Summer risks & diseases affecting rabbits & guinea pigs.

June 14, 2021

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Whilst your rabbit or guinea pig may enjoy some sun and freedom in the garden over the summer months, the hot weather is not without risks for your pet. From heatstroke to seasonal conditions and diseases, its worth learning the symptoms to look out for …

Prevention is always the best option, so if a vaccine exists for a disease, we highly recommend that you keep your pet up to date.

Rabbits are more at risk of contracting Myxomatosis & Rabbit Viral Haemorrhage Disease during the summer months, due to increased wildlife activity. Myxomatosis is spread by rabbit fleas, and RVHD-1 & RVHD-2 are carried by birds, insects, and sometimes on clothes, hands, and objects. Both diseases are highly infectious and deadly but can be avoided with annual vaccinations.

Summer health issues for Rabbits & Guinea Pigs:

  • Heatstroke can be fatal for rabbits and guinea pigs. Heatstroke is caused by too much exposure to heat and can become very serious very quickly.
  • Signs of heatstroke include drooling, salivating, panting, overall weakness & lethargy, red and warm ears, wetness around the nose, and in severe cases fitting and unconsciousness.
  • Avoid heatstroke by keeping the hutch or run somewhere cool and shaded in the summer, away from direct sunlight and with good ventilation.
  • If your pet lives in a conservatory during the winter, be sure to move it to a cooler spot for the warmer months.
  • Guinea pigs & rabbits need sunlight/UV rays to help them produce essential vitamin D. Vitamin D Deficiency can be an issue for rabbit and guinea pigs that lack exposure to natural sunlight.
  • Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in guinea pigs & rabbits include fatigue, depression, muscle weakness/aches/cramps, bone pain and dental issues.
  • You can provide more vitamin D via certain foods and supplements.
  • Carefully planned time in the sun can be beneficial, taking care to avoid prolonged exposure on really hot days or during the hottest part of the day, and making sure that your pet always has access to fresh water and shade. If you do not have a garden, a UV lamp can help with vitamin D synthesis, but always seek advice before use.
  • Flystrike is common in rabbits & guinea pigs during the summer months, and can be fatal if not spotted and treated early. Flies lay eggs on soiled pet bedding. These develop into maggots that can burrow into moist places like your pet’s rear end. Pets that struggle to keep themselves clean due to old age, arthritis, or dental issues, or have any sore spots, are most at risk. It is important that you keep your pet’s bottom clean with a daily wash if they are unable to clean themselves.
  • Signs of flystrike include lethargy, refusing food & drink, a strong smell coming from their hutch or rear end, digging into corners for pain relief.
  • Avoid flystrike by keeping your pet and their bedding clean and dry. Look out for maggots and flies around your pet and in their hutch. Check their rear end and fur regularly (incontinence can attract flies) and clean if necessary. A fibrous diet including hay, vegetables, and fresh water is important for the digestive system and can prevent the constipation that may lead to a dirty bottom that attracts the flies.


  • Poor hygiene and airflow can also lead to bacterial pneumonia, a significant summer disease in guinea pigs. Be sure to clean your pet’s hutch regularly and provide adequate ventilation. A hutch should not be damp, humid, or overly dusty. Symptoms of bacterial pneumonia include nasal discharge, sneezing, difficulty breathing, conjunctivitis, fever, weight loss, depression and loss of appetite. Sudden death can occur in groups of guinea pigs.

If you are unsure if your pet is up to date with vaccinations, or have any other question about how best to care for your rabbit or guinea pig over the summer months, do get in touch for advice.

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