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TIPS FOR KEEPING SMALL ANIMALS COOL

You can protect your rabbits, guinea pigs, and other little furballs from summer scorchers by applying many of the same principles as for cats and dogs - adapting for small animals' different habitats.

Keep your furry friend hydrated by providing lots of fresh cool water in bottles or bowls. Change the water at least once each day during hot weather. Many pets won't drink the water in their bowls if it's too warm, and that can lead to dehydration.

Fill sealable, plastic food storage bags with water and freeze them. On really hot days, place one of the frozen bags in your pet's habitat for her to lie against or be near. Use big bags for bunnies and guinea pigs, smaller bags for the littlest pets.

When using water to bring your pet's body temperature down, cool is always better than cold. Cold water applied to an animal suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke could result in your pet going into shock.

Ferrets

Keep your ferret out of the car during spring and summer months - heatstroke can occur in temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If your usually curious pet shows symptoms of heatstroke, which include heavy panting, mucous coming from the nose or mouth, severe lethargy, limpness, seizures and loss of consciousness, you have to bring her body temperature down immediately. Once you get your ferret out of the sun and heat, if she is conscious, giver her fresh, cool water. If you have it readily available, offer Gatorade or Pedialyte to see if she will drink it. Apply cool water to her groin area, lower stomach and pads of feet. You can also place her in a shallow container of room-temperature water; the water should only cover her legs and ensure her head is out of the water. Or, you can simply place a wet washcloth on the key areas. Make sure you use room temperature water - do NOT place your ferret in cold water. Applying rubbing alcohol or rubbing ice cubes on the pads of her feet will also help cool her down. Always take your ferret immediately to your veterinarian, even if you only suspect your ferret has suffered heatstroke. Place your ferret's feet in cool - not cold - water, or apply rubbing alcohol to her feet. And get her to the vet as soon as you can.

Hamsters

Consistent, moderate temperatures are best for hamsters. Keep them out of cold drafts and direct sunlight. Make sure you've battened down the hatches on the habitat, so your critter can't escape.

Rabbits

Rabbits can have heatstroke in temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Your bunny is overheated if is laying in a stretched out posture, panting, breathing rapidly and may foam at the mouth. Once you get her out of the sun and into a cool place, a quick way to bring her body temperature down is to place a cool, wet towel around her ears. If she is conscious, offer her fresh, cool water and take her to your veterinarian immediately.

Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs are extremely susceptible to heat exhaustion during the warmest months. Overheating is an emergency situation for these pets, so if you find your guinea pig stretched out and panting, drooling, weak and reluctant to move, seek veterinary treatment immediately. Once you remove your guinea pig from the heat and sun, mist your guinea pig with cool water, gently bathe her in cool water, or apply rubbing alcohol to her foot pads. You can also offer her water.