Published on July 7th, 2016 | by Debbie Martin0
Summer Advice for Small Pets
Summer is well underway, and that means that rabbits, Guinea pigs and other small pets will be able to take advantage of the pleasant weather, provided that their owners are able to let them. But there are a number of problems that such animals might encounter at this time of year. Owners should be aware of them, so that they can take steps to avoid them, and thereby ensure that their pets are kept healthy and happy while enjoying the sunshine. In this article, we’ll look at just how this might be done.
Many owners choose to house their small pets indoors during the winter, and move the hutch outside for the summer. This transition period is a great time to take stock of a hutch’s condition. As the years go by, and the elements take their toll, a hutch can deteriorate quite rapidly. If you’re thinking of replacing yours, then it obviously makes sense to do so before you’ve gone to the trouble of moving it.
Rabbits, if they’re to be happy, will need space to move around in. A run should offer room to stand upright in, and to hope three times in a row. This is a minimum; a larger run will generally mean a happier rabbit. Bear in mind also that larger rabbits will require more space to move around in.
The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund are a UK-based Rabbit welfare charity. They echo the ‘size matters’ advice, and recommend that a hutch be a minimum of 6’x2’x’2’, and that it should be attached to a run that’s at least 8’x6’. Rabbits have adapted to cover an enormous area, according to the RWAF, spanning more than thirty football pitches. And while domestic rabbits are not quite as energetic as their wild equivalents.
When you take your rabbit out into its run, you’ll want to take the opportunity to examine its physical condition. Is it moving freely? Does it seem to be in any discomfort? If so, then you might consider taking it to the vet for further examination. Obviously, if it’s never allowed out into its run, then this opportunity will never arise.
Just as they’re a very mobile animal, rabbits are also highly social creatures who become stressed when forced to live in isolation. For this reason, rabbit owners are advised to keep their pets in twos or threes. Bonded pairs (or triplets) of animals are a great deal happier, mentally healthier, and more fun to watch and be around. This will be in particularly strong evidence during summertime, when rabbits will quite literally jump for joy in the sunshine.
Diet during summer
All animals need to eat the right things if they’re to remain healthy. Small animals are no exception. If a rabbit or guinea pig eats the wrong things, that their faeces will become soft and moist, and it will begin to stick to their fur. As well as being disgusting, this can cause health problems.
Another problem caused by a bad diet is obesity. When a rabbit becomes too fat, it will be at greater risk of suffering diabetes and heart problems. What’s more, it’ll become unable to properly groom itself – which can exacerbate the problem we’ve just touched upon.
The solution here is a diet that’s rich in fibre, and all of the other nutrients it needs to survive. This means a diet that’s mostly hay, with some grass thrown in, too. Feed mixtures, comprising many different pellets of food, might seem like a good solution – but rabbits can be very fussy eaters, selecting only the pellets they find palatable while ignoring the rest. If you find that this is the case, then you might consider either switching to another mix, or giving out smaller portions so that your hungry pet is forced to eat the whole lot.
By far the best food for rabbits is the one toward which they’re naturally inclined: grass. Grass is rich in fibre, with moderate levels of protein, low levels of unhealthy fat and starch, and an abrasive action against the teeth which helps to keep them clean and healthy.
Vitamin D is also essential, and lacking in indoor pets. By allowing them to bask in the sunlight, you’ll be allowing them to synthesise their own vitamin D, and you’ll thereby ensure that they’ve got enough of it.
It’s worth noting that it’s inadvisable to make sudden dramatic changes to your pet’s diet, as this may result in serious stomach upsets. And this goes especially for rabbits who are suddenly released into a large run, and allowed to subsist on grass all day.
A more gradual approach is therefore called for. As the daylight hours grow longer, you should allow your pet to spend more time out on the grass.
Keep the hutch clean
While your pet is out into its run every day, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to clean the hutch, and remove any soiled bedding. You’ll also want to run some disinfectant over the cage, in order to guard against flies and other filth-loving creatures. Flystrike is a definite problem during summer, as flies have the moisture and warmth they need to thrive.
Flystrike, or myiasis, is condition whereby a fly lays its egg on the rabbits skin. These eggs then quickly hatch into maggots – which, depending on the species of fly, can mature rapidly and eat the surrounding flesh, killing the rabbit.
Preventing this condition from happening in the first place is the best possible way to guard against its symptoms. Since flystrike is at its most common in summertime, it’s at this time of year that we need to be especially wary of it. Fortunately, we can do this by following the guidance we’re discussed in this article.
By regularly checking your pet, keeping it well fed and watered, and by cleaning its living environment, you’ll give it the best possible chance at a healthy, happy life.