Bangkok, Thailand is officially the world’s hottest city, so it’s not a particularly great place to have a pet rabbit. I live in Bangkok, and I own two. That being said, they are house rabbits that never go outside and love air conditioning just as much as I do.
Even so, I’ve always been conscious about the possibility of my rabbits getting heat stroke in such a hot city, especially if my apartment is too hot. That’s because rabbits are highly susceptible to heat stroke, and it’s a condition that kills — quickly. Luckily, my vet has drummed into my head the ‘rabbit suffering from heat stroke symptoms’ to look out for and, so far, my bunnies have never had a problem.
If you live in a hot climate, or even in a place where it just gets warm for a few weeks a year, you too should be as careful as I am with my pet bunnies. Plus, if you understand how to recognize heat stroke in your pet rabbit and that it can occur very quickly, hopefully, your bunny will live a long – and cool – life.
Lying full length – If your rabbit suddenly starts to lie full length on the floor, squashed as close to it as he possibly can, there’s a possibility he might have heat stroke. Before you panic, however, and rush him to a vet, if he’s like my two rabbits and it’s something they always do, there’s nothing to worry about. Not unless he has other symptoms as well.
Panting – One of the easy ways to recognize if your rabbit is suffering from heat stroke is if he starts to pant. Rabbits never pant normally, so if yours is doing there is something very wrong.
Drooling – Is your rabbit suddenly starting to drool? Rabbits never drool unless there’s a major health problem. Paired with panting, and it’s highly likely he’s suffering from heat exhaustion, but read on for other symptoms just to be sure. (Drooling can also be caused by teeth problems, which although it’s not usually a life-threatening emergency to take him to a vet, he should be seen by one within a couple of days as teeth problems can cause GI stasis, and he could eventually die).
Hot and red ears – A rabbit’s ears will be hot and red if he’s suffering from heat stroke. A sign that the condition is very serious.
Lethargy or ‘floppy’ – If your rabbit is lying in his cage looking lethargic or, even worse, ‘floppy’, it’s an absolute emergency that you get him to a vet. Once at this stage of heat stroke, a rabbit will often die within hours.
Convulsions – If you come across your rabbit having convulsions on a hot day or in a room with a high temperature, he is in the last stages of heat stroke and very close to death. He needs to see a vet immediately.
What to do before rushing to the vet – No matter what, if your rabbit has any or all of the above symptoms of heat stroke, he needs to be taken to a vet immediately. However, you also need to try to cool him down first, especially if your vet’s office is a fair distance away.
First, mist his ears with cool water (not icy cold or he’ll go into shock and not soaking wet just ‘mist’). Then, dip your fingers into some cool (not cold) water and rub them lightly through his fur. You can do this for a couple of minutes just to get portions of his fur slightly damp (again damp, not wet).
Finally, try to get him to drink some water and, if he won’t, syringe a few drops in his mouth to start getting him rehydrated. Now……off to the vet as quick as you can and, hopefully, you can save your bunny’s life.