You can protect your rabbits, guinea pigs, and other little furballs from summer scorchers by applying many of the same principles as for cats and dogs – adapting for small animals' different habitats.
Keep your furry friend hydrated by providing lots of fresh cool water in bottles or bowls. Change the water at least once each day during hot weather. Many pets won't drink the water in their bowls if it's too warm, and that can lead to dehydration.
Fill sealable, plastic food storage bags with water and freeze them. On really hot days, place one of the frozen bags in your pet's habitat for her to lie against or be near. Use big bags for bunnies and guinea pigs, smaller bags for the littlest pets.
When using water to bring your pet's body temperature down, cool is always better than cold. Cold water applied to an animal suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke could result in your pet going into shock.
Consistent, moderate temperatures are best for hamsters. Keep them out of cold drafts and direct sunlight. Make sure you've battened down the hatches on the habitat, so your critter can't escape.
Rabbits can have heatstroke in temperatures of 26.6 deg C. Your bunny is overheated if is laying in a stretched out posture, panting, breathing rapidly, and may foam at the mouth. Once you get her out of the sun and into a cool place, a quick way to bring her body temperature down is to place a cool, wet towel around her ears.
If she is conscious, offer her fresh, cool water and take her to your veterinarian immediately.
Guinea pigs are extremely susceptible to heat exhaustion during the warmest months. Overheating is an emergency situation for these pets, so if you find your guinea pig stretched out and panting, drooling, weak and reluctant to move, seek veterinary treatment immediately.
Once you remove your guinea pig from the heat and sun, mist your guinea pig with cool water, gently bathe her in cool water, or apply rubbing alcohol to her footpads. You can also offer her water.
It is important that your pet chinchilla be kept inside a controlled climate in order to survive. If your chinchilla takes in too much heat, they can suffer from heat prostration. Heat prostration is when your pet is lying on their side with labored breathing. They feel like they want to give up because this is too much for them to bear.
Don't allow your pet to stay in that position. Pick up the chinchilla carefully and gently. Keep your pet mobile and moving. Provide massages and head rubs. In the interim, while you're still trying to keep your pet going, make sure you have the temperature lowered; otherwise, they may not make it after all.
This article first appeared in Pets Magazine, Oct 2013