Leopold the rabbit feeling a little heat stress

Leopold the bunny came into the clinic breathing uneasily, flaring his nostrils and looking lethargic (sleepy). It was one of Melbourne's hottest days in November and Leopold was suffering from heat stress. Leopold was admitted to hospital for close monitoring and was actively cooled to reduce his temperature. Rabbits regulate their body temperature through their ears so we used a damp, cool cloth on his ears and placed him on an ice pack wrapped in a towel to cool him down. It was important not to directly apply ice packs to his skin and cool him too quickly. His temperature was monitored closely and active cooling was stopped to prevent him becoming hyperthermic.

Rabbits and guinea pigs do not cope very well in the heat so during the hotter months it is best to keep your rabbit hutch or cage out of direct sunlight. Remember that the sun moves and what might be in the shade when you leave the house may not be in a few hours. Make sure there is always a fresh supply of drinking water and you can also place a frozen 1 or 2 litre bottle filled with water in the cage to keep them cool. Other ways of reducing the risk of heat stress include placing a wet towel over the enclosure and directing a fan towards the cage making sure that the fan is not blowing directly at the animal. Bring them indoors on the really hot days. Check them regularly during the day and if you notice any signs of heat stress, take them to your closest veterinary clinic as soon as possible.

Leopold's owner told us that he has recovered and is doing well at home. Leopold now has a new shade cloth over his enclosure.