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How to Take Care of Small Pets in the Summer

Summer care for small pets

When the warm days of summer arrive, many of us celebrate the chance to spend more time in the sun. But higher temperatures and humidity levels during summer can be hazardous for small pets.

In many cases, pet parents aren’t aware of the dangers summer can bring to their small animals. During the summer months, pet parents should understand and know how to handle the possible health issues warm temperatures can cause—such as an increased risk of heatstroke and other heat-related issues—so they can get their pets veterinary care if necessary.

So, to keep your small pets safe when hot weather strikes, let’s look at the best ways to protect them.  

Table of Contents

Know the right temperature for your small pet

To keep your small pet safe as summer heats up, monitor the temperature of their habitat. Hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, mice, rats, rabbits, ferrets and guinea pigs will thrive in average household temperatures that do not exceed 80°F. With their thick fur coats, chinchillas are particularly sensitive to overheating when the temperature approaches 80°F.

When setting up your pet’s habitat, pay attention to where you place it to minimize exposure to temperature extremes. Never place animal habitats or pens in direct sunlight, even indoors; direct sunlight exposure can cause temperature spikes, even if the rest of the household is cool. You may need to relocate your pet’s habitat during different seasons to account for changes in light exposure and temperature.

If you plan to travel with your small pet during the summer, never leave them unattended in the car, and monitor the temperature in the vehicle to make sure it remains below 80°F. If your car is parked outside in the heat, be sure to cool it down before placing your small animal into it when traveling.

Take extra steps to keep your small pet cool

Keeping small pets indoors during the summer and maintaining a proper temperature in your home are key to preventing these pets from developing heatstroke or being exposed to other summer dangers.

However, pet parents can also follow these additional tips to help ensure their small pets stay comfortable during the warmer months. 

  • Talk to your vet about your specific pet’s needs. Some animals, such as chinchillas, are particularly susceptible to heat-related illness and death. Your vet can help you determine whether your pet needs additional assistance in staying cool during summer heat.
  • Provide constant access to fresh water. During the summer, clean and refresh your pet’s water bowl or bottle more often. Pets in summer typically drink more water, plus water tends to evaporate more quickly in the heat. Keep a close eye on water levels, and make sure there is always fresh water available. Bottles and bowls should also be regularly disinfected to remove algae or bacterial growth that is more common in warm weather. 
  • Use fans to help keep pets comfortable. Place a small fan near your pet’s habitat to help cool them down during the summer. Make sure that the fan isn’t too close to your pet or blowing air directly on your pet. Using a fan to circulate air in the room around your pet’s habitat is generally enough to help your pet stay cool.
  • Add frozen items to your pet’s habitat on hot days. To give small animals some relief from the heat, pet parents can freeze toys, treats and water bottles to add to habitats. Be sure your pet has space in their habitat away from frozen items, and remove any bedding that could become damp and moldy from the melting ice. Frozen items should not be used around neonatal pets who generally have not yet developed sufficient fur to protect their skin from direct contact with ice. 
  • Clean habitats more frequently. Small animals are susceptible to parasites and other nasty bugs, which are generally more prevalent during warmer months. During the summer, do a more thorough daily habitat cleaning and deep clean twice a week to help eliminate parasites and other infectious microorganisms that thrive in warm, moist environments.
  • Keep exercise to a minimum if it is very warm. Help your pet beat the heat by restricting strenuous exercise that can predispose them to overheating. For example, if you regularly take your rabbit outdoors to stretch their legs, avoid these trips during periods of hot weather or schedule outdoor activities for earlier or later in the day when temperatures are lower. 

Watch for signs of heatstroke

Ideally, keep your small pet cool in a temperature-controlled, indoor environment. However, if your pet is outside or in a situation where you cannot provide air conditioning, monitor them closely, looking for the following signs of heatstroke:

  • Increased respiration/panting
  • Lethargy
  • Red gums 
  • Red ears
  • Confusion
  • Drooling
  • Collapse 

If you suspect your pet is suffering from heatstroke, see a veterinarian immediately

Spend quality time together

While the summer heat may restrict your pet’s outdoor playtime, make sure you  spend ample time together. Interacting with your small pet, providing them with extra toys and treats and playing their favorite games are all excellent ways of bonding, even during warm months.

Interacting with your pet will not only make your pet happy from the attention, but also allow you to carefully observe their health. These interactions will help you pick up on any changes in their behavior due to the warm weather so you can seek veterinary attention if necessary.

Finally, don’t hesitate to stop into your local Petco and ask an associate for some fun ideas to treat your small pal. And check out our care sheets to learn more about taking care of your specific pet.

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