How to care for small pets in summer
Small animals are particularly vulnerable to heat stroke, so it is very important you make sure they aren’t too hot. Here are some things you can do to keep them happy and healthy this summer:
1. Provide shade
If your bunnies or guinea pigs live outside, it’s really important that you keep their enclosure out of direct sunlight. Wooden hutches, sheds and runs can get very hot in the sun, so remember to move them to a well-shaded area of the garden.
If your garden doesn’t provide much shade, you can make your own by draping a tarpaulin or towel over part of your rabbits’ run – just make sure there’s a nice through draught of cool air so it doesn’t get too hot inside.
2. Move their enclosure indoors
If your pet’s enclosure usually sits outside, why not try shifting the hutch indoors to a bathroom or laundry on especially hot days. These spaces are extra cool for small pets, as the tiles maintain a lower a temperature. Changing up the location of the hutch will be the quickest way to take the temperature inside right down.
3. Provide ice packs (wrapped in a tea towel)
An effective way to reduce hutch temperatures is to use frozen ice packs or water bottles. As with human use of these products, you should always wrap them in a tea towel to avoid damage to your small pet’s skin. Once wrapped, you can place these in the covered section of the hutch to cool that space or lay flat on top of hay to offer a cool spot to sit.
4. Provide plenty of water
When we’re a little warm, we drink lots of water to keep ourselves hydrated – our small pets are the same! It’s vital to provide your small pet with constant access to clean, fresh water, but as they’re likely to drink more when it’s hot, it’s especially important to increase the amount of water bottles and bowls they have in the summer. Keep an eye on their water throughout the day and refresh it regularly so it stays cool.
Another great way to help your furry friends avoid dehydration, is to offer fruit & vegetables high in water content, such as celery and apples. Be careful to make sure the vegetables you feed to your small animal are appropriate for their dietary needs.
5. Feed frozen fruit
Rabbits and guinea pigs do well when you add some fruit to their diet, so why not help them stay cool by freezing the fruit overnight. A little diced apple or pear after some time in the freezer will be a lovely cooling treat for your pet – just make sure you remove it after 24 hours.
6. Cooling tile
Another great way to cool down your small pet is with frozen ceramic tiles. Freeze for just 15 minutes and lay them down near your rabbits or guinea pigs to use.
7. Set up an electric fan
If you’ve moved your pet indoors and are still worried about the heat inside the hutch, you can also set up an electric fan – just be sure to keep it on a low setting. You’ll also want to make sure that the cool air isn’t blowing directly into the hutch as draughts can lead to a respiratory infection.
8. Regular grooming
With their thick fur coats, it’s no wonder that rabbits can get uncomfortable in the summer sun – especially long-haired breeds! During the summer, rabbits ‘moult’, meaning they shed and groom out their thick winter fur, replacing it with a thinner summer coat. Regularly grooming your rabbit will help them to remove this excess fur and keep them cool.
Finally, don’t forget to check your rabbits’ bottoms daily to make sure they’re always clean and dry, as dirty bottoms can lead to fly strike. This usually happens because of poor diet, where faeces or caecotrophs accumulate, or because of painful joint conditions such as arthritis. Fly strike is caused by flies getting attracted to damp fur, soiled with urine or soft faeces and laying eggs on the rabbit’s skin. Each fly can lay up to 200 eggs, which then hatch into maggots within hours. The maggots grow by feeding on the rabbit’s flesh within 24 hours and can cause death in a very short time. The rabbit’s bottom, tail, belly and back is usually worst affected.
Fly strike is a medical emergency - If you see any signs of fly strike, contact your local Animates Vetcare clinic immediately.