Posts Tagged ‘bunny’

Fly strike in rabbits – and how to avoid it.

An estimated 1.5 million rabbits are kept as pets in the UK. They are increasingly popular, no doubt for their sweet, amusing personalities and, what some might be surprised to hear, their surprising ability and willingness to learn and to be interactive members of the family. Awareness of the best way to care for rabbits is on the increase. From the requirement to keep them with at least one other rabbit, to their complex dietary needs, bunnies are being cared for better than ever. And yet there is one issue, one agonising problem that rabbits continually come to us vets with, and that is fly strike. Fly strike is an unpleasant, painful and sometimes fatal condition that, tragically, is often only noticed once it is well developed. We can help you to recognise the early signs, and to make some very necessary checks for this awful disease.

First it’s helpful for you to know what fly strike is (technical term for fly strike is myiasis), and it really is just as its name describes. The green bottle fly seeks an environment to lay its eggs. The perfect environment is one which is warm and preferably with a ready food source. Bunnies, as well as other animals such as sheep, commonly fit the description, especially if their rear ends are covered in faeces or urine, as the odour attracts the fly.

Having been laid upon the rabbit, eggs develop into maggots, which in turn feast upon your bunny’s flesh. It is as gruesome as it sounds and also extremely painful. The sooner we see these bunnies at the vets, the sooner we, along with our strong-stomached nurses, can painstakingly remove each maggot with special instruments. We will provide your bunny with pain relief, fluid therapy, and whatever else they might need for the best chance of recovery.

It is obvious then, that preventing this kind of suffering is far better than curing it. The first step in the fight against fly strike is to identify it early, so it’s helpful to know which rabbits are especially at risk.

Those with dirty derrieres is the best place to begin. It is vital that rabbit enclosures are cleaned out regularly, and this is especially true in the spring and summer months because a dirty environment will attract the green bottle fly. A large, suitably-sized enclosure is not only important for the mental well-being and physical fitness of a rabbit, but will also allow them to move away from dirty areas, keeping themselves clean. Given the chance, a rabbit is a clean creature, who likes to urinate and defecate in one area, and eat, play and sleep in another.

Another key risk factor for fly strike is obesity, due to low-slung rear ends dragging through faeces and urine, as well as the inability for overweight rabbits to get to the ‘hard to reach’ areas in order to clean themselves effectively. Ensuring an appropriate diet and keeping your rabbits in good, healthy condition can do wonders for preventing fly strike.

What’s more, an overly rich diet causes faeces to be soft, sometimes runny and therefore more likely to coat their fur. For example, you might be surprised to learn that 85% of a rabbit’s diet should be roughage such as hay or grass. For more information on the appropriate diet for your rabbit, and to ensure you’re feeding roughage, vegetables and commercially prepared pellets in the right proportions, please get in touch, we are more than happy to advise.

Another group of rabbits that are less fussy about personal hygiene are the aged. As a rabbit embarks on a slower pace of life, perhaps they are less inclined to move away from dirty areas in their enclosure. Arthritis is also a very real problem that can make it hard for rabbits to contort themselves in such a way as to allow themselves to clean every nook and cranny. Thus older rabbits are potentially more likely to be dirty and therefore are exposed to increased risks.

So as well as a clean environment, maintaining a healthy body weight and a good quality and appropriate diet, how else can we prevent fly strike?

Fundamental to the care of your rabbit is checking them from nose to tail regularly. Not only should you check for other parasites, cuts and bumps, the condition of teeth, rabbit owners also need to be checking their rear ends undercarriage every day. Checking for fly eggs, sores (another way-in for maggots) and cleaning away any muck is necessary.

It will have the added bonus of desensitising a rabbit to being handled, which will in turn make them a more sociable pet. Other signs indicative of fly strike include lethargy, anorexia and potentially a strong odour. Should you notice any of these signs, you should get in touch immediately.

There are topical treatments available for the prevention of fly strike and we highly recommend that you use them during the warmer months. Our preferred treatment is one that you apply to your rabbit every ten weeks and it acts as a repellent to flies – ask one of our vets for details of this prescription-only medicine.

We hope you have found this information useful. The key message here is check regularly and get in touch with us for advice if you are in any doubt.

The cost of a rabbit

Rabbits are charismatic, inquisitive and intelligent beings. They can be wonderful pets, if you can offer them sufficient space and time, and the ability to express natural behaviours such as company with their own species, and plenty of food to forage on. We must also consider the financial implications of welcoming a Peter Rabbit or a Bugs Bunny into our lives; despite their small size, regular vet trips on top of bedding and food costs can really add up! Let’s have a look at some of the costs of getting – and keeping! – a long-eared friend.

One off costs

  1. A home! A rabbit will need a large hutch to stretch his powerful legs in, and, ideally, an outdoor run too. A nice outdoor home for your rabbit can cost around £200, and often considerably more, and will require replacement or fixing if the wood begins to rot. Indoor homes can be under half the price of an outdoor run, but do be careful to ensure your rabbit has enough space to take big hops comfortably, stand up on his hind legs, and lie down fully stretched out.
  2. Water bottles and food dishes. Equipment like this will also need to be bought, and many people decide to use a hay-rack, fitted inside their rabbit’s home, to enable them to keep their bedding and food separate. It is also a great idea to get your rabbit toys to gnaw on, and wear down their ever-erupting teeth.
  3. Castration and spaying. It is highly advisable to have a doe (female rabbit) spayed, or a buck (male rabbit) neutered. These procedures can prevent cancers in both males (testicular cancer), and females (uterine and ovarian, and greatly reduce the chance of mammary tumours). It will also allow you to keep bucks together with a reduced chance of fighting, or mixed-sex pairings without the risk of some kittens! (A ‘kitten’ is the term used for baby rabbits.)

Regular costs

The expenditures don’t stop once you have bought and housed your rabbit; in fact, that’s only the tip of the iceberg (lettuce)!

  1. Food! Rabbits will require a small amount of specially formulated rabbit food, as well as plenty of green, leafy vegetables, hay and grass to keep their incredible guts moving along. The prices of rabbit food are very variable and, of course, a Continental Giant will require more than a Netherland Dwarf!
  2. Bedding. Rabbits love to make little nests, and will require ample, thick, clean bedding to prevent conditions such as pododermatitis (sore feet and hocks). Wood-chip shavings and a nest of hay are often advisable, however, rabbits will most probably eat the hay, so be careful in our overweight friends.
  3. Veterinary bills. Rabbits will need to be vaccinated against Myxomatosis; this virus can cause large sores on the rabbit, a severe eye inflammation and infection (conjunctivitis), and severe secondary bacterial infections. Couple all of this horribleness with inappetence, and the virus will almost certainly kill your rabbit. We must also protect against Viral Haemorrhagic Disease, or VHD. VHD can kill rabbits in under 48 hours. Both of these conditions are highly traumatic for a loving owner to have to witness, but thankfully, they are both preventable with a vaccine. Unfortunately, this does come at a cost, please call us for the latest vaccination prices.

Rabbits’ teeth are constantly erupting; they have a large amount of reserve tooth below the gum line, which means your rabbit’s teeth are always getting longer. It is essential that they have plenty of forage to grind their teeth down, however, they may also require dental treatment from us.

We must always be on the alert for accidents, and emergency veterinary bills can be covered by insurance, where you will pay a premium (monthly or annually), and an excess (a minimum contribution towards all vet costs, and the insurers will pay the rest). For this reason, we will usually encourage you to take out an insurance premium to cover your rabbit, too.

We wish you all the very best with your rabbit. They are loving, endearing and intelligent pets, and with the joys of owning a rabbit come responsibilities. It is best to be aware of the financial implications of taking on a rabbit, as many people underestimate the expenditure of rabbits on the basis of their small size!

“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter” – Beatrix Potter, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”