Getting your small pet summer ready

There’s nothing better than the prospect of a warm summer. While it’s not always a guarantee in the UK, we often find ourselves surprised by bursts of hot weather – sometimes lasting for weeks at a time. While it can be a great time for spending time outdoors (or basking in the shade!), we also need to consider how the heat might impact our small pets.

Rabbits and guinea pigs often spend lots of time outside in hutches, so it’s important to get them summer ready to ensure they’re as comfortable and healthy as possible when temperatures rise and the days get longer. 

What are the signs of overheating?

There are many different signs that a small animal is overheating, so be sure to check your pets throughout the day to make sure they’re as cool and comfortable as possible. 

In rabbits, look out for:

  • Fast or shallow breathing
  • Hot ears
  • Wobbly movements
  • Collapse

In guinea pigs, look out for:

  • Lethargy
  • Panting
  • Convulsions

Overheating leads to heat stroke when your animal can’t cool down properly and can cause organ failure, and even death. So if you notice your rabbit or guinea pig seems unwell in the warm weather, take action immediately. 

If you think your pet is suffering from heat stroke, move them to a cool, shaded place, contact your vet straight away and start putting cool water on their ears. Don’t submerge your pet in cool water as this can make things worse. 

How to prep your pet for summer

To avoid your pet overheating, prevention is always better than getting to the point where they’re ill. So, as summer approaches, there are lots of things you can do to get your pet ready for the months ahead. 

Small pets are really susceptible to the heat, so if you have the space to, it’s worth considering bringing them to an indoor area during the summer months to protect them from the sun. Consider finding a suitable sized cage and placing it in a tiled room so their little feet will be kept cool.

Alternatively, move their home into an area that is in the shade, has a nice breeze and is out of the way of direct sunlight. Freshen up their water regularly so it’s nice and chilled, and consider putting a cool pack down so they can lie on it or against it to keep cool. Placing damp towels over their cage or hutch, and even on the floor, will also help regulate their temperature. 

Hands on hygiene

Maintaining your pet’s care routine, and even increasing it, will be all the more important in warm weather.

Regular grooming and maintenance of coats – especially long coats! – is a simple way to help your pet stay cooler, as it will help keep their coat as light as possible. You can also gently spray water onto your pets ears to keep them fresh throughout the day. 

Cleaning and disinfecting hutches and cages at least once a week will keep your pet’s environment as fresh as possible. This will also reduce the chance of flystrike, a condition caused by flies laying their eggs on and near rabbits. The maggots will hatch and feed on a rabbit, which can result in pain, shock and death. 

Neil’s top tips:

  • Treat your pet to an occasional tasty, watery treat straight from the fridge like a piece of cold apple or celery – this will cool them down and give them something fun to eat.
  • If you can’t move your pet indoors, consider putting their home under a parasol and laying down wet towels to keep them out of the heat as much as possible.
  • Use a suitable repellent to further reduce the risk of flystrike and protect your rabbit, such as Rearguard.