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Above 75 degrees? Get out the fans…and here’s what to do if heatstroke happens.

What still feels pretty comfortable to most of us can be warm enough to start causing serious problems for rabbits.  Heatstroke is a big deal.  It is more than just being hot, it can cause your friend to collapse and even die.  The young, the old, anybun with paralysis – these rabbits are all especially at risk.  Lop-eared rabbits are also more prone, since rabbits lose heat through their ears – their ears are their air conditioners! – so lops have less ability to get rid of extra heat. 

summer, flystrike, shock

We hate to be so melodramatic, we really do.  But heatstroke can turn into an emergency quickly.  You may not have a lot of time to cool your friend down.  And if you don’t get that temp down properly, even more damage can be done…your rabbit can go into shock from a the sudden and extreme temperature difference, then we’ve got another crisis shutting down organs. 

Here are the symptoms of heatstroke:

  • Fast, shallow breaths – there might be a lot of nose action with these breaths
  • Head tilted back with chin raised, possibly even mouth open while breathing
  • Red ears
  • Listlessness, lethargy – staying still and not moving around
  • Wetness around the nose

 This is what you do about heatstroke, right away, in order:

  1. DO NOT douse your rabbit with cold water!
  2. Move your rabbit to a cooler, shaded area.
  3. Use fans to get air moving around your rabbit.
  4. Use cool but NOT COLD cloths to cool your rabbit’s ears. (COLD can cause shock)
  5. Offer water with ice cubes in it.

How do we prevent this scary thing from happening in the first place? 

Make sure your rabbit has shade, and there is a lot of air flow.  Set up the fans, turn on the AC if you are lucky enough to have it.

hay, timothy hay, orchard hay, orchard grass, alfalfa, alflafa, aflala

 You can freeze water in plastic bottles and tuck them down into a sock, leaving them for your rabbit to curl up against (if, that is, your rabbit is not a cloth chewer).  Gallon milk bottles work even better, since they stay cold longer – but you can’t cover them up as easily. 

frozen water bottle, rabbit, cooling rabbit

You can get a shallow terra cotta bowl, flip it upside down, and put a bag of ice under it – the terra cotta is a cool surface anyway, and the ice stays a bit insulated and frozen longer.  Get one big enough for your rabbit to lounge on if he gets too warm.

tips, hot weather, heat waveYou can freeze ceramic tiles and put them in your friend’s area, so they can choose to lay on them (this only works for a short period of time, then the tiles are ‘defrosted”.  Also make sure your rabbit can get OFF the tile if they choose). 

If your rabbit is not a cloth chewer, you can fold damp towels and freeze them, place in a plastic bag, then wrap again in another towel.  We don’t like the idea of just putting out the frozen towel, since laying on that damp can encourage flystrike, another serious issue. 

You can leave ice cubes in their water several times a day.  It is a good idea to have several bowls of water around in the summer time, just in case one gets tipped, or your rabbit is more thirsty than normal. 

GROOM GROOM GROOM – get rid of any extra fur and undercoat. 

Summer seems to be getting hotter every year, and a lot of folks we know live in older buildings without AC.  Thinking through the hottest times now and getting prepared makes sense, right?  So go find yourself some fans and terra cotta bowls, save up your bottles, and make room in the freezer. 

freeze, cool down

If you’ve got your own tips or tricks to keep your friend cool, let us know. We like to share ideas.   It takes a village…

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