Many birds and small animals are not native to Australia and not naturally equipped to deal with the blistering summer heatwaves. At the height of summer, the best option, especially for small animals is to offer them sanctuary inside under controlled temperatures. For birds in an aviary, this may not be an option, so here are some tips to help you get your pets through those sweltering summer days.
Temperatures over 28°c may cause heat stress. Preferred or safe temperatures for small animals are roughly 16-24°c
DANGER ZONE: PETS IN DISTRESS!
Animals stressed by the heat will often behave differently than normal. They may lose their balance, collapse or appear lethargic and stressed. Below are some tell tale signs that your pet will display when it is distressed. It’s essential for you be able to identify these signs, and to know what to do if you see them, but the main thing to remember is that heat stress can set in quickly and you must seek veterinary attention immediately.
During summer, if inside the house is not an option for pets then access to full shade, cool water and electrolytes is essential.
You may have to move your pet’s cage during the day to ensure they have access to shade all day long. Even a few minutes in full sun can be enough to kill on hot days!
Shade cloth is a simple and effective means of reducing temperatures.
If using metal cages keep in mind they retain the heat and your pet will not be able to keep cool.
A misting system can be a tremendous help, and on average will reduce the temperature by about 10 degrees. Make sure you place it somewhere your pet can get cool, but still leaving enough dry area to get away from the mist if they want to.
Cool clean water is essential. Cool being the operative word. Adding a block of ice to water containers and freezing water bottles can help. If using bowls for water, then try to use deeper bowls rather than wide shallow bowls as water will stay cooler for longer. Adding a little bit of Spark Liquid to the water ensures your pet stays hydrated and recharged.
HEAT STRESS AND LIFESAVING ELECTRO – WHATS??
Cooling your pet down is only half the battle. The other half is trying to keep their body chemistry normal. Without getting really complicated, when animals or people get hot, changes begin taking place within the body that can lead to heat stress. These changes are centered around electrolytes and the loss of these all important components of the body due to dehydration.
All animals have electrolytes including humans. They are essential for cells and organs to function normally.
So making electrolytes available to our pets becomes a really important and lifesaving factor. You can use Spark Liquid for this job. Simply add it to your animal’s clean cool water, and you will support your pets with the final piece of equipment they need to deal with the burning inferno that is our beloved Australian summer.
If you rescue an animal suffering from heat stress and dehydration, wrap it loosely in a towel, place in a cardboard box and offer water to drink. Spraying with a fine mist of water can help to cool it down. Leave it in a dark, cool and quiet place and contact your local wildlife organisation. Be sure to record the location of where the animal was found so that it can be returned to the area if it recovers.
I’ve been framed
Mice and rats were once feared as dirty disease carrying vermin. For years people blamed the “Dark Ages” on rats carrying the bubonic plague. We now know we can blame the fleas, vindicating rats and mice from their poor reputations. (You just can’t enter a petshop without watching these endearing little acrobats play around in their cages. Luckily, taking care of one (or a few) is just as easy and fun as watching them play).
Rats or Mice?
Choosing between a mouse and a rat can be hard. The care of each is similar, but rats will need much larger cages. As mice can squeeze through holes smaller than a 5 cent piece, it’s ideal to pick a cage that is glass or plastic and has been built specifically for housing them. It’s also best to pick a cage that will house a few animals as rats and mice are very social. Rats in particular are known to get depressed when kept alone! Rats are known to “laugh” when happy, tickle each other and use peer pressure on other rats, as they don’t want to be left out of the group.
Clean Freaks & Little Stinkers
Rats are generally cleaner than mice and will allocate a section of their cage for food, a section for waste and a section for sleeping. Mice are messier, creating up to 50-75 droppings a day! Mice also use their urine to mark their favourite “trails” and release micro-droppings of urine constantly as they walk about, so their cages must be cleaned frequently.
Rats and mice love to play and should be given lots of attention from their human companion. After taking them home, start by gently offering the new pet some treats. Once they are comfortable taking treats from the hand, they can then be gently petted, before moving onto gentle handling and cuddling. Speaking to them in a calm soothing voice will also get them used to their new human friend. Rats especially love to climb and are very curious, so they adapt well to being a pampered pet.
Rats adapted to tackle challenges, they developed hooked claws to aid in climbing and a tail that can grip objects. Their bodies are shaped to survive in almost any climate, and they can find their way across any surface. They also use their paws to manipulate items. Rats are capable swimmers, can jump distances of nearly 1.5m and cannot sweat! They regulate their body temperature through their long tail. Rats are able to survive drops of over 1m and can go up to 14 days without food. Rats can also go without water longer than a camel.
Mice eat about 15-20 times a day and rats learn form an early age what they should and shouldn’t eat. Rats are usually more suspicious of new food sources and tend to sample small amounts of food to test the effects it has on their digestive system. Mice and rats are “concentrate selectors”. This means that they will pick the fattiest and tastiest foods from their bowls first. It’s best to choose a quality pellet diet as it is consistently the same. Meaning long term nutritional deficiencies are not caused by this natural rodent tendency. They should also be given a wide variety of healthy fruits and vegetables. Peas, broccoli, carrots and apples are some of their favourites.
For optimal health in rats and mice look no further! Vetafarm’s Rodent Origins doesn’t deliver second rate nutrition, this diet is purpose built using natural whole ingredients and is cooked to perfection delivering the best rodent diet ever.
If you walk into any store that sells food for rabbits and guinea pigs, you will probably find shelves full of grain, hay and muesli mixes. Often these foods are labelled as rabbit AND guinea pig foods, but many people do not realise that rabbits and guinea pigs, although both herbivores, have very different dietary requirements. Therefore, mixes that claim to cater for both species are just not suitable and can lead to dental disorders, incorrect bone development (for growing animals) and digestive malfunctions!
What you need to know about hay:
Hay should be fresh and available 24/7. There are many different types of hay and they all have a purpose. It is important to know what to feed, and when to feed your pet.
Rough, high fibre hay is great for maintaining teeth and encourages natural behaviour like foraging and chewing. High fibre hay is also critical for a healthy and functional digestive system. Fibre Rich Fescue replicates the type of food rabbits eat naturally.
We recommend Fresh Cut Lucerne for guinea pigs as it is higher in protein and calcium than fescue. Lucerne is also more suitable for growing animals, pregnant or lactating mothers and those animals with a medical requirement for higher protein.
What you need to know about pellets:
Quality pellets that are specifically made for guinea pigs or rabbits, like Rabbit and Cavy Origins, are important in every stage of your pet’s life. Pellets should only make up 20% of the diet and overfeeding pellets in both rabbits and guinea pigs can lead to obesity and other medical conditions.
Lastly, but most importantly:
Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Vetafarm recommends sanitizing water containers, food bowls and hutches. They should be cleaned and then sprayed with a disinfectant, like Vetafarm Hutch Clean at least once a week.