Rabbits can overheat very quickly, particularly those kept in wooden hutches and sheds outdoors which can heat up extremely rapidly
Sadly, heatstroke is fatal in most cases, so it’s essential that rabbit owners take the necessary steps to prevent this
Steps include moving hutches into the shade and providing cooling ice blocks and fans to regulate temperatures
Signs of heatstroke include lethargy, panting, reddening of the ears and convulsions
If you suspect that your rabbit has heatstroke you must seek veterinary help immediately
Top 10 tips to keep rabbits cool in summer
Move your rabbits' hutch out of the sun into a cooler place (this may even be inside)
A fan can be used to keep the air cool and create airflow, however, do not blow the fan directly onto the rabbits and ensure they have enough room to move away if they wish. A cold, rung out towel can be placed over the run to provide shade and the fan can be blown onto this to help lower the temperature. Be careful to not cover the whole hutch as the rabbits will still need airflow to keep cool and ensure that the towel isn't dripping wet to avoid drenching your rabbits.
Rabbits are not good swimmers so please don’t encourage them to jump in a pool as the shock could even prove fatal. Instead, try freezing a large bottle of water or ice packs and wrapping them in an old, clean tea towel and place in the hutch. That way, if your rabbits feel hot, they can lie next to the bottle to keep cool.
Consider purchasing a special self-cooling mat which can be placed on the floor of the hutch or run to lower temperatures and provide respite from the heat
Marble tiles or slates are brilliant to introduce into a run and keep it cool so your rabbits can lie on it if needed. Be careful to ensure the tiles remain in the shade, though, as the tiles can become extremely hot if placed in direct sunlight.
Ensure your rabbits have plenty of fresh, cool water to stay hydrated
Consider soaking your rabbits' leafy greens in icy water or serve fresh from the fridge so that they're nice and cold
Rabbits in the wild live in warrens which are deep underground. By digging soil and getting out of the sunlight rabbits can keep cool. Consider introducing a man-made warren in the run to keep your rabbit happy and cool.
Use a brush to get rid of any excess fur which will make them feel hotter and more uncomfortable in the heat
Dampen your rabbit’s ears with a wet cloth or a fine mist (if they're comfortable with you doing this). They lose heat through their ears so this will speed up the cooling process.
Warning: Rabbits are at higher risk of myiasis, or fly strike, during the summer months - particularly those that have issues keeping themselves clean due to old age, arthritis or dental problems. Make sure your rabbits and their bedding is clean at all times. Flies may quickly lay eggs on soiled bedding and the resulting maggots can burrow into your pet's fur and body cavity, which is potentially fatal.
What are the symptoms of heatstroke in rabbits?
Weakness and lethargy
Reddening of the ears
What should I do if my rabbit suffers heatstroke?
If you suspect your rabbit is suffering from heatstroke, do not submerge your them in cold water as the shock can be fatal. Instead, dampen their fur and ears with cool water and seek veterinary attention immediately.
— Page last updated 24/07/2018
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