If you take your rabbit with you to outdoor events, the best method is to transport bun in a pet stroller. These are easy to find, not too expensive, and provide the safest method to take your rabbit into the public. With a zip-up cover, dogs won’t be able to poke their noses inside and your bun can still see out, enjoying the local scenery. Bring along a bottle of water and a small bowl, plus some cool veggies that you can pack into a small “cold” bag and tuck into the basket at the bottom of the stroller. Keep the stroller in the shade so it doesn’t heat up and cause your rabbit to become too warm.
Temperatures in San Diego can go well above 80 degrees so you need to tuck a frozen water bottle or ice pack into your rabbit’s carrier or stroller. With their fur, that 80-degree temperature is going to feel more like 90, and they can suffer heat stroke. If your rabbit becomes listless, spritz their ears with some cool water, place an ice pack or bottle next to them, and if they don’t recover in 5 to 10 minutes, take them directly to a vet as they may be suffering from heat stress. Whether your rabbit is at home, traveling with you in a car, or out and about in the stroller, you must always ensure she is kept well cooled with air conditioning or a frozen water bottle, and plenty of shade.
Summer parasites will definitely pose a problem to your rabbit. Fleas, flies, mosquitoes and even ticks can prey on a rabbit who is outdoors; mosquitoes and flies will even find your rabbit indoors, so make sure your windows have good screens on them. These common bugs can transmit a variety of illnesses when they burrow down into your rabbit’s fur and either feast on their blood or lay eggs, which result in hatching larvae.
Mosquitoes are one of summer’s most hazardous pests as they can carry the deadly Myxomatosis virus. We’ve already seen several cases in San Diego County this year, so be sure you take measures to eliminate mosquitoes from your home and yard. Remove any standing water, place citronella stakes or candles and burn them in the hours when mosquitoes appear, and even put something in your window sills if you have a heavy mosquito infestation in your area. Call Vector Control (check with County Agricultural Dept.) and have them check your property for mosquitoes and spray for them.
Another hazardous bug is the Botfly. They lay their eggs in tall grasses and when rabbits brush against the grass, the eggs attach to bunny’s fur. The larvae hatch, burrow down into the skin, and form a large “pouch” into which a quite large larva will grow. Check your rabbit over for any lumps or bumps, each week, to make sure there’s nothing that may have attached to her fur. These larvae must be carefully removed by an experienced veterinarian, as they are toxic and if crushed can poison your rabbit. Last summer, we saw about four or five cases of this in San Diego and southwest Riverside counties.
Allowing your rabbit the opportunity to get exercise and fresh air in your yard is a good idea; just be sure to keep them away from hazardous plants (find a list online at www.aspca.org) and watch that they don’t dig out of the yard. Setup a sun umbrella for shade, and watch for hawks flying around. Bunny will enjoy romping through the grass and nibbling on untreated (no pesticides) grass and edible flowers such as geraniums, nasturtiums, or pansies. Never leave your rabbit alone outdoors.
Have fun with your rabbit this summer. Just remember to keep her cool and safe from predators and parasites.
~ Judith Pierce,
San Diego House Rabbit Society