Thursday, July 21, 2011

What's Fair About It?

With sweltering triple digit temperatures sitting over a large portion of the United States and fair season just gearing up, rabbits (and other animals) are subject to temperatures that can kill them.  I have been keeping up on fair events in several states during this record heat wave. Some fairs have cancelled rabbit related events, some have moved the rabbits into air conditioned buildings and too many are just hoping for the best. 
Heat can kill.  It's that simple. My vet has told me time and time again that rabbits out of all animals in the home or certainly outdoors are the most susceptible to heat stroke. After all, they are wearing a thick fur coat. Symptoms can include panting rapidly (open mouth breathing), weakness/lethargy;  laying flat out with tail down and reluctance to move, lack of interest in food, drooling/wet around mouth, convulsions, coma and ultimately death. Temperatures of 85 degrees F and above can be dangerous.  A lot of the country is well above this right now.  Rabbits regulate their body temperature with those big ears full of large veins.  (By the way, this is tougher for the lop breeds due to the down position of the ears next to the body.)  Misting ears with water can help because it cools the blood  that circulates throughout the body. A large cool ceramic tile on the cage floor (in shade) may help. A warm rabbit will lounge on it to keep his cool.  A "cold buddy" consisting of a frozen water filled bottle (plastic) and covered with a wetted down cotton sock is cool comfort, too. 
Fairs are already stressful for rabbits with all the new smells, sounds and strange rabbits in the cage next door. But most all all, if the facilities at the fair are not air conditioned and the temperatures are well over 85 degrees, maybe it's time to consider leaving the bunny at home. If the fair officials do not have enough common sense when it comes to heat stressed animals, then individuals need to make the right decisions about the safety of their animals. There is always next year.
One more thing - where are the resting boards for rabbits at fairs.  Last year the local fair near me said  that resting boards were "too messy" and the bunnies could "deal with the wire floors for two days" during their events.  I hardly think this is fair. (Photo: Three very handsome brothers in a cooler year at a fair.)