The sun is beaming. The temperature is rapidly rising. Naturally, you are concerned about your rabbits and if it is too hot for them. Can they even handle the heat? And if not, how can you keep them sufficiently cool? Well, today I am going to be answering these questions and more.
So, what temperature is too hot for rabbits? It is generally accepted that temperatures over 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) are too hot for rabbits; which is when they can develop heatstroke. Instead, the ideal temperature for rabbits is between 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (12 to 21 degrees Celsius).
Now, depending on where and when you are reading, will largely influence your next steps here.
But don’t worry.
I’ll shortly be covering how to cool keep a rabbit cool in these kinds of temperatures, or cool them down should you need to.
But before then, let’s look at how rabbits fare in warmer climates. Besides, it’s essential to know how they naturally handle the heat.
Can Rabbits Handle Hot Weather?
Rabbits can handle temperatures up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees C), but that doesn’t mean they should. Unlike dogs and other animals, rabbits can’t sweat. Their thick fur acts as insulation in cold weather – and it retains heat in warmer temperatures. Rabbits are, therefore, at a greater risk of overheating – potentially leading to heatstroke, which can be fatal.
Wild rabbits usually spend the hottest parts of the day hiding in underground burrows, coming out at dawn or at dusk.
However, domesticated rabbits can’t build burrows for themselves, so we have to help them by maintaining a correct living environment (see below).
Rabbits do have sweat glands, but they have very few.
They don’t have enough sweat glands to sweat effectively to cool down their body temperature.
Most rabbits handle hot weather through panting and by expanding the blood vessels in their ears.
As the weather gets warmer, blood flow through their ears increases to help cool them down. This is why wiping a rabbit’s ears with a cool, damp cloth can help them cool down.
Unlike many other animals, baby rabbits show signs of adapting to temperature conditions within the first few hours of birth.
They will instinctively huddle together when small (and hairless) to keep themselves warm if they need to because the mother doesn’t stay with them once they’re born.
Rabbits That Are More Vulnerable In Hot Weather
There are some rabbits, though, who cannot handle hot weather as well as most.
Pregnant rabbits are more susceptible to the effects of hot weather because their bodies have to work harder to handle changes in temperatures.
They are already working hard to gestate their babies.
When rabbits get older, they can’t regulate their body temperatures as well as they could when they were younger.
Rabbits With Health Conditions
If a rabbit has an underlying health condition, she will struggle more in the heat. Examples are:
- Breathing difficulties or heart problems. These rabbits can start panting quickly and find it difficult to get enough air.
- Enteritis (inflammation of the digestive tract). Rabbits with enteritis will experience the impact of a loss of fluids more severely than other rabbits.
Rabbits With Longer Coats
Shorthaired rabbits like Dutch rabbits or English Lops have an easier time in the heat than their long-haired counterparts.
Long-haired rabbit breeds which might struggle more in the heat include:
- Jersey Wooly
Note: High humidity affects the ability of all rabbits to regulate their body temperature, putting them at greater risk of hyperthermia. The ideal humidity levels for rabbits are anywhere below 60 percent.
How Can I Tell If My Rabbit Is Too Hot?
You can identify that a rabbit is too hot by an obvious change in their behaviour and demeanour; they will start to breathe with their mouths open, breathe faster, and will likely have stopped eating.
There are various signs that your rabbit is too hot which are essential to know.
The sooner you spot that your rabbit is too hot, the more effectively you can cool her down to avoid heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
Because any sign of weakness makes them more vulnerable to predators, your rabbit is conditioned to hide any signs of problems.
Therefore, you have to be vigilant when it’s hot, as your rabbit won’t complain!
Unlike other animals, your rabbit can’t pant to cool down. Rabbits can only breathe through their noses unless something is seriously wrong.
If you notice her breathing with her mouth open (see below), she is already overheated and won’t be able to cool down without your help.
Here are the warning signs that your rabbit is too hot, going from mild to worse:
- Her feet and ears are warm
- She is breathing faster (you can notice this by watching the sides of her body)
- She is breathing with her mouth open
- She has stopped eating
- She becomes restless as if she wants something, but you don’t know what it is
- She becomes uncoordinated (so she may fall over or struggle to move normally)
- She becomes unresponsive
- Her nose and mouth take on a blue tinge (this denotes a serious lack of oxygen)
- You can see a blood-tinged fluid leaking from her mouth or nose
- She collapses
- She has seizures
Note: By the time your rabbit has seizures, it is likely too late to save her.
How Do You Cool Down A Rabbit?
You will need to cool down your rabbit immediately while preparing to take her to the vet. Acting quickly can save her life.
Cool Her Body Down
Wet her ears with a damp cloth in cool (but not iced) water.
You can do this before using a fan to blow cool air on her. Remember that her ears are what she uses most to deal with heat.
You can also spray her with cool water between her back legs and on her tummy.
Move Her Out of the Heat
Move her to a well-ventilated area (see below).
What To Avoid While Cooling Down Your Rabbit
If your rabbit becomes distressed at any point, stop what you are doing and get her to the vet asap.
Don’t immerse her in cold water: this could cause her to go into shock, which can be fatal. Rabbits don’t like water anyway, so having a bath can cause additional stress.
Don’t feed them too many frozen treats, as they can inhibit digestion. Rabbits have a very sensitive digestion system; too much cold food and drink can slow it down, which can be dangerous.
Don’t cool her down too much: hypothermia can be just as dangerous as heatstroke. Your rabbit’s body temperature shouldn’t go below 101.3 degrees F (38.5 degrees C).
How To Keep Your Rabbits Safe In Hot Weather
You can take many precautions to keep your rabbits safe in hot weather, such as looking after their accommodation, diet, and emotional well-being.
Look After Their Accommodation
Look after your rabbits’ accommodation in any of these ways:
- In hot weather, move your rabbits’ accommodation to a cooler area. If you have a fan, you can set it up to blow air past them (not directly onto them). If you are using a fan or another electric appliance, make sure any electrical cords are well out of reach.
- Place some large stone or ceramic tiles in strategic places for them to lie down on.
- Freeze some bottles of water (fill them ¾ full first) and place them in various places throughout their accommodation.
- Place a dampened (not dripping) towel or sheet over your rabbit’s enclosure. As the water evaporates, it will help keep the environment cool.
- Keep the temperature of their environment between 60 to 70 degrees F (16 to 21 degrees C).
- Make sure their enclosure has plenty of shade and good ventilation. If the enclosure is outdoors, take the movement of the sun into account: remember to check throughout the day that they still have shade.
- You can plant shrubbery around their enclosure to provide shade, but keep plants far enough away so that the rabbits can’t eat them.
- If you have moved your rabbits inside, provide toys to help your rabbits not miss the stimulation of the outdoors. Fill a litter box with hay so that they can go to the toilet while they eat (as rabbits like to do this!)
Look After Their Diet
Make sure your rabbits have access to plenty of fresh water as well as fresh vegetables with high water content.
The best veggies for rabbits include:
- Carrot tops
- Fennel bulbs
- Broccoli greens (only once or twice a week)
- Bok choy
- Romaine lettuce (also butter, arugula, green leaf, red leaf, etc.)
- Bell peppers
- Sprouts (clover, alfalfa, radish)
Note: Don’t feed your rabbits iceberg lettuce, as it has virtually no nutritional value and can make them sick.
You can also provide tasty fruit treats for your rabbits, within reason. Fruit contains sugar and is best given occasionally as a treat.
Here are some good fruits for rabbits that you can feed them once or twice a week:
- Cherries (remove the pits)
- Oranges (remove the seeds)
- Nectarines (remove the pits)
- Apples (remove the seeds)
- Peaches (remove the pits)
- Berries (strawberries, cranberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)
Rabbits are particularly vulnerable to stress, making them overheat more easily as their heart rate increases.
Many things can cause stress in rabbits, so avoid these where possible:
- Exposure to predators (or perceived predators, such as the family cat).
- Being confined in small spaces or feeling trapped. Your rabbit needs a large hutch to meet all her needs.
- Being chased (this includes you!)
- Loud noises (rabbits have highly sensitive ears: they are always looking for danger).
- Not being able to follow her instincts. If your rabbit is unable to do normal things like chew, dig, burrow, run, or climb, she’ll become stressed.
- Being carried. Rabbits have an instinctive fear when their paws aren’t touching the ground, so some rabbits will resist cuddles for this reason. If your rabbit freezes in fear when you are trying to cuddle her, put her down and try petting her later when she’s ready.
- Travel. Rabbits don’t like moving around in carriers or going to new places. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but if you have to leave your rabbit for any length of time, it’s best to have someone come and stay with you so that she can remain in her familiar surroundings.
- Changes in routine. Rabbits enjoy exploring new things, but they like a routine to their day: knowing when they’ll be fed, when to expect cuddles, etc. Knowing what to expect helps keep them calm.
- Bereavement. Rabbits bond with other rabbits as well as with their owners, so they can feel the loss of a friend keenly. If a friend or owner disappears, your rabbit will feel that loss and get anxious.
- Pain or sickness. If your rabbit is ill, she’ll be stressed – partly because she’ll want to hide her illness from you.
- The dark. If your rabbits are alone in an outdoor hutch, they’ll hear what they can’t see, which can include foxes or other predators.
- Loneliness. Rabbits are social creatures and they get stressed when they’re alone. This is why rabbits are best raised with a mate or a friend (like a guinea pig).
- Boredom. Because rabbits are intelligent, they like to keep themselves occupied. When your rabbits can’t explore, provide toys for them.
Overweight rabbits will struggle more with the heat because body fat acts as an insulator.
If your rabbit is on the chunky side, help your bunny slim down by providing leafy greens which are highly nutritious and packed with moisture.
Consult your vet if you need specific dietary recommendations for your rabbit.
For rabbits with longer coats, you can trim their fur. You can also provide regular grooming, regardless of the length of your rabbit’s fur. Getting rid of those loose hairs can help her stay cool.
By knowing more about your rabbit’s instincts and needs, you can help keep her safe in all weather.
If the temperature is starting to exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius) where you are, chances are it will soon become too hot for your rabbit.
In such an instance, you will need to be particularly mindful of your rabbit, where they are kept, and for how long.
You are going to need to be proactive about keeping them sufficiently cool; you likely will even have to move them.
And if you do notice signs your rabbit is experiencing heatstroke, contact a vet immediately!
75 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius) is hotter than desirable for rabbits. You will need to ensure they are not exposed to this temperature for long and be especially mindful should the temperature get hotter.
- How Long Can A Rabbit Go Without Water?
- Do Rabbits Like Water?
- Can Rabbits Drink Tap Water?
- How Long Can Rabbits Be Left Alone?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.