Because Thumper wears a fur coat all year, you have to stay aware of the temperature of his living environment to keep him cool and comfortable. Heat stroke occurs when your rabbit overheats and is unable to get cooled back down to a reasonable temperature. In extreme cases, heat stroke can cause death.
The earliest signs that Clover may be overheating include a wet nose, drooling, panting and reddening of the skin on his ears. The warmer he gets, the more likely your bunny is to become lethargic, confused or have visible difficulty breathing. He may demonstrate abnormal behaviors or be reluctant or unwilling to interact with you. In extreme cases of heat stroke, your bunny may begin to convulse, go into a coma or die. Call your veterinarian immediately if Clover shows symptoms of overheating.
Bunnies are more likely to suffer from heat-related health problems as temperatures begin to rise. The ideal temperature to house a rabbit in is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit with little to no humidity. Temperature-related respiratory problems can begin to occur when temperatures reach the mid-70s and 80s, especially in humid climates. Heat stroke becomes a real risk when the temperature climbs into the high 80s or above.
The easiest way to prevent heat stroke from threatening Coco's well-being is by keeping her in a climate-controlled area. A working air conditioner set below 80 degrees keeps the area cool and your bunny comfortable while he is living indoors. Keep Coco's living area out of direct sunlight and provide a circulating fan to keep the breeze going and air moving. Bottles of frozen water in your bunny's cage can provide her with a place to hunker down and obtain relief. Provide Coco with plenty of cool, fresh water and fresh produce, which has a high water content. If Coco is longhaired, consider having a groomer trim or shave her coat for the summer.
Treating Heat Stroke
If the worst-case scenario happens, say the electricity cuts off on a hot day, time matters when you are dealing with heat stroke. Begin misting your bunny with cool, not cold, water the minute you suspect he is suffering from heat stroke. Reduce his temperature as much as possible by getting him to a cool area. Contact your veterinarian immediately. He will probably need to provide your bunny with intravenous fluids and electrolytes to help him recover.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.