TEN WAYS TO COPE WITH SUMMER
Each year, the extreme heat of the Australian Summers claims many small animals. There are
several inexpensive and sensible steps you can take to help prevent any stress to your animals.
1. Move your hutches into a well-ventilated, shaded area. Unless someone in the family has an
allergy to the rabbit or guinea pig fur, consider bringing them into the house into an inside cage, or to
run in the bathroom, which is often the coolest room in the house.
2. If your local fruit shop has spare foam boxes, put them onto the roof of the outside run to help
provide insulation. Just place them where bunny cannot reach up and chew them.
3. Throwing a towel over the hutch and then wetting it down periodically will also really help. I did this
for many years.
4. Be careful of crowding in high temperatures. It’s important that you make sure that there is
sufficient space if more than one animal shares a hutch.
5. Use a cheap spray bottle to give a light mist of water to cool off your pet, whether they are housed
indoors or outdoors. Rabbits maintain their temperatures through their ears, so wetting their ears
6. Placing some terracotta tiles on the floor of the hutch for them to stretch out on helps cool them off
7. Fill a small plastic water or soft drink bottle with water and freeze then put in the bunny’s hutch. That can provide a few hours of respite. If possible, have more than one bottle so that you can rotate them if necessary.
Try not to use freezer bricks or any chemical sachets as rabbits love to chew and will chew these poisonous
blocks given a chance. If you must use freezer bricks make sure they have hard casings and are not the soft types.
8. Every water bottle should be checked regularly also. If the bottle is not cool to the touch, replace it
with a new bottle filled with cool water. Rabbits and guinea pigs will not drink warm water and can die
of thirst with a full, but warm bottle attached to their cage.
9. Chilled lettuce leaves will also provide a refreshing snack during the heat of the day, as well as
provide further cooling relief. Freezing apple juice or pineapple juice is a real treat for them during hot days and will also help keep them hydrated and lower their temperature.
10. Always check your local weather report in advance, so that if the forecast is for 30 or above you
have cause for concern for your pet. If you are not able to check your animals regularly on these
days, you should make arrangements for a friend or neighbour to look in on them, and make sure
they understand the signs to watch out for and what actions need to be taken.
Despite your best planning, some or all of your small animal pets may still suffer from the heat. Signs
of heat stroke are panting, salivation, ear reddening, weakness, refusal to move, delirium, convulsions
and, eventually, death. Heat stroke can be successfully treated if recognized early. The most
noticeable and immediate reaction to heat is panting and salivation. Once this is noticed, quick action
is required. The fastest and easiest thing to do is to fill clean spray bottle with cool water from the tap
and gently spray the afflicted animals with a fine, cool mist. Guinea pigs and rabbits can be dipped
into a bucket of cool water --- not chilled; otherwise they could go into shock. Once these first-aid
measures are undertaken, a vet should be contacted immediately if any of the heart stroke symptoms
are not alleviated by these actions.
Good luck with the heat and keep your animals as well as yourself cool.