Rabbits are popular pets worldwide, and you can find wild hares in various habitats and climates.
In addition to pets, rabbits are considered livestock in some places and are farmed for their fur and meat.
This article will discuss how rabbits regulate heat and survive in hot weather, what physical attributes help them in hot climates, how to care for your rabbit in high heat, and what breeds do best in hotter climates.
Rabbits in Hot Weather
Despite being found in multiple places around the world, rabbits do not do well in hot weather. Hot weather, above 77°F, is dangerous for rabbits, and they can even die from heat stress.
Despite these adaptations, they do not always tolerate hot weather well.
How Do Rabbits Regulate Heat?
Rabbits regulate their body temperature and lose body heat through panting, like cats and dogs, and through their ears. They do not sweat, like humans and horses.
A rabbit’s long ears contain large blood vessels.
When a rabbit’s body temperature rises, these blood vessels expand, allowing more blood to flow through them and heat to escape.
When air moves across their ears, the atmosphere helps cool the blood circulating in their ear’s large blood vessels.
With shorter fur and increased blood flow, a rabbit’s ears allow more heat to escape than through any other part of its body.
Finally, another body part also helps rabbits regulate heat: their nose.
When a rabbit breathes, the mucus in its nose, along with the moisture in the air, helps transfer heat away from its body.
This feature helps them keep cool in the summer and helps them stay warm in the winter by retaining heat, serving a dual purpose.
Rabbits Who Live in the Desert
Some types of wild rabbits live in the desert. These rabbits can still survive in the hot, dry climate of a desert, an area with little water.
They do so by getting water from their food, such as cacti, desert grasses and leaves, and twigs.
They will also eat their own feces for greater moisture intake and water retention.
Physical attributes that help them keep cool include their trademarked huge ears and light-colored fur that absorb less light and heat than darker fur.
In addition to water conservation and physical attributes for regulating their body temperature, these rabbits also survive based on behavioral adaptations.
These behavioral adaptations to life in the desert include resting during the day in a shady place to avoid the sun and only becoming truly active at night when it is cooler.
Unlike wild rabbits, who can search for shade or burrow in the ground to find relief from hot weather, your pet rabbit relies on you to keep it cool.
Keep reading to learn more about the signs of heat stress in rabbits and how to care for your rabbit in hot weather.
Signs of Heat Stress in Rabbits
Signs of heat exhaustion or heat-stroke in your pet rabbit include:
- Hot ears or reddening of the ears
- Fast, shallow, labored breathing or open-mouth panting
- Weakness or slow movement
- Lying fully stretched out
- Not eating
Hot Weather Care for Rabbits
It is crucial to keep your rabbit cool during the summer months, especially if they live outdoors.
Ways to Keep Your Rabbit Cool and Prevent Heat Stress
If your pet rabbit has heat stress, there are plenty of things you can try to help them. Here are just a few ways to keep your rabbit cool in hot temperatures.
- Move them to a place indoors or a spot with air conditioning
- If they live outdoors or don’t have access to air conditioning, purchase cage fans for them or leave windows open for access to a breeze (if indoors)
- Provide shade for your rabbit and giving them access to an area out of direct sunlight
- Add ice to their water bottle and provide access to cool drinking water
- Give them vegetables to eat, which will help them stay hydrated
- In hot weather, place a damp towel with cold water over their enclosure. Be sure they still have airflow, or this can cause respiratory problems
- Remove your rabbit’s excess fur by keeping them groomed and trimming it. Brushing them frequently to help them shed the excess is an excellent habit to follow
What to Do if Your Rabbit Is Showing Signs of Heat Stress
If you notice your rabbit is exhibiting the signs of heat stress listed above, here are some suggestions for helping them cool down:
- Move them out of direct sunlight, to a cooler spot, or indoors if you can
- Place them by a fan, not directly in front of a fan (have the fan blow air past them or near them)
- Mist their ears
- Give them cold water to drink
- Place frozen water bottles near them
- Freeze ceramic tiles and place them in their enclosure for them to lie on
- Place a damp, but not dripping, towel over their cage
- Call your local exotic veterinarian if their condition worsens
Rabbit Breeds That Do Best in Hotter Weather
There are some breeds of rabbits that are more heat-tolerant than others.
These breeds include:
Almost all of these breeds have unique features that allow them to be more resistant to heat.
These traits include larger, longer bodies and large ears. They also often have a full-arched or semi-arched body type and light and thin coats.
The exception is the Dutch rabbit, who does not possess any of these physical characteristics that would enable it to do well in the heat.
It has a small body with ears on the smaller side, but rabbits of this breed actually do well in hotter temperatures, thanks to their hardy genetics,
Body Type Makes a Difference
A rabbit’s body type is an essential factor in terms of heat resistance. There are five official body types found in rabbits:
The two arched body types allow for better ventilation for the rabbit breeds that exhibit them.
The full-arch body type has a rise starting from the back of the neck over the rabbit’s body. These rabbits usually look like they are ready to bolt, and you can see through underneath their abdomens.
The semi-arch body type has more of a mandolin-shaped curve along its back. The rabbit breeds that fall into this category include some of the giant breeds.
Why This Matters
If you wish to create a rabbitry and pursue raising rabbits as a business, or if you just want a pet rabbit, you need to choose the best breed for your goal and what works best in the climate you live in.
Unless you are going to bring all of your rabbits inside during inclement weather, it is best to choose a type of rabbit that will live happily and be able to survive in your environment.
For pet rabbits or rabbits, you will be housing indoors; body type and rabbit breed do not matter as much regarding climate.
When you house rabbits indoors, you have greater control of keeping a stable, comfortable temperature for them to thrive in. Breed matters more for personality attributes than sturdiness.
Rabbits and Hot Weather
Overall, it is good to know how rabbits do in hot weather, especially when you consider owning one.
Choosing the right breed of rabbit is vital, as is knowing the signs of heat stress to prevent heat exhaustion.
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