In the heat of summer how can you keep your little rabbit protected from the harsh Australian climate?

Every year we see a number of pet rabbits being brought into our clinics due to heat related illness, such as heat stroke.

Rabbits don’t tolerate heat well; they can’t sweat like humans can, so rely on a panting action and their ears to keep cool. A rabbit’s ears contain large blood vessels and as a cool breeze moves past these vessels, it helps cool the blood. That cooler blood is then circulated through the body.

If you have a beloved bunny and are worried about how to keep them cool during these hot days, precautions can be taken to ensure they are safe and comfortable.

Some helpful tips for keeping your rabbit cool

  • Move your rabbit indoors to a cool area of the house when the weather outside climbs higher than about 32°C, especially if there are consecutive hot days.
  • Place a fan nearby their cage or pen when indoors (be careful not to have the fan blowing directly into the cage).
  • When outside on warmer days ensure your rabbit has access to plenty of shade and cold, fresh water.
  • Place ice cubes or blocks in their water dishes. You can also freeze water in milk cartons or bottles and place throughout their enclosure so they can lie against them if they choose.
  • Ensure they have enough space to stretch out and cool down. Ceramic tiles are a good idea and can even be placed in the fridge prior to putting in the enclosure.
  • Provide multiple sources of clean water. If your rabbit kicks or tips over one bowl, having multiple bowls will make sure they always have water to drink.
  • Get creative! Wet scraps of old carpet to retain water for cooling or anything that will retain the water for a longer amount of time.
  • If you have multiple rabbits in the one enclosure, ensure they have enough room to stretch out away from each other.
  • Hardware stores stock quite cheap misting systems to help cool the outdoor air during hot days. The water usage is minimal and you can pair it with a timer so it can be turned on during the hottest parts of the day only.

Signs of heat stroke

  • A fully out-stretched rabbit
  • Fast and shallow respiratory rate or laboured breathing
  • Refusal to eat, drink or move around
  • Hot ears
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Eyes half closed
  • Lack of defecation

Should you notice any of these signs in your rabbit, call one of our clinics immediately for advice, or take your rabbit to your nearest clinic for assistance.