Keeping Small Animals Safe in the Heat
By: Sawyer Cecena
Most animal lovers know what steps to take to keep their cats and dogs safe in hot weather. However, not everyone is aware that smaller animals like guinea pigs, rabbits, and hamsters are also at risk of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses! Despite their size, it’s super important for owners to know the symptoms of heat-related illnesses in their furry friends, and what to do to prevent them. Here are some tips on how to keep your puniest pets happy and healthy in this summer heat!
Did you know your precious piggies can only withstand a temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit before they are at risk of heat stroke – even indoors?! If you’re without AC, you can help keep them cool by keeping their cage near fans and away from windows. Make sure they are getting plenty of fresh (not iced!) water and some extra watery veggies. For an extra treat, you can freeze a water bottle and wrap it in an old sock for your piggy to lay on.
Since guinea pigs are natural prey, their instincts often tell them to hide any signs of weakness until it’s too late. However, the following are symptoms of heat related illness:
- Skin tenting
- Sticky gums
- Decrease in amount or frequency of peeing
- Rapid breathing
- Laying on one side frequently
If your pig is showing any of these symptoms, they need to be relocated to a cool area and cooled down properly with a cool, damp rag. Do not submerge the guinea pig in cool or cold water, as the drastic change in temperature may cause shock.
While any rabbits can experience heat stroke, those with long or thick coats are most at risk. They are extremely similar to guinea pigs in terms of how much heat they can withstand, and how to keep them cool in hot weather. Your bunnies would also love the freezer sock, or even a hard ice pack wrapped up in an old shirt, to keep them cool! Some additional symptoms to look for in rabbits are:
- Hot ears
- Wet nose
- Tossing the head back and forth
If your bunny is experiencing these symptoms, follow the same steps as above for cooling down guinea pigs. Make sure to focus on their ears, as these control the temperature for their entire bodies. Unlike guinea pigs, rabbits canhave a few ice cubes in their water to help their bodies recover from heat.
The bite-sized bodies of hamsters make them unable to withstand high temperatures for very long, making them the most likely of these animals to die from excessive heat quickly. The best way to prevent heatstroke in your hamster is to keep its cage somewhere cool and properly ventilated inside a home, away from windows. Outside habitats are not ideal for these little guys. Signs of heat related illnesses in hamsters are:
- Rapid breathing
- Lying flat on the stomach
A hamster can be given Pedialyte to re-hydrate them during an episode of heat related illness. This, along with water, is easiest to give via a child’s size medicine dropper rather than a syringe. If you believe your hamster is suffering from a heat related illness, you can follow the same steps as listed above for guinea pigs – being extra sure not to get your little friend too wet or cold. Make sure you return your hamster to a cage that is clean and dry after taking these steps!
Do you have any other tips for keeping your pets cool during hot weather? Or just wanna tell us all about your furry friends? Head to the comments!