When it comes to rabbits and guinea pigs, the summer season isn't just about hopping gleefully around the garden with the sun on their back – it comes with some risks. From heatstroke to seasonal conditions and diseases, you will want to be clued up.
It’s worth learning the symptoms to check for and our head nurse, Chrissie Poke, has some advice on how to avoid common issues in Worcestershire.
With prevention always being the best option, if a vaccine exists for a disease, we highly recommend that your pet stays up to date. Not sure if your small furry pet has been vaccinated or is due? If you’re registered with Clent Hills Vets, we can check their vaccination schedule for you so do get in touch.
Summer health issues for Rabbits & Guinea Pigs:
Guinea pigs and rabbits can die from heatstroke
- Heatstroke is caused by too much exposure to heat and can become serious very quickly.
- Check for signs of heatstroke: Drooling/salivating, panting & short shallow breaths, overall weakness & lethargy, red and warm ears, wetness around the nose, fitting, unconsciousness.
- Avoid heatstroke by keeping their hutch somewhere cool and shaded in the summer, away from direct sunlight and with good ventilation.
A lack of natural sunlight can cause vitamin D deficiency
- Guinea pigs & rabbits need sunlight/UV rays to help them produce the vitamin D they need.
- Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in guinea pigs & rabbits: Fatigue, depression, muscle weakness/aches/cramps, bone pain, dental issues.
- You can provide more vitamin D via certain foods, supplements, and carefully planned time in the sun (avoid heatstroke) or under a UV lamp.
Flystrike is common in rabbits & guinea pigs during summer
- Flies quickly lay eggs on soiled bedding. These turn into maggots that burrow into open sores and moist places like the rear. Pets that struggle to keep themselves clean due to old age, arthritis, or dental issues are most at risk. You may need to give yours a ‘butt bath’.
- Check for signs of flystrike: Initially quiet & lethargic, refusing food & drink, a strong smell coming from their hutch, digging into corners for pain relief. Look for maggots and flies around your pet and in their hutch. Flystrike can lead to death if untreated.
- Avoid flystrike by keeping your pet and their bedding clean and dry. Check their rear end and fur regularly (incontinence can attract flies). A fibrous diet including hay, vegetables, and fresh water is needed so the digestive system produces caecal (soft poops) they can eat.
Chrissie advises that poor hygiene and airflow can also lead to bacterial pneumonia, a significant summer disease in guinea pigs. Be sure to clean your pet’s hutch regularly and provide adequate ventilation to help prevent this disease. For reference, a hutch should not be damp, humid, or overly dusty. Check for symptoms: nasal discharge, sneezing, difficulty breathing, conjunctivitis, fever, weight loss, depression, loss of appetite. Sudden death can occur in groups of guinea pigs.
Rabbits are more at risk of contracting Myxomatosis & Rabbit Viral Haemorrhage Disease during the summer months too, due to increased wildlife activity. Myxomatosis is spread by rabbit fleas, and RVHD-1 & RVHD-2 are carried by birds, insects, and even on clothes, hands, and objects people touch. Both diseases are highly infectious and deadly but can be avoided with annual vaccinations.
Follow Chrissie's advice above to help your small furry pet avoid unnecessary risks this summer.
If you have a rabbit, we can help you make sure they’re up to date with vaccinations. Contact us to get your small furry pet protected.