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Vets Issue Emergency Warning To Rabbit Owners

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Vets Issue Emergency Warning To Rabbit Owners

As the UK enjoys high temperatures heading into the weekend, vets have issued a warning for rabbit owners to take precautions.

Earlier on Friday (15 July) the Met Office issued an extremely rare red weather warning for England next week.

The sweltering temperatures could also put rabbits at risk of suffering heatstroke, flystrike and even death.

Flystrike is one of the biggest dangers for rabbits. As flies appear in the warmer weather, some might lay eggs in rabbit fur, which then hatch into maggots and burrow into their skin.

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Just like cats and dogs, rabbits can suffer heatstroke which can cause seizures, organ damage, internal bleeding, unconsciousness and even death.

Thankfully, Dr Samantha Butler-Davies, veterinary clinical services manager at Vets4Pets, has given rabbit owners some much-needed advice to protect their furry friends.

People must keep a close eye on their rabbits' fur. Credit: Alamy.
People must keep a close eye on their rabbits' fur. Credit: Alamy.

“While some of us will be looking forward to enjoying the sunshine, the warmer weather can be incredibly dangerous for our furry friends, including rabbits and other small animals such as guinea pigs,” she said.

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“Simply put, the hot weather poses a genuine risk of death for rabbits.

“The temperature of their homes can increase rapidly in warm weather, and a hot garden with no shelter can soon turn into a death trap if your rabbits don’t have access to cool areas.

“There are some simple steps rabbit owners can take to help keep their pets cool, but it’s really important that owners can also spot the signs of heatstroke and flystrike in their pets and act fast to keep them safe.”

To avoid your rabbit suffering flystrike, owners should keep their rabbit living area clean and dry, which Vets4Pets says is the ‘main way to prevent them from developing flystrike’.

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Rabbits can also suffer from heatstroke. Credit: Alamy.
Rabbits can also suffer from heatstroke. Credit: Alamy.

Flies are attracted to damp or soiled fur, which is found most commonly around the rabbit’s bottom, therefore it’s important to ensure you check your rabbit’s fur daily and pay attention to that area.

Live maggots are the most obvious sign of flystrike, however, if your rabbit suddenly becomes quiet or tired.

Other signs include a loss of appetite or not drinking, and a strong smell coming from them or their living area.

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Vets4Pets offers preventative flystrike products, too.

In regards to heatstroke, identifying the signs early, such as reddening and warming of the ears, moisture around the nostrils, rapid breathing or panting, lethargy and any unusual behaviour, is paramount.

The longer a rabbit’s temperature stays high, the more damage it causes.

Owners should contact a vet if their rabbit is showing signs of heatstroke. Credit: Alamy.
Owners should contact a vet if their rabbit is showing signs of heatstroke. Credit: Alamy.
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If you suspect your rabbit is suffering from heatstroke, you should contact your vet immediately.

Owners should avoid spraying them with cold water, submerging them in a bath or covering them with wet towels because this could make the situation worse.

Preventative measures also include moving your rabbits’ living space to an area where it can stay between 18-20°C.

Rabbits’ living spaces should not be in direct sunlight and should have good ventilation.

Owners should also consider using cold tiles, cooling mats or wet towels on the ground to prevent heatstroke by keeping them cool. However, rabbits should never be covered in cold towels.

Long coats should be well-groomed in hot weather.

Just like humans, rabbits must stay hydrated with access to fresh, cold water to drink at all times.

For more information on keeping rabbits safe during a heatwave, visit the Vets4Pets website here.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock/Vets4Pets

Topics: Animals, Weather, News

Gregory Robinson
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