HOW TO KEEP YOUR BUNNY OR GUINEA PIG COOL IN THE SUMMER!
The weather is FINALLY getting warmer, the sun is shining and you are just dying to get your bunny or guinea pig out on the grass for some fresh air and sun on their back - is there anything nicer than watching a rabbit binkying or a piggy popcorning out of doors?! But with the fun of this, comes the worry - will they get sunburn or overheat? What about keeping them cool in their hutch? Read on for my hints and tips for a stress free summer with your small furry!! PLUS PRODUCT LINKS SO YOU CAN QUICKLY AND EASILY GET THE ITEMS YOUR FUR BABY NEEDS TO STAY COOL :)
*(Click on the images to purchase, we may receive a small commission if you buy from one of our links, but they are available in some pet shops, and we encourage you to buy local where you can!)
YOUR FUR BABY'S SET UP -
INDOOR PETS -
If your fur baby lives indoors, make sure they are away from the windows where the sun might beat in on them. Open the window in the room they are in as often as you can, or use an electric fan - this is quite safe as long as they can't reach the wires to chew them, and it isn't directed full on at them - it's best to direct it towards part of their cage or enclosure so they can sit in front of it if they like, or move out of it's way if they prefer. You can also place a frozen bottle of water in front of the fan to ensure it is blowing cold air across them. Add extra shade such as a blanket or towel, and things to hide in the shade in like a cardboard box or tunnel.
OUTDOOR PETS -
Place their hutch or run in a shaded area of the garden, being mindful of where the sun will move to next - you may need to keep them in a spot that is permanently shady or keep moving it during the day. A hutch with a run attached is a great option for an outdoor rabbit or guinea pig, as they can escape into the hutch if they want to cool down - make sure the hutch itself is shaded though with a parasol, or tarp as they can get like ovens - check regularly to make sure it isn't too hot! Again, give plenty of shade options, pinning a blanket over the run with pegs, or using a run cover or tarp, making it as cool as possible. If you are concerned it is too hot for them, only leave them out for a short while, maybe 15-20 minutes in a shaded area, or in the evening when it is cooler and keep them in the cool of the house the rest of the day. Wild bunnies keep cool in their burrows when it is hot, so if your bun has a spot they can dig in, you'll probably find they dig a nice hole to lie down in :) You can also provide a litter tray or large plastic box filled with soil for them to do the same in, or move their hutch or run onto a patch of earth. You can dampen the soil a little if you like. You can also use a battery operated fan outside (this one has good reviews)
THE DANGER OF PLASTIC AND WOODEN HUTS IN THE HEAT - These should not be used outdoors in a run, or even in the hutch in the summer - they can be 10 degrees or more actually hotter than the temperature outside as they just trap the heat! Rabbits and guinea pigs may hide in these if nervous, and can die of heat exhaustion in just a short period of time. Tarps or parasols are a better option. Be wary of them too indoors when it is hot.
SOME ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT -
Your pet will appreciate one of these cool pads or pods - the first two are self cooling, when your pet lies on them they cool down. The last one, the Cool Pad, needs to be placed in the freezer and frozen before giving to your pet.
You can also freeze a small bottle of water (or re use a fizzy drinks bottle by filing with water) pop it in a sock or a pillow case or wrap it in a tea towel and place in your rabbit or guinea pig's cage so they can lie against it to cool down if they like. A ceramic or marble tile that you have cooled in the fridge or freezer also does the job! These stay cool even in the heat.
HINTS AND TIPS FOR KEEPING THEM COOL -
KEEP YOUR FUR BABY HYDRATED - One of the major dangers of time in the sun is dehydration and heat stroke which can lead to death. Give your pet both a water bottle and a bowl as they may choose to drink more from one or the other. Wet any vegetables with cold water to help keep them hydrated. You can also purchase neoprene bottle covers which keep your rabbit or guinea pig's bottle ice free in winter, but will also help keep it cool in summer. You can add ice to the water you are giving your rabbit, but don't give them the ice cubes just to eat as they can cause intestinal problems, floating in their water is ok though.
KEEP THEIR FUR SHORT - giving long haired rabbits or guinea pigs a hair cut coming into the summer months will keep them cooler
SUNCREAM - Rabbits and guinea pigs don't really need sun cream - it is believed even white ones aren't as prone to heat stroke or skin cancer as white cats. They are also likely to lick it off, so if you think your pet needs it, do get a pet safe one. Shade is really a safer and more effective alternative.
HEALTH CONCERNS -
EMERGENCY COOL DOWN - If your pet shows signs of being too hot such as breathing fast, tipping their head up to breathe, wet nose, or being lethargic, get them out of the sun immediately. You can cool them down by spraying water on their paws, or their ears. Wrap them in a wet cold towel and rush them to the vet if you are really concerned, especially if they are refusing to eat or drink, as they can die from the heat sadly.
BE WARY OF FLY STRIKE - Fly strike in bunnies and guinea pigs is more rampant in the summer. It can be life threatening within hours. It mostly occurs in the summer months and is very serious and can even be fatal. It is a very distressing condition, where flies are attracted to the animal’s odour, or urine or poop sitting on their fur, and lay eggs on them, usually around their bottom. The fly eggs turn into maggots within hours and the maggots start to feed on the rabbit. The best cure is to prevent it – Check your pet twice daily for signs of maggots around their bottom, and keep an eye for flies congregating near their living area. Change litter trays daily and soiled bedding every few days, keep it clean to avoid attracting flies, and use fly strips in sheds if that is where your bunny or guinea pig lives. If outdoors, you could grow natural fly repellent herbs near their hutch, rosemary, peppermint, basil and green oregano. If your pet has a wound, keep it clean and dry/ attracted to smell of blood, and watch for soiled or wet fur on your pet which will also attract the flies. The first symptoms of flystrike can be very similar to other diseases, not eating, sitting miserably hunched over, digging unusually (may be digging away the pain), quiet and lethargic- they can quickly go into shock leading to collapse and death. There may also be a strong smell coming form their hutch or cage. If you spot maggots, rush your pet to the vet as every hour causes more damage. You may also want to apply a topical product preventative product - Beaphar does one which is readily available and lasts 3 months, here is an affiliate link for Amazon but some pet shops stock it also.
I hope you have found this useful, and you and your fur baby enjoy the good weather together!!
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