Looking after your pet in the summer heat

A moment of forgetfulness in the summer – and the rabbits and guinea pigs suffer a heatstroke. High temperatures and drought can be greatly distressful to pets, say the experts at Maxi Zoo. Here, they offer some tips on how owners of small animals can prevent this.

We humans sweat when it’s too hot. Even that sometimes doesn’t protect us from circulation problems brought about by excessive heat. Our pets regulate their temperature balance different than we do, through the ears or by panting, in the case of rabbits and with birds by panting or by fluffing up their plumage. On top of that there are many animals living at home with us in cages who can’t tolerate the heat at all. In the wild they would never choose the sun. This is why letting them share the lovely summer weather can have fatal consequences. In fact, even the heat in closed rooms can be become dangerous for them.

 Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • In the summer, small animals ideally need fresh water several times a day (even when they’re getting fresh food!), shade and ample ventilation.
  • If the animals are outside or at the window, watch out for the changing position of the sun. The animals must have a shady spot available at all times. Even the setting sun can become too hot for them.
  • Offer them light meals – energy-rich foods are too much of a strain for them.
  • Never expose your pet permanently to a draught or a fan.
  • You can hang wet cloths over the roof of the cage but always so that an air change can still take place inside it.
  • Clean the cage or hutch more often than usual and perhaps use less litter. Dust in combination with pent-up heat exacerbates breathing.
  • A tile or a concrete slab will serve rabbits, guinea pigs or hamsters as a cool place to lie on in the cage. For birds, you can provide a facility for bathing.
  • Never leave small animals in a parked car in summer, even for a few moments!

First aid

Signs of overheating can be: listlessness, rapid and shallow breathing, twitching or cramps or if the creature is lying lethargically on its side and no longer reacts to your speech. Rabbits can also mill around in circles when they’ve suffered a heatstroke. Take the animal into the shade or to a cool place immediately. You can loosely wrap your pet in a thin, cool damp cloth; spray birds with water. Offer the animal something to drink if possible. Then find a vet or ask for a house visit to avoid the stress of travel (and heat). With all measures it’s important that the creature should recover slowly – too great a temperature change can also cause damage.