Figuring out how to keep rabbits cool in summer months will save you the headache of dealing with cases of dehydration, heatstroke, breeding issues, and even skin infections.
But we get that this is often easier said than done, especially if you’re new to the bunny-keeping game.
So, in this post, we’ll go over some handy tips and tricks to cool down rabbits. Plus, we’ll discuss all the info you need to know about ideal hutch temperatures, warning signs, and potential risks.
To protect your rabbits from extreme heat, you’ll need to add some extra steps to your regular care routine.
Thankfully, the majority of the recommended methods are fairly straightforward.
When it gets particularly hot outside, it might be a good idea to relocate your rabbit cages to a more shaded spot.
Sheds and barns will work just fine, but if you can’t move the cages for some reason, consider getting a hutch cover.
If you’re only raising a couple of rabbits as pets, you can even move them indoors during heat waves.
In this case, you’ll need to fence off a spot and let them roam around. Just remember to bunny-proof everything you don’t want them to chew!
Make ventilation a priority when you’re relocating the hutch. For one, you’ll want to check if any shading structure or cover that you’re using is blocking air circulation into the cages.
Plus, you can take things a step further and use two outdoor fans, one at each end of the rabbitry setup.
You can’t rush this process, though. It’s vital to make sure that the rabbits can’t get to the blades or the wiring.
The fan’s position makes all the difference, too.
You want the circulation to reach all cages while still leaving some hiding spots away from the air funnel just in case some of your bunnies don’t feel like sitting in front of air currents.
People who raise rabbits know that those little rascals need around 4 hours of exercise daily. So, just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you can deprive them of out-of-cage playtime.
However, you have to be a bit perceptive about when and where you’ll schedule this playtime.
Since every region is a different case, we’d recommend checking the 24-hour forecast for your area. This way, you can pick the time with the lowest temperatures and UV indexes.
Generally speaking, early mornings and evenings work well for a lot of rabbit keepers.
Once you figure out when you’ll let your rabbits out of the cage to play, you can move on to some tricks to cool down their exercise spots.
Cooling mats are a hassle-free option. But if you don’t have any, you can lay dampened towels around the play area.
Some people even use ceramic tiles under shaded trees to create a cold spot for the bunnies.
In the meantime, you can throw a couple of frozen water bottles or ice packets in the cages and run the fans. This way, the rabbits will get back from their play time to cool hutches.
It’s not a good idea to soak your rabbits fully.
Although it sounds like an opportunity to cool down, you’ll hardly find a bunny who’s enthusiastic about getting wet. Odds are, the rabbit will panic.
Instead, you can just spray the tiniest bit of water strategically. Behind the ears works perfectly for this method since rabbits use the vessels in their ears for temperature regulation, anyway!
As the water evaporates, the rabbits’ bodies should cool significantly.
If you don’t mind going all in on a DIY project, you can install a misting system all around the cages.
One of the reasons that rabbits can’t handle intense heat is that they have such dense fur.
While we don’t recommend shaving the coat entirely and risking a sunburn, there are still some grooming tips to keep in mind.
Simply brushing your rabbit from the head to the bottom a couple of times every week will do the trick. It’ll help get rid of all the extra fur that’s locking in the heat.
You can also opt to trim the coat if you raise long-haired breeds, like the Lionhead or the French Angora.
Many keepers use hay and straw to line the cages. Both work well to warm up the hutch during cold nights.
However, you don’t really need heavy bedding during the summer. So, go ahead and ditch all the extra layers that you got used to adding from last winter.
It sounds like such an obvious thing, but you’d be surprised how often people underestimate the importance of hydration.
No amount of shade, ice packets, fans, or cooling mats will cure a case of extreme dehydration.
It’s crucial to double-check that your rabbits have access to fresh and cool water all day long. Even during exercise time, you’ll need to provide an out-of-cage bowl.
If you let the rabbits indoors, make sure you have “hydration stations” in all the rooms where the pets roam.
Additionally, you can sneak in some extra hydration by using foods with high-moisture content, like celery, cucumber, watermelon, and grapes.
Ideally, you want the temperature to be around 55°-70°F for your rabbits to thrive. As soon as it gets hotter than 85°F, their well-being is at risk.
Keep in mind that this temperature is much different from the rabbit’s body temperature.
If you use a rectal thermometer on your bunnies, you might find that their temperature is between 100.4°F and 103.8°F. That’s normal, but it doesn’t mean they will do fine outside when it’s over 100°F.
Yes, if rabbits are left to overheat for a while in peak summertime, they can be vulnerable to heatstroke.
Heatstroke means that the body is no longer capable of performing normal temperature regulation functions. So, the internal temperature can rise at alarming rates within short periods.
Since the main issue here is that the condition deteriorates faster than you’d expect, you’ll have to spot the signs and act quickly if you want a solid chance of saving your bunny.
The signs of overheating can vary from one case to another, but you can watch out for any of the following red flags:
- Ears that feel hot to the touch
- Fast and shallow breathing
- Wet fur around the nose
- Bleeding from the mouth or rectum
- Seizures and tremors
If you notice any warning signs, you’ll need to take the little fellow to the vet as soon as possible.
On the way to the clinic, you can give him cool (not iced) water. Just do it gradually and make sure that he doesn’t inhale any liquids.
You can also try wetting the skin around the ears.
Any rabbit can suffer from heatstroke, but young kits, pregnant does, senior, and overweight rabbits are at higher risk.
Additionally, like other flat-faced pets, brachycephalic rabbits are even more prone to overheating. That’s because skewed breathing affects their ability to regulate their body temperature.
One of the common ways that we cool down is by sweating. However, that’s not something bunnies do.
They don’t pant like dogs do, either.
So, the combination of dense fur coats, high energy drives, and lack of perspiration makes rabbits particularly vulnerable during the summer.
Some people might scoff at the lengths that rabbit keepers have to endure to protect their herd.
After all, wild rabbits deal with the summers on their own and without any human intervention. So why are domestic rabbits so different?
Well, wild rabbits tend to hide from the scorching sun in cool burrows. If you keep your domesticated fellows in enclosures, they can’t rely on that instinct anymore.
Instead, you’ll have to provide them with alternative ways of cooling down.
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Heatstroke can be extremely dangerous and can prove fatal if left untreated.
When the rabbit’s body temperature increases above 104.9°F, the risk of internal bleeding and organ damage also increases. So, the poor fellow might suffer from seizures or fall unconscious before the case deteriorates to death.
Just because a heat wave isn’t fatal doesn’t mean it won’t impact the rabbits’ overall health.
Let’s take a look at three common risks to watch out for during the summer:
Flystrike (myiasis) can be a nightmare for rabbit keepers in the hot months.
If you don’t know what flystrike is, consider yourself lucky — it’s an incredibly painful and revolting infection that hits rabbits.
In cases of flystrike, flies hatch eggs in the bunny’s thick fur. Then, once the eggs hatch, the larva literally digs its way under the skin, creating a terrible infection.
The reason why the risk is higher during summer is that flies are more active in the warm months. Plus, the heat might impact the hygiene level around the cages.
That’s why it’s vital to clean the area thoroughly and check that the rabbit’s fur is as clean as possible. If you notice any signs of flystrike, take the bunny to the vet immediately because the condition can escalate to death really quickly.
It turns out that extreme heat can decrease fertility in rabbits. So, you might notice that your breeding attempts fail more often in the summer, especially if you’re mating a doe with an old buck.
However, this side effect is only temporary — the worst-case scenario is 90 days of temporary sterility.
Once you cool down your buck, you can try again. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck this time and end up with a pregnant doe!
Usually, sunburn isn’t a major risk during the summer since bunnies have dense coats that protect pretty much their entire bodies from UV rays.
However, if you had to shave your rabbit for medical purposes, the risk would increase significantly. In this case, you can ask your vet if pet-safe sunscreen is a viable option.
It’s also worth noting that UV rays can harm the rabbit’s cornea in the long term. That’s why providing adequate shade at noon is crucial.
A rabbit’s dense coat might look adorable and unbelievably cuddly. However, it doesn’t do the poor fellow any favors once summer rolls in.
While wild rabbits got things figured out by hiding in burrows, you’ll have to protect your domesticated bunnies from the heat yourself.
Overall, knowing how to keep rabbits cool in summer is all about providing shade, hydration, and proper ventilation. Misting the ears, using cooling mats, and regular grooming can help your rabbits survive the heat waves, too!
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard. I also like photographing wild birds, especially birds of prey.