ANIMAL MAGIC: A weekly column from Alder Veterinary Practice, of Spalding and Bourne
Well, the Spring Equinox has passed, the clocks have jumped forward and, suddenly, glorious, sunny spring weather has arrived. And for some strange reason the mystery of dead flies on the window-ledge has resurfaced.
I don’t know where they hide over winter, and the house has been kept closed up because of the recent freezing weather, but there they are at the window reminding us of the problems that are going to appear soon.
Most of us are aware of the condition of fly strike in our pet rabbits during the warmer wetter months of spring. This serious condition is caused by the maggots of blow flies that are attracted to smelly areas of rabbits.
If there are open sores the flies lay their eggs and within a few hours these hatch into maggots which start feeding on your rabbit’s flesh. Disgusting though this, is it is an issue we must address as quickly as we can to prevent your rabbit going into shock and potentially dying from this attack.
Before we discuss treatment of this condition, we must think about stopping flies getting to your rabbit in the first place. Only slim rabbits can wash and clean themselves properly. Never over feed your rabbit. It should mainly feed on hay (at least 80 per cent of its diet) and concentrates should be limited to 40g per day.
If your rabbit suffers from urinary disease, diarrhoea, teeth or back problems these can all lead to a soggy bottom which as we all know must be avoided! Clip long hair from around the back end of your rabbit and ask advice about any disease you think he may be suffering from.
Decrease the number of flies around the cage. Make sure the hutch is large with a big run so that your rabbit can move away from the dirt area. In a rabbit warren, make a toileting cave well away from the living area. This makes it possible to litter train domestic rabbits, as they too, like to be hygienic. Perhaps put some fine fly mesh on the cage to prevent the entry of flies and other insects.
Another tip is to apply Rearguard to your rabbits. It won’t stop the flies from landing, but it stops the eggs from hatching. However, this does need to be repeated every 10 weeks
Early detection of fly strike is often missed, especially as the fly eggs can hatch so quickly. Rabbits will bite or nibble at the affected area or become lame and smelly. Often, fly strike is recognised when the rabbit goes into shock and collapses. Veterinary care involves picking off each individual maggot and intensive treatment for shock and damaged skin and it can take several days for a full recovery Early treatment is more effective.
By using preventative measures, you are much more likely to avoid this horrible disease and have a happy, healthy rabbit. We are including the application of Reaguard in our Bunny Spa days so get in touch and we’ll book your bunny in for a treat.