Domesticated rabbits seem to enjoy the summer months, especially those that have a large outdoor space to play. For an owner there may not be a more satisfying sight than watching your pet bunny zoom and binky about the lawn while you enjoy a cool drink. However, summer doesn’t last forever and what do you do when the weather takes a turn for the worse? Most of us know that rabbits don’t enjoy submersion in water but what about rain? Do you need to bring your pet in when it rains or can rabbits go out in the rain? Here’s the short answer….
Yes. Rabbits can go out in the rain, however, shelter should be available so they can get out of it if it becomes too heavy. Domesticated rabbits should be completely dried off before being put back in their hutch/enclosure to prevent them from getting too cold. Light rain wont bother a rabbit at all but elderly rabbits more prone to health problems and longer-haired breeds who may be difficult to dry when saturated should be discouraged from sitting in the rain for too long.
Will My Rabbit Get Sick If It Gets Wet?
It’s widely accepted that domesticated rabbits are a little happier and healthier in indoor setups however with a little effort on your part it is perfectly possible for them to live a long, happy and healthy life outdoors too. One key requirement of an outdoor set up is providing the rabbit a place to escape from inclement weather.
This highlights that to be healthy a rabbit needs to be kept dry and comfortable. Although sitting out in the rain for short periods is unlikely to make your rabbit sick, prolonged exposure to damp and wet conditions could cause health problems that could lead to a rabbit becoming very sick. Here are a few of the possible issues that may result from being wet….
In the wild rabbits live in underground warrens and are kept warm through shared body heat from its occupants even in cold temperatures. Domestic rabbits kept outdoors, in most cases live above ground, either in a hutch or other enclosure.
Domestic rabbits suffer in extremes of temperature and in colder climates where temps regularly hit freezing or below keeping them indoors is recommended. At 0°C a rabbit will start to feel uncomfortable and at -7°C they are at serious risk of hypothermia which can occur if their body temperature falls below the normal range of 38.3 – 39.4°C (101-103° F).
In moderate climates like the United Kingdom, domestic rabbits can adapt to cooler winters providing they are introduced to them gradually. Heat pads, blankets and a bonded companion to snuggle up to are all things that make the cold seasons tolerable. However, wet and cold conditions are a different story.
Think about how you feel when you get out of the shower, Cold right? Now imagine how a rabbit feels after being outside during a rainstorm! Worse still, if the rabbit still hasn’t managed to dry off by the time the sun goes down, those cold temperatures are going to feel a whole lot worse as their fur fails to trap the warmth against the skin.
In circumstances such as these, and if a rabbit were unable to dry off and get warm, freezing and hypothermia would pose a serious risk.
A rabbit in the early stages of hypothermia will become lethargic and its ears and limbs will look pale and feel cold. As the condition develops breathing will become shallow and the heartbeat will become weak. In its later stages, hypothermia can lead to coma and even death.
Snuffles is one of the most common diseases that can strike a domestic rabbit and is a contagious respiratory disease that can affect eyes ears and other organs. It is caused by infection of nasal tracts with the bacteria Pasteurella multocida.
When an infection does occur symptoms including, sneezing, discharge, and a loud snorting or ‘snuffling’ sound can be seen, the disease can also cause conjunctivitis when the rabbit licks and uses its paws to clean its face and eyes. Some strains of the bacteria commonly found in a rabbits nasal tract will not cause infections unless the rabbit is stressed or has a suppressed immune system.
Naturally, stress is a natural response to a life-threatening situation like being wet, cold and uncomfortable. Having a weakened immune response caused by stress can leave a rabbit more susceptible to this disease.
Being out in the rain WILL NOT cause Pneumonia in rabbits, however, that’s not to say that it’s not important to mention it in this post. Pneumonia causes a dysfunction of the entire respiratory system of a rabbit and occurs when there is a severe inflammation in the lungs of which causes can be bacterial, fungal, parasitic or viral.
Not drying the rabbit properly before putting it in after an unexpected rainstorm during playtime exposes a hutch/enclosure to damp whereby bacteria and fungus can thrive. In a small or poorly ventilated hutch, there is a real risk of a rabbit inhaling these spores, potentially leading to Pneumonia.
Although not directly related to being out in the rain, being aware of the causes of pneumonia definitely underlines a requirement to keep the rabbit and its dwellings clean, dry and well ventilated.
In longer haired breeds of rabbits exposure to rain and wet can cause the rabbit to become matted. Matting not only looks unpleasant, it is also not very healthy for the rabbit. At best this could be uncomfortable for a rabbit but if the matting is not brushed out in time sores can form on the skin underneath clumps of matted fur. This might lead to infections flystrike and potentially death.
Drying a Rabbit
A clean towel can be used to massage the rabbit dry. Alternatively, a hairdryer at the lowest setting can also be used to bring the rabbits back to its fluffy self. Never feel the need to bath a rabbit simply because it has got wet in the rain or has a few spots of mud on it. Providing the rabbit is dry it will take care of the rest itself in its own time. Bathing is something that is only necessary in extreme circumstances when a rabbits health is at risk and in most cases will cause unnecessary stress to a rabbit.
The lesson here is that although rabbits do fairly well at handling the cold, they are not so good at handling a combination of both cold and wet. If your own pet bunnies enjoy sitting out in the rain, its very important to dry them off properly before they go back in a hutch. Never leave a wet rabbit overnight and assume it will be alright. Keep the rabbit happy and healthy by keeping it and its dwellings clean, dry and well ventilated.