Vet shares 6 tips on how to keep a rabbit cool in summer

Two rabbits sitting on grass in the sunshine
(Image credit: Getty Images/ArtMarie)

If you want to learn how to keep a rabbit cool in summer, then you've come to the right place. As the weather gets warmer and your bunny ventures outdoors more, it's important that you know how to keep them safe in the sun.

Summer is a great time for our rabbits, giving them more time to play in the garden. However, if they get too hot then it can increase their chances of heat stroke which can be fatal. There are lots of ways that you can help prevent this, like putting one of the best indoor rabbit hutches in a cool area of your home or splashing cold water behind their ears.

Since our bunnies can't talk to us, sometimes it can be a little tricky to work out whether they're too hot or not. However, there are lots of signs to look out for which vet Dr. Rebecca MacMillan has explained below. She's also given her expert advice on ways to keep a rabbit cool, what temperature is too warm, and whether they can have ice cubes.

Here's a complete summer survival guide:

How do I keep a rabbit cool in the summer?

Here are some ways that you can keep your rabbit cool in the summer, recommended by Dr. MacMillan.

1. Keep their hutch/run in the shade: If your rabbit goes outside, find a shady spot in the garden for their hutch or run and make sure you never leave it in direct sunlight.

2. Keep them somewhere cool: When your bunny is indoors, make sure you move them to a cool area of your home. You'll want to avoid areas like conservatories or sunrooms which heat up very quickly. You might also want to close the curtains or put a fan on to help them stay cool.

3. Give them something cool to lay against: Provide your rabbit with a large, cold bottle of water that they can lie on when they get too hot. A floor tile or ceramic/slate tile also works well and usually stays cold if it's left in the shade (top tip: put it in the fridge beforehand!) If you don't have any tiles lying about the house, a damp towel will do the same job.

4. Keep them well-groomed: It's always important to ensure your bunny is well-groomed as part of their regular rabbit care, but it's even more crucial in the summertime. By removing their loose fur, you'll help them to feel a lot cooler (and happier!)

Rabbit Grooming Kit

Rabbit Grooming Kit

This handy grooming kit has everything you need to keep your bunny's coat in tip-top condition. For under $13, you'll get a nail clipper, a trimmer, a brush for shedding, a bath brush, and two combs.

Dr. MacMillan says: "You should also be checking your rabbit’s bottom at least once daily during the summer months. Ensuring that it is clean and dry will reduce the risk of flystrike. Flies are attracted to smelly, damp, or warm areas, where they will lay their eggs. If left unchecked these eggs can hatch within a matter of hours into maggots, which will start burying into your rabbit’s flesh. This is why checking on your rabbit regularly is so important."

5. Apply cool water to their ears: Did you know that rabbits don't sweat like we do? By applying cold water to their ears, you'll help them to cool down and lose heat through evaporation.

Rabbit eating grass outside

(Image credit: Getty Images/Hanneke Vollbehr)

What temperature is too hot for rabbits?

You might be wondering what temperature is too hot for your rabbit. After all, it can be very subjective for us humans.

Dr. MacMillan says: "Temperatures above 25C (77 F) are too hot for rabbits. They will start to struggle at these sorts of high temperatures, and you should take steps to keep your rabbit safe and comfortable."

How do I tell if a rabbit is too hot?

If you think your bunny is too hot, Dr. MacMillan says they might...

  • Seek out a shady spot
  • Seek out a cooling breeze
  • Stretch against cool surfaces
  • Drink more water than usual (make sure this is topped up regularly)
  • Breathe more rapidly than usual
  • Notably pant
  • Have ears that feel warm or hot when you touch them

Baby rabbit sitting in the shade outdoors

(Image credit: Getty Images/Hanneke Vollbehr)

Can rabbits have ice cubes?

There's nothing better than cooling ice cubes on a hot sunny day, so you might be curious whether our rabbits can have them too. We asked Dr. MacMillan and the answer is yes — and there a couple of ways that you can give them to your bunny.

Whether you add them to their water bowl/bottle or freeze pieces of vegetables, it's a great way to cool them down. If your rabbit isn't interested in normal ice cubes, the latter idea could encourage them more. Dr. MacMillan says to steer clear of artificially flavored or sweetened ice which isn't healthy for your bunny.

Blocks of frozen spinach in a bowl on a wooden table

(Image credit: Getty Images/arfo)

Can rabbits get heat stroke?

Unfortunately, rabbits can get heat stroke if they are exposed to hot temperatures. This can be really dangerous and even lead to death, so it's super important to know to signs so you can help immediately.

Dr. MacMillan says that if your bunny has heatstroke, they might:

  • Feel weak
  • Pant
  • Drool
  • Have hot or red ears
  • Collapse
  • Have a seizure

She says: "If you suspect that your rabbit is suffering from heatstroke, then this is an emergency situation. I always advise owners to lay their rabbits on a cool, damp towel and to gently apply water to their ears. You should also try and create a breeze for them (perhaps with a handheld fan) and get them to your vet as soon as possible."

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Dr. Rebecca MacMillan
Rebecca MacMillan BVetMed BSAVA PGCertSAM MRCVS

Rebecca is a vet surgeon who graduated in 2009 from the Royal Veterinary College in London. She has a wealth of experience in first opinion small animal practice, having done a mixture of day-to-day routine work, on-call emergency duties and managerial roles over the years. She enjoys medicine in particular and she is proud to have recently achieved a BSAVA postgraduate certificate in small animal medicine (with commendation).

Megan Milstead
Staff Writer

Megan is a Staff Writer on PetsRader, covering news, features and buying guides. She has a wealth of experience looking after animals, having grown up with dogs, cats and horses all of her life. She’s particularly interested in pet happiness and behavior, which she loves to research in her spare time. You’ll often find her watching webinars on reactivity in dogs or researching cat body language. She loves going the extra mile for her cats Chilli and Nala (who also help out with testing the best products for our buying guides). 

Megan studied BA Journalism at the University of Westminster, where she specialized in lifestyle journalism and was editor of Smoke Radio’s online magazine. She also graduated from West Herts College with a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Journalism. Before joining the PetsRadar family last year, she worked on the editorial team at Harrods and has spent most of her career writing for specialized titles, like RunningShoesGuru, Licklist and Mr. After Party. 

Megan works alongside qualified vets and accredited trainers to ensure you get the best advice possible. She is passionate about finding accurate and helpful answers to your pet-related questions.