Winter warnings on small pets

Vets are warning owners not to forget about small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs that usually live outdoors, yet are vulnerable to cold and damp.

British Veterinary Association President Gudrun Ravetz said: “Despite their furry coats, domestic rabbits and guinea pigs are vulnerable to extremes in weather.” She said that owners should:

Ensure pets’ homes are waterproof, draught-proof, dry and ventilated as well as escape-proof and predator-proof, checking regularly throughout the winter for water marks or other signs of damage.

  • Keep the temperature of rabbits’ and guinea pigs’ home between 0 – 20°C for rabbits (the lower temperature assumes rabbits are healthy and kept with other rabbits, with lots of bedding for warmth) and 5- 20°C for guinea pigs, avoiding too many fluctuations in temperature change for both species.
  • Check water bottles and bowls regularly, as they can freeze.
  • Place pets’ home in a sheltered position, away from wind, rain and snow and at least 10 cm off the ground.
  • Make sure rabbits and guinea pigs have extra bedding. Line hutches with plenty of newspaper, provide lots of hay and cover with an old duvet/blanket/tarpaulin.
  • If weather becomes very severe consider moving outdoor pets inside to a well-ventilated space with light and room to exercise – but never place them inside a garage that is in use, as vehicle exhaust fumes are harmful to rabbits and guinea pigs.
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