The UK is experiencing a bout of sweltering weather after being met with a July heatwave.
There are signs that it will come to an end at the weekend, but until then, the heat can create uncomfortable conditions for both humans and their pets.
While advice has been issued on when not to walk dogs in the blistering temperatures, there are also ways to look after our smaller four-legged friends in the heat too.
Veterinary charity PDSA has issued expert advice on caring for rabbits and guinea pigs in the summer.
In the wild, rabbits would spend the hottest part of the day underground in their cool burrows, coming out to feed in the morning and evening.
Guinea pigs also struggle in the heat and aren’t built for basking in the sun.
And these pets will especially struggle if they’re kept in wooden hutches or sheds outdoors, that can heat up rapidly.
Which pets can feel the heat?
Any pet can overheat in hot weather, PDSA warns.
You’ll need to be extra careful with long-haired breeds – with some rabbits and guinea pigs wearing a really thick fur coat.
If they’re carrying a bit of extra weight, their body will have to work harder to stay cool. And extra care also needs to be taken with very young or old pets, PDSA says.
The PDSA advises the following for rabbits and guinea pigs to stay cool:
- Keep their enclosure and exercise run out of direct sunlight. If possible, move it to a shady part of the garden.
- You can create extra shade for them in their run by draping a tarpaulin or towel over part of their exercise run, making sure there is still a nice draught of cool air. You could even put up a beach umbrella for them! You might need to keep checking they have enough shade throughout the day as the sun moves in the sky.
- Make sure they have cool hiding places in their run too – a tunnel or cardboard box tipped on its side is a fun, shady place for them to explore.
- Fill a bottle with water and freeze it overnight. Wrap it in a towel and place it in or next to their run. It’ll give them something cold to lie against.
- Place some ceramic tiles in their housing or give them access to a cool tiled floor area so they have somewhere nice and cold to lie.
Plenty of water
- Make sure your rabbits or guinea pigs have access to fresh, clean water whenever they need it. They’ll drink more on hot days so you may need to increase the amount of water bottles they have access to.
- Keep checking on their water and top it up throughout the day as and when your rabbits or guinea pigs need more.
- Check water bottles every day to make sure the spout isn’t blocked.
- Give them plenty of safe fruit and leafy green veg – these can help to add extra water to their diet.
Signs of heatstroke in rabbits, guinea pigs and small pets
- Taking short, quick breaths
- Acting very sleepy or lethargic
- Falling unconscious or having fits
If your pet is experiencing these symptoms, read more about first aid and what to do here.
For more information and ideas, head to the PDSA’s website.