Just when it seems like we might finally be able to enjoy some sunshine and warmer weather, along comes another reminder that increasing temperatures can bring increased risks for your pets! Sorry about that!
Those of you with rabbits in your lives will probably already know about flystrike – a painful and potentially fatal condition spread by the bluebottle flies that are more active in the warmer months. Attracted by the scent of urine or faeces, the fly will lay its eggs on a rabbit’s skin. Unless removed by careful grooming, these eggs hatch into maggots that begin to eat the poor animal’s flesh. Horrible as this is to contemplate, the condition can escalate very quickly, and sadly many rabbits with flystrike die.
Rabbits who are unable to clean themselves effectively are particularly at risk – for example elderly, injured or sick pets – as are those kept in hutches and runs that are not regularly cleaned. Otherwise healthy rabbits suffering from temporarily loose stools are also vulnerable.
If you ever find any visible maggots on your pet, remove these with tweezers and take the rabbit to see a vet immediately – this is a genuine emergency situation as affected rabbits will not only be in great pain from their wounds, but can also be in danger of experiencing toxic shock.
Fortunately there are some simple steps you can take in order to greatly reduce the risk of your beloved rabbit suffering with flystrike:
- Regular grooming is essential, removing any matted fur or faecal matter from around the bottom.
- Removing soiled bedding and litter daily, and giving the hutch and run a thorough clean at least once a week.
- Checking your rabbit daily for sores – the condition takes hold very quickly.
- Applying an animal-safe spray or powder designed to repel flies – Rearguard is a popular choice for rabbits, and your vet can also offer specific advice that’s tailored to your pet.
- Planting rabbit-safe flowers and herbs known to repel flies close to the hutch (suitable varieties are listed in the flystrike information section of the Rabbit Welfare Society’s website.
- Placing fly paper or insectocutors above your rabbit’s hutch, safely out of harm’s way.
However, the bottom line (excuse the pun!) is that it’s simply not possible to eliminate all risk from flystrike. Outdoor rabbits will be exposed to flies all year round, although the problem is known to be more commonplace in the summer. Vigilance is by far your best weapon against this horrible condition, and it’s never a hardship to spend time bonding with your bunny as you give him/her a good grooming and a thorough checking over.
Until next time, best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team,
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support
Please note: The Ralph Site is not affiliated with the third-party organisations in any of the links shared here, and the views, ideas and suggestions expressed in this and other blogs are simply shared with the intention of helping you, our friends, take care of the special animals in your lives.