Sun Safety for Pets - Small Animals & Field Animals

Following on from last week's Pet Advice, this article will focus on how to protect small animals and field animals from overheating, dehydration and sunburn in hot weather.

Be aware that very old, young, injured or disabled animals may be more sedentary, causing them not to move from direct sunlight or drink water if they are too hot. You should pay extra attention to these animals to ensure that they do not suffer heatstroke.

Small Animals

Small animals should always have access to fresh water, and in summer you will need to provide this several times a day. Also, you will need to clean cages and hutches more often than usual to avoid flies and keep them well ventilated.


  • If your rabbits are confined to a hutch, ensure that it is out of direct sunlight.
  • Your rabbits should always have a shady spot to rest, keeping in mind that the sun changes position over course of the day.
  • A ceramic tile placed in the hutch will provide your rabbit with a cool surface to rest on if they get too hot.
  • Mist your rabbits ears if you suspect they are overheating; rabbits dissipate heat through their ears so this will cool them down.
  • Brush your rabbit's fur on the approach to summer to help rid them of their winter coat. If you have a long haired rabbit, consider trimming their fur.

Guinea Pigs/Hamsters 

  • Feed guinea pigs and hamsters lettuce soaked in water to rehydrate them on hot days.
  • A damp cloth hung over an area of the cage provides relief from stuffiness.
  • Avoid using a lot of bedding in the summer months to prevent stifling small animals.
  • Consider putting an ice pack in the cage. A frozen bottle of water also works well.


  • Provide a bath for your bird to bath in; margarine tubs are perfect for small birds!
  • Be wary of ceiling fans if your bird is not confined to a cage.
  • Indirectly mist your bird with water - this simulates a dewy rainforest environment so tropical birds love it!

Field Animals

If your animals are housed, ensure that these enclosures are well ventilated, and consider installing a cooling system for summer.


  • Ensure water troughs are topped up throughout the day, and be aware that the water can evaporate quickly in really hot weather.
  • Sufficient shady areas should always be available - you can easily make canvas shelters which can be moved depending on the location of the sun.
  • Shear sheep in spring; this keeps them cool and their wool will grow back to provide protection from sunburn by summer.


  • Provide your horse with lots of water, as well as a salt lick to replenish electrolytes lost through sweating.
  • Make sure you horse has a shady area to rest at all times
  • Protect your horse from flies. Consider investing in a fly fringe, an anti-fly rug and fly repellent.

Fly Strike

Fly strike is a condition that can affect all animals and is incredibly dangerous. It is more prevalent in summer when the fly population is high and the heat intensifies the smell of animal urine, faeces or wounds that attract flies. A fly will lay its eggs on the animal's skin, which then hatch into maggots and feed on the living flesh. This can happen within hours of a fly laying eggs, and death can occur extremely quickly, either through infection or shock. If you notice maggots on your animal you must take them to a vet immediately for emergency treatment.

Animals with a wet or dirty groin area are most at risk, particularly rabbits. You should try and clean away any dried faeces stuck in their fur, and trim away excess fur to encourage faster drying after urination. Also, animals experiencing diarrhoea or vomiting should be kept a close eye on for signs of fly strike. There are several ways you can help your animals avoid fly strike:

Small animals

  • Remove soiled bedding on a daily basis, and disinfect the hutch or cage once a week.
  • Keep the fur around their rear short to prevent faeces sticking to it.
  • Nylon netting around hutches stop flies getting in.

Field Animals

  • There are several pour-on preventative treatments available. Ensure these are suitable to use on your animal and seek advice from a vet if you are unsure.
  • Keep enclosures as clean as possible.
  • Animals with open wounds have a higher risk of developing fly strike, you should be vigilant for maggots in or around raw areas.

You can contact us for further advice by calling: (01228) 560082.

Also, you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sun Safety for Pets - Small Animals & Field Animals

   Get our e-updates