Heat stroke, heatstroke, heat stress, overheating, or heat exhaustion can occur when environment temperatures get too high. It is a form of hyperthermia that occurs with the natural heat-dissipating mechanisms of the body cannot accommodate excessive heat and can lead to organ failure.
- Body temperature of 105°F and above without signs of inflammation (hyperthermia).
- Weakness, depression, ataxia.
- Muscle tremors.
- Cardiac arrhythmias.
- Abnormally high heart rate (tachycardia).
- Respiratory distress or arrest.
- Cardiopulmonary arrest.
- Hot days with ambient temperatures over 85°F.
- Outdoor rabbits in the sun.
- Lack of shade.
- Lack of ventilation.
- Lack of drinking water.
- Excessive exercise.
- Heat intolerance due to poor acclimatization.
- Thick hair coat.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Neuromuscular disease.
- Previous history of heat-related disease.
If you suspect your rabbit has suffered from heat stroke, take it immediately to the emergency vet for hospitalization. Most rabbits will need intensive care for several days if they are diagnosed with heat stroke.
Nursing care for rabbits include the following:
- Wet rabbit by spraying with water or soaking with cool, wet cloths before transporting to a veterinary facility if possible.
- Convection cool with fans
- Evaporative cool
- Supplement oxygen via oxygen cage, mask, and nasal catheter.
- Give ventilatory support if required.
- Give fluid support.
Stop cooling procedures when the rabbit's body temperature reaches 103°F to avoid hypothermia.
- peteducation.com, Heatstroke, Hyperthermia and Overheating in Small Pets: Signs, First Aid, and Prevention
- Special Bunny Rescue, Overheating / Heat Exhaustion
- Bunnyhugga, Heat exhaustion (heat stroke)
- My House Rabbit, Recognizing Heat Stroke in Pet Rabbits
- Angie Pollock, Heatstroke in rabbits: Symptoms and treatment
- BunnyMama29, Treatment and Prevention of Heat Stroke in Rabbits
- PawNation, Rabbits & Heat Stroke
- Debbie Ann, Learn the symptoms of overheating and keep rabbits cool on hot summer days
The resources below are obtained from rabbit breeder websites. Please note that we do not condone breeding for the common house rabbit owner. These are provided purely for information.
- Wanda Twellman, Heat Stroke: The Silent Killer A Timely Posting???
- Pam Nock, Heat Stress in Rabbits
- Barbara L. Oglesbee, Blackwell's Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Small Mammals, 2e.