Rabbits in Summer
Hot Tips for Cool Bunnies
Although we humans typically look forward to the summer months, rabbits
don’t tolerate heat well. They thrive in temperatures between 60º and 70º.
So observe your rabbit daily to gauge how he’s coping with the summer heat.
If temperatures rise to 90º (or even 80º with high humidity), your rabbit
may need your help to keep cool. Here are a few tips to help your rabbit
comfortable and in top form during the summer months:
• Keep your bunny out of the sun, especially if he’s confined. He needs
access to a shady, well-ventilated space at all times.
• Consider setting up a fan to keep air circulating around him, but don’t
aim it directly at him all the time. A rotating fan is ideal. Be sure to
keep the cord out of reach.
• Create a cool breeze by draping a damp towel over your rabbit’s cage. Just
set the fan to blow through it.
• A piece of marble or ceramic tile retains coolness. In his cage, it can be
a great place for a siesta.
• Rabbits consume twice as much water as food. If they don’t drink, they
won’t eat. Completely replace your rabbit’s water at least once a day, and
never let his water supply run dry. Wash his water dispenser regularly.
Stagnant water leads to sick rabbits.
• Use a heavy, spill-proof crock for drinking water. Add a few ice cubes to
make it more tempting. The crock will not only keep the water cool, but also
keep your rabbit cool when he lies nearby.
• We don’t typically think of solid foods as liquids, but many fruits and
vegetables are 80 to 90 percent water. They can actually help your bunny
stay hydrated. Carrots, celery, melon and greens are good examples. Ask your
veterinarian for specific recommendations. Always add any new foods
sparingly, one at a time, to make sure they agree with your rabbit.
• Rabbits use their ears to disperse heat. Lightly misting a rabbit’s ears
may help keep him cool. (But always keep bedding dry.)
• Do you wear fur in the summer? Rabbits do. Brush out any excess fur to let
your rabbit’s skin breathe. If you have a long-haired rabbit, summer might
be the time for a trim.
• Fill a plastic water bottle or two-liter soda bottle almost full with
water, then freeze it. Once it’s frozen, place it in your rabbit’s cage for
him to lie against. Keep a steady supply on hand in your freezer.
• If your rabbit is overweight or more than five years old, watch him
closely in hot weather. Rabbits that are less active won’t always make the
effort to drink as much water as they need. Dehydration can lead to heat
stroke, organ failure or even death.
• Signs of heat stress are:
--lack of coordination
If your rabbit shows signs of heat stress, don’t take chances. Do not
submerge him in water as this could put him into shock. Do not use ice.
Dampen his body and his ears (rabbits disperse heat through their ears) with
cool (not cold) water and rush him to a veterinarian immediately. Even if
you are able to cool him down, go anyway. Your rabbit may still need IV
fluids to prevent kidney damage.
• Warm weather can be an invitation to “fly strike.” This happens when a
rabbit has loose stools or is incapable of cleaning himself. A sickly, obese
or aging rabbit is most vulnerable. The moisture and odor attract flies,
which lay eggs deep in the fur. A resulting maggot infestation can put a
rabbit into terminal shock within 24 hours, so you must be vigilant about
keeping your rabbit dry. Even indoor rabbits are susceptible. All it takes
is one fly.
• If you can smell ammonia, that’s a sign of poor air quality. Remove urine
and waste from your rabbit’s cage daily. Ammonia can damage the lining of
his respiratory tract, making him susceptible to disease.
• Ask your veterinarian to recommend products to prevent fleas on your dogs
and cats. This will lessen the chances that they pass along fleas to your
• Never leave your rabbit unattended in a parked vehicle. Even if you park
in the shade and leave windows open, the temperature inside your vehicle can
reach 120º in minutes on a warm day. Overheating can lead to heat stroke,
organ damage and death. If possible, leave your furry friend at home where
Have a great summer!