Tips on Keeping Your Small Pet Cool This Summer
I don’t know about you, but I impatiently waited out all nine months of Colorado’s stubborn winter in eager anticipation of sweet, sweet summer. Sunburn. Mosquitos. Hot leather car seats. Two-shower days. Bring it on. I want all of it. But as much as I worry about keeping my small animals warm all year long, they could take or leave my beloved three months of summer. In fact, overheating can be even more dangerous than catching a chill for small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs.
Small animals can’t keep cool by panting like dogs or sweating like humans. Guinea pigs don’t even have sweat glands! An 80-degree day sounds like heaven to me, but is already too warm for your little one. Add in direct sunlight or high humidity, and you’re looking at a recipe for disaster. Extra fluffy breeds, overweight animals, babies, and seniors are particularly at risk. Here are some tips to keep your small animals cool during the warmer months.
- First things first. If the temp is pushing 80+ degrees, keep your small animals indoors – ideally with the air conditioning running. Save the fresh grass time for dusk.
- Invest in oscillating fans to help with air circulation if the air conditioning isn’t keeping up. If air conditioning isn’t available, you can DIY by blowing a fan over a cold, wet sheet.
- Time for a summer ‘do. My Texel guinea pig’s summer coiffure isn’t as stylish as his winter cut, but it gets the job done.
- Give your small animals some cool ceramic tiles to rest on, if they so choose. You can even freeze them for a few minutes first. Avoid placing in the sun though, as it can produce the opposite effect. I hear bougie buns like marble, too.
- Replace plastic hides with fleece forests, or a damp towel draped over your guinea pig’s cage for shade and shelter.
- Offer moisture-rich treats straight from the fridge like cucumber, celery, and melon. Rinse greens in cool water before feeding to encourage extra water consumption. Avoid feeding frozen veggies, however.
- Refill bowls and bottles with fresh, cool water a few times a day. You can even offer an ice cube or two for your buddy to lick.
- Freeze water bottles, wrap in a towel or old sock, and place in your small animal’s enclosure for him to lay against.
- Rabbits regulate body temperature through their ears. Mist your rabbit’s ears with water, avoiding moisture inside the actual ear canal. The evaporating water can help cool down a toasty bunny.
- Watch for signs of overheating or heatstroke and intervene as soon as possible. These include:
- Reddening of the ears
- Rapid breathing , panting, or open-mouth breathing
- Lethargy or weakness
- Laying on side
- Acting disoriented
- Salivating excessively
Call your vet right away if you notice any of the above symptoms. Do NOT attempt to put your rabbit or guinea pig in a cold bath, as the shock of the sudden temperature change can be fatal.
Enjoy some fun in the sun this summer, but take extra precautions on hot days to keep your small animals safe and cool.