June has a full week of Rabbit Awareness. As the weather improves, we wanted to make all our rabbit owner clients aware of the dangers of Flystrike.
Blowflies cause this terrible disease by laying their eggs in the fur of a rabbit’s hindquarters or any material that will provide the maggots with food. The eggs can hatch into maggots in as little as 12 hours and then these maggots pupate in just a few days and produce new adults.
Everything happens extremely quickly – before an owner has even had time to notice and by then the maggots have eaten away at the skin and sometimes further into the body cavity.
Toxins are released by the rabbit’s blood that can cause shock and death, so it is vital to have them treated as soon as possible to increase their chances of survival.
The good news is that it is preventable and needs to be addressed right from the start. As the culprits are flies, it is vital to have as good a fly control as you can. Flies are attracted to dirty hutches so keep the rabbit’s living area as clean as possible.
A good tip, is to use the metal lid of a biscuit tin as the ‘toilet’ area for your rabbit. Place some of his droppings on it initially and whatever bedding you are using such as straw to get him used to using that area. It is then very easy and should take only 2 minutes each day to scoop out the droppings on the tray and give it a quick clean and push clean straw back onto the tray.
Disinfect the hutch weekly in the summer with a disinfectant that you can get from a petshop. Rabbits at highest risk are those that suffer from obesity, dental disease and arthritis.
Rabbits have a very impolite but necessary habit of licking and swallowing a lump of sticky droppings (caecotrophs) from their bottom that they produce every night. This is a necessity as it provides them with all the bacteria they need to digest their food and the bulk of a rabbit’s diet is HAY and grass material ie. roughage.
If they are too fat, have a problem with overgrown incisors or cutting teeth and are arthritic and stiff, they are unable to bend down to lick themselves and eat these sticky droppings.
This results in their bottom becoming impacted with sticky ‘faeces’ and this obviously attracts flies. Scouring or diarrhoea can be caused by too many vegetables. A diet high in roughage and hay is so important in rabbits.
Sometimes, even just leaving them to eat good quality hay for 24 hours, will sort out a diarrhoea and thus prevent flies being attracted to the hutch.
Watch out for teeth problems causing overgrown roots which disrupt the normal tear ducts and the result is a weepy eye. Eye infections also attract flies. The primary problem here is dental, so watch rabbits with overgrown teeth more closely.
Prevent teeth problems starting in the first place by feeding a good quality food rather than the muesli varieties which result in rabbits selecting the pieces they like and leaving the calcium rich pieces (or knocking over the remains of their food when they don’t like certain pieces) and then ending up with dental disease due to a calcium deficiency.
Apply Rearguard to your rabbit’s hindquarters every 10 weeks from April to October. It is a liquid that prevents the maggots developing to the stage that causes damage to the rabbit. If your rabbit is prone to a mucky bottom and needs regular baths, then apply Rearguard every 6 weeks.