to supplement our usual water bottle with a ceramic water bowl as well. I like having a bit of variety sometimes, and you can even top the bowl up with a couple of ice cubes when it’s extra hot. It’s important not to let the water become stale or contaminated by dirty litter and bedding, so you should replace it at least twice a day. If the water doesn’t look very appetising, you’ll struggle to persuade us to drink it.
2. Keep it shady
Unlike humans, buns don’t actually sweat much at all (the only place we have sweat glands is on our upper lip), so we really need to be kept cool. You can reduce the risk of us becoming too hot or dehydrated by making sure that we have somewhere shady to relax and play. This means moving the hutch and run into a shaded spot with good air circulation, or even providing us with a special run with sun protection, so we can stay safely out of the blazing sun. When it’s really hot, I also love having some bottles of frozen water placed in my hutch to keep the air around me extra cool. It’s a great small pet summer hack and doesn’t cost a penny!
3. Watch out for flystrike
Just the thought of flystrike is enough to send a shiver down my spine… This painful condition is particularly a risk for sick or elderly rabbits that are unable to clean themselves properly, but even healthy, well-kept rabbits like me can be affected. Flystrike is caused by flies laying their eggs in our fur, often around the tail end or near open wounds. Within only a few hours, these eggs hatch into maggots that then eat into the flesh, causing serious damage. Flystrike can cause us to go into toxic shock and can even be fatal, so it’s really important to keep a watchful eye and do as much as you can to prevent it.
Because flies are especially attracted to damp and smelly fur, flystrike prevention means making sure that we’re always kept clean and dry. Start off by checking us over twice a day for eggs, then clean off any faecal dirt, urine or nasty odours stuck in our fur with a pet-safe antibacterial wipe, before drying us off thoroughly. It can also be good to clip any long fur around our back ends to reduce the chance of it getting damp and encouraging flies.
You can also help to keep us safe by making some simple changes to our homes. Very fine mesh around the hutch can reduce the risk of flies getting in, or you can even try hanging up a strip of fly paper to trap some of the flies before they get to us, as long as you make sure to keep it safely out of our reach – fly paper isn’t good for rabbits either!
4. Keep things clean
Every bunny knows how nice it feels to hang out in a freshly-cleaned hutch at any time of year, but hygienic homes are extra important to us in the summer months when there’s a high risk of flystrike, as this can really help to reduce the number of flies hanging around. Our toilet areas and any soiled bedding need to be cleaned out every day over the summer, and you should also disinfect the hutch and run once a week.
An antibacterial spray like the Savic Refresh’r Cleaning Spray is great for safely tackling germs and bad odours, while absorbent pet litter also helps to bind the nasty smells that can attract flies. My humans keep my hutch smelling extra fresh with these clever little Beaphar Cage Fresh Granules, which use special technology to neutralise the smelly ammonia in pet urine. Not the most exciting thing they’ve ever bought for me, but I do like having somewhere clean and hygienic to live. I’d offer to help with the cleaning, but my paws just tend to get in the way…
5. Act fast in an emergency
Whatever you do to keep us safe this summer, you can’t always prevent an emergency. The important thing to remember is to watch out for symptoms and then act fast!
The most common warning signs for heatstroke in rabbits are heavy panting, tiredness, drooling, convulsions and a wet nose. We use our ears to regulate body temperature, so a rabbit with heatstroke is also likely to have red ears that feel hotter than normal. If you spot any of these symptoms, move your rabbit to a shady spot, lightly mist its ears with cool water and then call your vet immediately. Never place your rabbit directly into cold water, as this could cause your pet to go into shock.
The most obvious symptom of flystrike is maggots crawling in your rabbit’s fur, but you should also stay alert to general signs of tiredness or discomfort, which can be an early indication that something is wrong. If your pet seems unusually quiet or restless, check them immediately for eggs or maggots. The moment you notice your rabbit has maggots, call the vet – flystrike is a serious emergency. As long as it won’t delay you from getting your pet to the vet, you should then remove any visible maggots using a pair of tweezers. Avoid immersing your rabbit in water as this will make it harder for the vet to shave the fur in the affected area.
Remembering these tips will help you to keep your rabbit safe throughout the warmer months, but don’t forget that your buns will enjoy their summer even more with some exciting toys and lots of love – you can trust me on that!