Practical Tips for Cooling Your Bunnies in the Summer Heat

Published: July 18th, 2022
Last Updated: June 16th, 2023
Written By: Bradly Spicer
How to keep your rabbit cool
7 Signs your rabbit is overheating

Summer is a great time for outdoor activities, but it can be a challenging season for our furry friends, particularly rabbits. Rabbits are prone to heatstroke, dehydration, and other health issues during the hot summer.

Taking appropriate measures to ensure your outdoor rabbits stay cool and healthy during summer is crucial. In this article, we will discuss 15 practical ways to keep your outdoor rabbits cool in summer.

Key Points:

  1. Provide plenty of shade to protect rabbits from direct sunlight.
  2. Keep rabbits hydrated by providing clean, fresh water.
  3. Use frozen water bottles to regulate their body temperature.
  4. Ensure proper ventilation to circulate fresh air and reduce temperature.
  5. Monitor rabbits for signs of heat exhaustion and take action immediately.

Understanding the Risks of Heatstroke in Rabbits

Rabbits do not handle heat very well. Despite shedding, they regulate body heat through their ears which makes it difficult for them to cool down.

Rabbits are susceptible to heatstroke when exposed to high temperatures for an extended period. Heatstroke can cause irreversible damage to their organs and can even be fatal.

Rabbits can’t sweat like humans, making it difficult to regulate their body temperature. Additionally, rabbits have thick fur coat that traps heat, making them more susceptible to overheating.

  • Unfortunately, when the environmental temperature exceeds 102.2°F/38°C, their built-in mechanisms stop working, and your rabbit will start to suffer from heat exhaustion.
  • Rabbits can show signs of heatstroke from 75°F (35°C); this is critical as rabbits can die exceptionally quickly from hyperthermia.

What are the signs of heat stroke?

Due to your rabbit’s excess fur, they may struggle to stay cool. Some breeds, like the Angora rabbit, will have difficulty staying cool, so it’s crucial to know the signs of heat stroke with a rabbit.

Rabbits that are older or very young are at a greater risk of getting heat stroke. As such, you should keep them hydrated and ensure they’re eating and pooping regularly.

Signs of heat exhaustion in rabbits include the following:

  • Wetness around the nose
  • Hot ears
  • Fatigue or weak movements
  • Panting and shallow breathing
  • Seizures
  • Flicking head back
  • Drooling / Salivating
  • Muscle spasms and tremors
  • Disorientation
  • A body temperature above 104°F
  • Unconsciousness

How to keep your rabbit cool in the summer

Rabbit on an ice pad cooling mat

Keeping your rabbits cool in the summer is crucial, especially during a heat wave. Whilst your rabbit may tolerate heating better than another, we suggest not risking it.

  • Use a cooling pad covered in your shirt – This is an all-time favorite of ours, we use an old shirt that we allow our rabbits to suckle on to cover flat ice packs. Put them in the freezer overnight and let your rabbit lay on them to lower their body temperature. A must-have for any rabbit owner.
  • Freeze water bottles – Another favorite for most owners is filling them up and putting them in the freezer overnight. We suggest having multiple take them out and refreeze them in rotation. Place these in your rabbit’s favorite spots; if they want to cool down, they’ll lay next to them.
  • Give them wet fresh greens – Many owners suggest just giving fresh dark leafy greens to get extra water in your rabbit. We suggest washing them and keeping them wet when you give them to your rabbit. This gives them some extra hydration and keeps them fresher in the heat.
  • Put down ceramic tiles – Ceramic tiles stay cool almost all the time, as long as you’re not putting them in direct sunlight, they should stay at pleasant temperatures all through the day, you may be able to pick up some free ceramic tile samples at your local DIY shop. The only downside is that they are typically smaller than the ice mats.
  • Cold water behind the ears – As your rabbit uses their ears to expel any extra heat, we suggest putting small quantities of cold water on the backs of its ears. Be careful not to get any water inside their ears on in the front. You can put your hand in some cold icy water and just run it down their ears if that’s easier. You should not make your rabbit soaking wet.
  • Add Ice cubes to their water – Ice cubes are perfect for the warm weather, they keep your rabbit’s temperature lower and keep their water cold and fresher. Ice cubes are a great cool treat for your furry friends.
  • Place cold damp towels as shade – If your rabbit stays in their cage, add a damp towel at the top of its cage as well as a small fan to assist with airflow, and it will replicate an air-conditioned room.
  • Keep out of direct sunlight – This may seem obvious, but rabbits love to bask in the hot weather, so you may need to constantly nudge them out of the sunlight into a more relaxed environment.

What Causes Heatstroke in Rabbits?

Just because your home isn’t 38°C / 102.2°F doesn’t mean your rabbit can’t get Heatstroke. It’s important to remember that there’s a multitude of potential reasons that end up causing heatstroke.

Some of the reasons your rabbit may have had heatstroke are the following:

  • Ambient Temperatures of 29°C / 85°F and over
  • Rabbits lying in the sun
  • Lack of Shade
  • Lack of accessible Water
  • Excessive Exercise / Stress
  • Thick Rabbit Coat
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Obesity
  • Neuromuscular Disease
  • Lack of ventilation
  • Heat intolerance

How can I tell if my rabbit is too hot?

Keeping your rabbit cool in the summer heat is essential, these are some of the basic signs to spot heatstroke:

  • Fast, Panting / Shallow Breathing
  • Wet nose / under the mouth
  • Moving back and forth when breathing (Open mouth Rapid Breathing)
  • Burning up / Hot ears
  • Weakness / Fatigue / Listlessness, being sluggish is a sure sign of heatstroke.
  • Muscle Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Coma

There are plenty of videos online regarding Heatstroke with your rabbit. This is the best one I could find online, which had a lack of commentary:

If your rabbit is facing signs of heat stroke, start with these steps:

  • Spray your rabbit’s ears with a misty bottle of cool water (Refrigerate it)
  • Bring your rabbit into the coolest room in your home
  • Provide fresh cold water and if possible, occasionally put ice cubes in it
  • DO NOT PUT COLD WATER DIRECTLY ON YOUR RABBIT OR PUT THEM IN A COLD BATH. This will put them into a state of shock.

If your rabbit’s heatstroke is excessive and causing your rabbit stress, please take them to your emergency vet.

Keeping Outdoor House Rabbit cool

Simply put, getting shade is the easiest way to keep your rabbit cool outdoors. Hares and Rabbits will dig and cool down under the earth in the wild. However, this isn’t possible for many domestic rabbits, so if it is extremely hot, bring them inside where it’s cooler.

Instead, try misting your rabbit with some cool refrigerated water. We do this regularly on our rabbit’s ears, and it’s perfect for cooling him down, do be cautious as not every bun will like this, and it may end up stressing them out.

Ceramic tiles are another fantastic option as they are designed to keep cool. As such, having them in the shade will keep them much cooler. Pair this with a bowl of Ice water, and you’ll have a very happy bunny!

Are Pet Fans any good?

Let’s be honest with ourselves, do you prefer a little hand fan or one of those big fans who gets all of you? If you choose the latter, you are my best friend now.

Regardless of which size fan you get, your rabbit won’t like it if it’s directly facing them, as such, we suggest getting a bigger fan and simply pointing slightly to the left or right of your little bun friend.

Little Cage fans aren’t great when there’s a LOT of heat, so spoil your rabbit and get them something decent

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