The Heat Is On For Small Animal Pets

With temperatures in the 80s, 90s and 100s, knowing the danger of high temperatures to small animal pets becomes critical.

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Offer more water sources when high temperatures hit to encourage small animal pets to drink more water. Via Chiot's Run/Flickr
Dr. Jerry Murray

The summer heat is definitely a major problem for a lot of small animal pets. Guinea pigs, chinchillas, rabbitsferrets and more are all at risk for serious heat-related problems during the summer. This can range from mild heat stress to fatal heatstroke. For your pet’s health, you must know the signs of heat problems, how to treat heat-related problems and, more importantly, how to avoid heat-related problems.

Guinea pigs and chinchillas are rodents that originated in South America. Guinea pigs and chinchillas do best in a temperature range of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit with a low humidity. When the temperature rises above 75 to 80, especially if the humidity increases, guinea pigs and chinchillas start to experience heat stress. When the temperature goes higher than 80, heat exhaustion and heatstroke are possible for these pets.

To lower their body temperature, guinea pigs will salivate profusely, develop shallow but rapid respiration (panting), and pale mucous membranes (gums, etc.). If their body temperature continues to increase, coma and death are possible. Chinchillas experiencing high temperatures lie down and also pant. Their mucous membranes and ears become red and their saliva becomes very thick. Some chinchillas develop bloody diarrhea. Death is possible without veterinary treatment.

Rabbits also do much better in cool temperatures. When the temperature goes above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, rabbits pant. Their mucous membranes and ears become red, and death is possible.

Ferrets also do better in cooler temperatures, and when the temperature goes above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, ferrets pant and may vomit. As their body temperature increases, collapse, seizures, coma and death can occur.

If your small animal pet shows any of these signs when the temperature is high, cooling the pet down is crucial. Most pets should be wet down with cool water and then rushed to your veterinarian. They should not be bathed in ice cold water. This actually makes things worse. Your veterinarian will administer IV fluids and cortisone to treat the dehydration and shock, and monitor the body temperature. Some pets that survive the initial crisis develop kidney failure hours to days later, so the prognosis for heatstroke is guarded at best.

Obviously the best way to avoid heat-associated problems is to keep your pet in an air-conditioned room and keep the pet’s cage away from big windows and other heat sources. In addition, fans can be aimed at the cage. Two-liter soda bottles can be filled with water and frozen, and these frozen bottles can be placed in the cage for extra cooling.

The pet should be encouraged to drink as much water as possible. Ferrets in particular may drink more water from a water bowl than from a sipper bottle, so cool water should be provided in a heavy, crock-style bowl.

Care should also be taken when traveling in a hot vehicle with your pet. You may need to start the vehicle’s air conditioner and allow the vehicle to cool down before putting the pet into it. Hopefully, these tips help you to help your pet avoid any heat-related problems during this summer’s heat wave.

Article Categories:
Chinchillas · Critters · Ferrets · Guinea Pigs · Lifestyle · Rabbits