Here we go again...
Extreme heat and humidity is forecast for the Hudson Valley for the next 3 days and 3 nights. Last night the dew point did not go under 70, which makes breathing difficult, and cooling off almost impossible. But animals endure. And survive.
One of the things that rabbit breeders will discover about their herd in this weather is who can take it and who cannot. Variable weather conditions are stressful, and a day or two of unusual weather is generally tolerated. When a string of days presents itself, then immune systems are pulling out all the stops to cope. 100* with dew points in the 70's is tough for my crowd to take as they do not normally live that way. They have handled 95* days just fine, but the humidity lowers at night normally around here to 65*.
I just got a note from a breeder about the symptoms her rabbits are now displaying after a few days of the intense heat in the Midwest. And these were rabbits with short fur. Runny eyes, sneezing, drippy noses and wet paws appeared a day after exposure to 97*. These can be precursers to snuffles, and the sooner these symptoms go away, the better. Sometimes they don't go away and you are looking at an animal that has, in all probability, been born with an impaired immune system that will, unfortunately, also pass this along to its offspring.
I lost a few angora rabbits before I wised up, did some reading, and found out how pervasive, invisible and insidious this condition is in the rabbit world. You can spend $350 on an angora and have no guarantee about the animal's immune system. (Wise buyers will insist on a guarantee!) You can pick up a $5 angora at a craft fair and have the healthiest and strongest animal going. It's a toss of the dice. Educated and ethical breeders will not allow this condition to be present anywhere in their barns, but there will always be a few who will breed an animal without thought to this. So, educate yourself and be aware.
A friend of mine faced a situation where all of her rabbits came down with snuffles, and after much heartache and soul searching, she neutered her entire herd, and worked hard with animal nutritionists to build up the rabbits' immune systems. The last time I checked, she and they were doing well after 2 years of herbal treatments. She is an inspiration and I hope she writes about her experience someday.
So, how do you help your rabbits cope with heat if you keep them outside like I do?
Remove their coats right to the skin.
If there is no wind, keep the air moving under their cage with a fan (not directly on them)
Freeze water filled soda bottles and lay them in or on top of their cages.
Replace their drinking water every 6 hours with fresh cold water.
Mist their ears with cold water every 30 minutes during the toughest heat.
Add herbal ingredients to their diet that help with stress. VetRX is a time honored concoction based on eucalyptus oil that will help them breathe.
There are many breeders who use air conditioning for their angoras. This is certainly kind to the pet angora and allows for coat retention in hot weather. It is a subject of debate among breeders who wish to know what shape the immune systems in their herds are in. (If you plan to keep your animal outside, make sure you ask about this when you purchase your angora!)
Posted by countrywool
at 7:18 AM EDT