What can you do to help keep your rabbits comfortable in the hot weather?
Rabbits can easily overheat, especially when they are hopping! We want to make sure that our hoppers are happy and healthy during warm weather demonstrations, training, and even competitions (if/when they re-schedule). Now that most events are canceled, a lot of us are taking the time at home to train with our rabbits outdoors and in the house. This can be a lot of fun for both the rabbit and the handler, but it can also be dangerous! Here are a few things that you can do to help keep your hopper cool.
1. Fresh & Cold Water - This is the most obvious, but one of the most important things to do for your hopper! Keep fresh cold water nearby at all times. If you have access to it, electrolytes for livestock (many rabbit cage/feed suppliers carry this) may be good for your rabbit in especially dry and hot days. Think of it like rabbit Gatorade!
2. Frozen Water Bottles - This is a trick that many rabbit breeders/pet owners use often. You can freeze water bottles, ceramic tiles, even lunchbox/cooler inserts and put them in your rabbit's cage/pen/play area. You can even add a fan nearby/over the frozen bottle/object as well. They become like mini air-conditioners! Be careful of plastic labels and always supervise your rabbit if they are prone to chewing. You don't want them to ingest it!
3. Fans - Small clip-on fans, battery-powered fans, and other portable fans can be a lifesaver! If you are training outdoors or in a warmer area, even inside the house, having a nice small fan for your rabbit is a good idea. These are especially helpful at outdoor/indoor events during the spring and summer months. Just be careful that you don't accidentally give your rabbit too much air or a draft, as that can actually make your rabbit sick. If you are indoors/in a large area- having bigger fans to help circulate air is crucial!
4. Spray Bottle - This tip is one of my favorites for events because it is easy, simple, and very refreshing to your rabbit. Keep a spray bottle (fine mist bottle) with cold water nearby. When your rabbit is panting or warm, you can use the spray bottle to mist the rabbit's ears. Since rabbits can't sweat, they expel excess body heat through their ears. Rabbit ears also have a lot of large veins that help regulate the heat, so by cooling off the ears using water (through evaporation) you can help cool your rabbit's entire body! Just be sure not to soak your bun!
5. Train in the Shade - If you are outdoors, try to keep your rabbit's training session confined to a shady area to avoid overheating. You can even set up things like a camping canopy/shade umbrella if needed. Avoid working with your rabbit on surfaces like gravel, asphalt, concrete, wood, etc. These surfaces often heat up a lot faster and retain more heat than grass- and are also hard/often slick surfaces that can hurt your hopper! Stick to grass, foam mats (be careful of these getting hot in the sun too!), or outdoor carpeting.
6. Lots of Breaks - If you are outdoors, especially at an event, make sure that you give your rabbit lots of breaks! Avoid holding your rabbit for long periods of time, as you can overheat them by transferring your own body heat. If your rabbit's ears are hot, they are panting, or otherwise starting to show signs of distress give them a break in their carrier with fresh cold water, a fan if possible, frozen bottle if possible, and maybe give their ears a quick spray. I recommend using a wire-bottom carrier for your rabbits, as they help with airflow/stay cleaner and can provide a lot more of a breeze when using a fan.