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Posted By: Nat - Vet Nurse

Keeping your small furries warm this winter

Before bunnies and Guinea pigs became domesticated and were in the wild, they would burrow underground to stay warm with all of their friends and huddle in groups to share body heat. Many of our small furry friends face a cold spell over the winter months alone at the bottom of the garden.  There fore we want to share some tips for keeping your bunnies/guinea pigs nice and toasty this winter in their hutches.

Exercise

Exercise plays a huge part in helping your bunnies and guinea pigs keep warm during winter.  Whilst rabbits and guinea pigs are less mobile in the winter months, plenty of space will encourage them to explore their hutch and exercise more (especially if some tasty treats are involved!).  

Shelter

You will need to keep their accommodation sheltered from any rain, snow and strong, cold winds.  Covering the run with tarpaulin at the warmest part of the day will help to keep the heat in. Insulating their hutch by wrapping it with blankets and waterproof cover will help keep the hutch warm – (ensure there is good ventilation and light if doing this). Consider bringing them indoors, or use conservatories, garages or utility rooms that can be easily cleaned afterwards. Small furries need deep, dry bedding to stay warm and cosy over the colder months.  Adding a cardboard box filled with straw (warmer than hay) will offer great insulation. Pet safe heat pads can be added in the hutch for extra warmth; please ensure that any heat pads are wrapped well to avoid scalds or burns and always monitor your pet when using heat pads/hot water bottles.

 Water

Water bottles/bowls are likely to freeze over winter. Wrapping the bottles in bubble wrap or insulating wraps (can be purchased online or in pet shops) will reduce the chances of water freezing. Make sure that you check there is always water available to drink.

Feeding

 90% (at least body size portion) of a small furries daily diet should be predominately good quality hay.  1 – 2 table spoons of bunny/guinea pig nuggets/ pellets (use as treats only) and an adult sized hand full of suitable fresh vegetables (morning and evening).  Fresh grass can also be available however not grass clippings (this causes the grass to ferment quickly and can cause stomach upsets). 

Health

Checking your small furries a few times a day (vital in the colder months) especially for older and younger/thinner pets that are more prone to suffering with cold related health problems. Rabbits and guinea pigs do not hibernate; this makes it extra important to monitor your pet’s daily water and food intake and mobility.  If your bunny or guinea pig stops eating and stops producing faeces, consult your vet ASAP. It is really important to keep food offered at all times and monitoring both urine and faecal output.  Rabbits and guinea pigs are prey species and tend to hide and keep very quiet when very poorly to avoid being targeted, sadly by time they show any of these signs of slow mobility and hiding it could be too late.

 No question is ever silly and contacting a vet or nurse for advice is always welcomed by the team at both Shepton and Wells branches. 

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