Heat Stroke - the Silent Killer
By Wanda Twellman
Information does no good if it is not shared. That is why I freely give anyone and everyone information to share my posts. I hold no copyright on them. Some of them are written from my own experiences, some from friends, some from people I don't know but I've heard of. Some people have added on and I hope that they don't mind that I share their information as well. It may save someone's rabbits. This one is about an insidious killer that some people never even think off. Maybe you're not hot now, but with summer coming, you will be. So this is one worth hanging onto.
Lazy T Rabbitry, MO 16 years.
HEAT STROKE - THE SILENT KILLER
With most of the US under a blanket of extreme heat, this seems like a REALLY GOOD time to repost this. Hopefully it will help out our newer breeders and remind more experienced breeders.
Keeping rabbits alive in the summer is one of the most difficult jobs of raising rabbits. . I'm in central eastern MO where we are into the triple digits with high double digit humidity. Typical MO summer weather here. Hot and humid!! And no relief in sight for several days.
If you nest boxes are removable, take them in the house during the day. Don't worry, the does will take them back and nurse them when you take them back out. If you have cats and/or dogs in the house, put the nest boxes in one room that you can close off to keep 'curious' house pets out of them. Make sure you label the nest boxes so you can match them up with the right doe.br>
Got a late term doe who's really stressing in the heat? Take her in the house. I ALWAYS keep three or four cages I can use in the house. (I desperately want at least one used 3 hole stacker to make keeping them in the house easier). It's a PIA but it can save the doe and litter's lives.
Got a fan on the rabbits?? Not blowing directly on them, heavens NO!! But blowing air AROUND them. Circulating it. That will help to cool them. Don't be chintzy. Use as many fans as necessary to ease your animals. I even have an old box fan I bought at a garage sale for a $1.00 with only one speed out on my chickens to help THEM deal with the heat!! It helps a GREAT deal to have moving air.
KEEP THE FANS CLEAN.
Hair buildup on fans causes fans to over heat then you might have to read my Emergency Preparedness for Fire. Keep a big cheap paintbrush and at least once a day, brush the fur from the fans. You can tell where it builds up the most. Brush those places a couple of times a day. You're trying to cool the rabbits, not bar-b-que them.
If you can't take your nest boxes in the house, remove as much bedding as you safely can. And check them two or three times a day or as frequently as you can so that you aren't having to find and remove really 'putrid' messes. Personally, I don't normally breed during June, July, or August. And it's not because my bucks go sterile, I always keep back a couple of younger bucks to deal with THAT problem, it's to keep pregnancy stress off the does. I carried my daughter in the summer heat and I KNOW how miserable it is!! LOL My OB told me that carrying a baby is like carrying a little furnace burning on high inside you. Just imagine being a doe and having 6-10 little furnaces on high inside you!!
As frequently as you can, give the rabbits fresh, COOL water during the day. Not ice cold but COOL. An ice cube or two in the water bowl won't make the water cold but it will cool it enough to help give the rabbits some relief from the heat when they drink. Also, by using BOWLS or CROCKS instead of bottles, the rabbits can curl around them to help cool off. I use old pots and pans (when they freeze they don't break) and believe me, my rabbits spend a LOT of time curled up around them. Especially right after I dump them out and refill them with cool water. Being home all day, on really hot days I water my rabbits up to 5 or 6 times or MORE a day!!
You both work and are gone all day? Get a neighbor that's home to go check on the rabbits at least once or twice during the day. Even if you can't get anyone to check on the rabbits, try to have someone that will call you at work if the power goes off because then your fan(s) will go off and other steps will have to be taken. No close neighbors, spend $10 or $20 on a cheap answering machine and call several times during the day yourself. If the answering machine doesn't answer, you can usually bet that your electricity is off. Then you can take steps to implement an alternate plan to help your rabbits.
Keep bottles of water out with the rabbits in case your water goes off. If you live in the country and are on a well, if the electric goes out, there goes your well too. Make sure you have a back-up source of water. Poured into a bucket, even a few 20 ounce soda bottles of water, frozen, will cool that water enough to provide the rabbits relief if you have to water them with it. Just make sure that you periodically change your stored water to keep it fairly fresh. In a pinch, buy bags of ice and put them in a bucket. Let them melt but don't use the melt water while it's still ice cold. Let it warm up a bit until it's just nice and cool. Even if you are on city water, you can STILL loose it if the power goes out to the water plant. So you need to keep backup water available as well and also periodically change it to keep it fairly fresh.
SIGNS OF HEAT STROKE OR HEAT PROSTRATION:
Please read and learn these symptoms!!!
If you go out and find a rabbit laying with it's head thrown back, ears back and panting, that's a rabbit in the first stage of heat stroke. Cool it off. Quickly. Keep a bucket of water at the ambient temperature of the air on hand all the time. Add enough fresh water to COOL it off, not to make it cold. Then dunk the rabbit, making sure you get it's ears wet. (But not it's muzzle!!) Ears are where rabbits loose excess heat. Not panting. Some people prefer to mist or spray the rabbit. I personally prefer the dunk method because it gets the rabbit wet down to the skin and then the evaporation of the moisture from the skin and coat helps cools the rabbit.
DO NOT USE COLD WATER TO DUNK/MIST/SPRAY A RABBIT IN HEAT STROKE!!
You'll throw it into shock and can very easily kill it while you are trying to save it. This same method can also be used to help save other small livestock such as chickens, etc. if they go into heat stroke. (Larger livestock can be sprayed with a hose until they cool off. FIRST CHECK THE TEMPERATURE OF WATER IN THE HOSE! IF IT'S BEEN SITTING IN THE SUN, IT CAN BE ALMOST BOILING HOT!!
My vet told me that if you see a mammalian livestock animal with foam on it's muzzle, chances are it's in heat stroke. The object is to cool it off as quickly as possible. With sheep, goats, cattle, horses, etc., the best way to do it is with the hose. Cats can be dunked [welders gloves help a great deal when dunking cats as they don't seem to appreciate your efforts to help cool them off], dogs, depending on their size, should be dunked or sprayed with the hose.)
Say your rabbit is laying sprawled out, head thrown back, ears back, panting with obvious signs of moisture around it's nose and mouth. Second stage of heat stroke. This rabbit is rapidly approaching the critical stage. Cool it IMMEDIATELY as above.
A rabbit is laying sprawled out, head thrown back, ears back, panting with obvious signs of moisture around it's nose and mouth and going down onto it's chest. This is the next to the last stage of heat stress. Again, this animal HAS TO BE COOLED IMMEDIATELY or you're going to lose it. By this point, it's only a 50/50 shot of saving it unfortunately.
Your rabbit has all the above symptoms and is in convulsions. Destroy it. By this point, the rabbit is so overheated that there is quite probably brain damage. That's what usually causes the convulsions. At this stage, nothing can be done to save the rabbit. Just destroy it and put it out of it's misery.
Some people use ceramic tiles that have been stored in a freezer and keep switching them out throughout the day to help cool their rabbits. I don't care too much for this method as I don't feel they hold their coldness all that long. I think Terra Cotta tiles, or large pieces of terra cotta flower pots, first soaked then frozen hold their cold longer and are more effective but they can also cost more. I mention the tiles as it is an alternative that a lot of people swear by.
I've not used a soaker or mister system so someone more familiar with them needs to explain to you how they can help keep your animals cooler.
My rabbitry is one long aisle, approx. 30 feet long built in a strip of mature oak, hickory, and black walnut trees which provide deep shade. At one end are 5 cages where I keep my grow-out kits. Immediately behind them is the back of a shed on the neighbors property. Otherwise there are hanging cages on either side of the aisle. I keep an industrial strength fan at the open end of the aisle blowing straight down it. This keeps the air moving beneath the rabbits, pulling the coolness from the ground beneath them. When the air hits the building at the other end, it is reflected back into the rabbitry . There is a roof over them that helps contain the air stream within a confined area where the rabbits are so that they receive full benefit of the fan and the air it blows. With the set-up that I have, I have taken thermometers out there and the temps have been as much as 15 degrees cooler than the ambient temperature out in the yard. Heck, they are cooler than I am in my mobile home cooled by a central air unit!! I have been known to sit out there with a long tall glass of tea and a good book and relax where it's cooler than in the house. This also gives me the extra benefit of being right out there to observe my rabbits and nip any problems in the bud that may arise.
I KNOW that other people have other tricks that they use to keep their rabbits cool and I would REALLY appreciate if they would post the tricks that they use. What I do may not work for anyone else. But somebody else's method may be perfect for others. We all love our rabbits so let's share the information about how to help keep them cool and comfortable during the summer heat. O.K.?? Please add your comments and suggestions to this posting.
Lazy T Rabbitry, MO
*posted by permission*
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