It isn’t just Dogs that feel the effects of the Summer Sun, pretty much every creature on the earth (us Humans included) does. However, along with the joys of pet ownership come responsibilities including your pets’ welfare and comfort; in this Blog I want to focus on Smaller Furries.
Rabbits and Guinea Pigs are our nation’s favourite small furries to have as pets; they are cuddle-able, sociable and fairly easy to keep. When things hot up however, it’s vital that a few extra steps are taken to keep them hale and hearty.
The most obvious thing is to keep their hutches and/or runs in a shady spot in the garden, out of direct sunlight. Hutches can soon reach scarily high temperatures in the sun, especially in the middle of the day, so if you can, move them somewhere cooler. Adding ice cubes to their water bottles also keeps them cool and is a fairly easy step to take; think how much we enjoy a nice cold drink, it’s no different for Flopsy.
Another way to use frozen water is to place bottles of it in the hutch or run for them to lean on, or lie next to, or get into whatever position they want to get in to get cooler. Marble tiles can be placed in the freezer or fridge to cool them down before putting them in their favourite lazing spot; but one thing to note is that these MUST be placed in shade as the marble can get very hot in the sun. If you can’t find a shady spot for the Marble then another alternative is to place a cool, wet towel on the floor of the hutch or run for them to stretch out on.
Some rabbits like to have the backs of their ears misted with cool water when they’re hot. Ears are a rabbits’ main way to regulate their body temperature, so misting them with water will help cool your pet fairly quickly. Not all bunnies enjoy being wetted in this way though, so if your rabbit runs away from this it may well be saying “I find this stressful, please don’t do it”.
As we all know, rabbits like to munch a lot and in hot weather this can be used advantageously by their owners. Keep their favourite vegetables nicely chilled and offer them at regular intervals to keep them cool. If you’re feeling creative why not make them “Rabbit Rocket” or “Furry Fab” lollies, using rabbit safe vegetables and water; they will love you to the moon and back for a delicious cooling treat.
If you’re happy to bring your rabbit inside your home, it might be worth considering this option especially during the hottest hours (11am-3pm). Using fans for ourselves is something our pets would enjoy sharing, just don’t keep the fan directly on them all the time.
Rabbits can get heatstroke, so if you suspect your pet has this here are some handy tips to remember; don’t submerge them in water as this may send them into shock, instead dab cool water behind their ears. Bring them straight to us here at Saint Leonard and we’ll treat them and get them hopping around again in no time.
Although not strictly about sun management, I just want to remind Rabbit owners to protect them from Fly strike. Flies are especially abundant this time of year, and messy hutches and dirty derrieres are their favourite things as they provide great places to lay their eggs. At Saint Leonard we can supply you with a product that you simply apply to Bunnies’ bum and this prevents the flies from striking. The most effective way to prevent Fly strike is to keep your rabbits’ tush squeaky clean and
this is easily done by ensuring their stools (poop) are solid, not sloppy. A good diet of at least 80% hay and only small amounts of pellets and fresh vegetables will keep the stools just as nature intended, keeping bothersome flies at bay.
As with rabbits, keep their accommodation in a shady place if possible; if this can’t be done the clever use of damp towels and cloths to partially cover their cage and insulate the cool air in it is very nice for them. Guinea Pigs like ice packs and cool tiles to lie against, just like Rabbits do, so this tactic is easily employed by Guinea owners.
Fans may be used, but it is very important to not point it directly at the cage so that any risk of Upper Respiratory Infection is minimised. Long haired Guinea Pigs will benefit from being regularly groomed too, to remove any excess fur that might keep them warmer than they would like to be; it’s a great time to bond with your ‘pig too.
Guinea Pigs drink a lot of water in high temperatures but they don’t like it ice cold as it can send them into shock, so don’t add ice cubes to their containers. Instead, change the water for them regularly (every 2-3 hours ideally) to keep it fresh and cool. High water snacks such as Cucumber or Berries can be given to Guinea Pigs to keep them cool and hydrated.
There is a common misconception that because these little guys come from deserts that they can tolerate heat very well. They can keep themselves cool fairly efficiently compared to some other furries but for the hottest part of the day they would naturally live underground to escape extreme heat.
Gerbils like to feel a gentle breeze on them, so as long as you don’t have the fan pointing constantly at them or have it too close and blowing a gale then they will appreciate the cooling effect it can bring. Just like Rabbits and Guinea Pigs, Gerbils like a cool tile to lie on so if you can fit one in their cage then they will make use of it.
One method that Gerbils use in the wild to keep themselves clean is to roll in sand; similar to Chinchillas. If you use this with your Gerbil it’s important to use fine sand only (like childrens play sand or a specialist product), beach sand or builders sand is too coarse for them. In hot weather you can chill this in the fridge for them before putting it in their grooming area; sit back and watch them revel in itJ
Ferrets are prone to heat stress so they need a close eye kept on them; even temperatures of 29-32 degrees are too much for them, they ideally like it around the high teens to low 20’s. If possible, keep their cages in larger rooms as they won’t heat up as quickly as smaller spaces.
When using fans or air conditioning units the most important thing to remember is to keep them out of the Ferrets way; these furry friends are very curious and VERY chewy, so something new will just be begging to be examined!
Due to their inquisitive nature it is better not to use plastic containers of frozen water to cool them down as they might have a cheeky nibble at it. Instead use bowls to make ice, and then remove the block from its container and wrap it in something non-toxic to them.
Ferrets are joyful little souls and full of fun, so if you can make them a shallow paddling pool they will have hours of merriment in it splashing around. Imagine the entertainment you will get watching your beloved pet enjoying themselves.
Domestic Ferrets often don’t shed their coats as seasonally as their wild cousins, so if you find your ferret has a bit too much coat on in the heat, just simply clip it. If you don’t want to change their appearance too much, a simple “tummy trim” will make a big difference to their comfort whilst keeping them covered on top.
Hopefully your pets aren’t feeling the heat too much that they can’t enjoy it, but if you have any concerns at all then please give us a call. Here at Saint Leonard we would much rather you err on the side of caution than have a pet that is poorly later on; prevention is much better than cure in our opinion.
Until next time; stay safe, stay well, and be happy J