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Rabbits 

A rabbit's diet should be made up of good quality, fresh pellets, fresh hay (alfalfa, timothy or oat) or grass, water and fresh vegetables. Anything beyond that is a treat and should be fed only in small quantities.

Fly strike in rabbits

Fly strike (Myiasis) is caused by flies which lay eggs on living rabbits. The flies are attracted to damp fur, urine, faeces or the odour of rabbit scent glands. They lay eggs on or around the rabbit's rear end which hatch in a very short period into maggots that eat into your bunny's living flesh. Fly strike in domestic rabbits is a common problem throughout the summer months.
 
Flies will strike healthy animals too, but more frequently those that have a wet and dirty groin area are most at risk. Any rabbit which is unable to clean itself properly is at greater risk of becoming infected, typically this includes obese rabbits, females with large dewlaps, or skin folds around their abdomen, rabbits with urinary problems, elderly or arthritic rabbits, long-coated breeds, and rabbits with teeth problems who are unable to groom themselves. Wounds also provide a perfect place for the flies to lay their eggs, as the odour and moisture from the flesh attracts them.

Treatment

If you find maggots on or around your rabbit, immediate veterinary attention is required and the situation should be treated as an emergency. If possible, ring ahead, so we can treat your rabbit immediately as he will probably be in pain and shock and will require careful nursing if he is to survive.

Prevention

Fly strike is a distressing and potentially fatal condition which can be prevented by a few simple measures.  Unfortunately we cannot eliminate flies from the rabbit’s environment and therefore we should keep a watch full eye over the rabbit, especially during the summer months. 

  • Check your rabbit for problems at least once daily and preferably more often.
  • Remove all soiled bedding daily
  • Ensure that your rabbit is fed correctly, as diarrhoea will lead to a dirty groin, also obesity can predispose to flystrike.
  • Feed greens and fruit in moderation, as some rabbits can not tolerate an over-abundance of green food again leading to diarrhoea and a dirty anus . For the same reason, take care when putting your rabbit out on the lawn in the summer, not to allow too much access to fresh grass
  • Keep the rabbit dry and free of faeces
  • Clean hutches every week
  • Keep the hair around the anus very short by trimming with scissors or clippers.
  • There are spot on products available which help to prevent flystrike, please ask us for more details.
    Ridding the environment of flies, by means of chemical insecticides may damage the environment, animals, and people along with the flies. Fly traps catch many flies but not all. Screens on doors and windows reduce the number of flies that get into the house, but some slip through. Nylon netting can be used to cover outdoor hutches and runs, to prevent flies entering your rabbit's environment. It can also be used to create inner fly doors in sheds. But do take care not to trap any flies inside when hanging it.

Rabbit dentistry

Rabbits have amazing teeth. The large front teeth are only a small part of the story. It’s the molars, hidden away at the back of the mouth, that do most of the work - and cause most of the problems. Rabbits eat grass which is fibrous and abrasive, but their teeth grow continuously and rapidly enough to ensure there is always a fresh new tooth surface to grind food efficiently. Watch a rabbit chewing hay: you’ll see the jaw moving from side to side. It’s this crucial chewing action which, together with the right diet, keeps the back teeth the correct length.

So, what goes wrong?

If the teeth aren’t worn down properly by chewing abrasive plants (grass) the teeth crowns grow too long. As a result the correct chewing motion is lost. Next, the top and bottom teeth start pressing together when the mouth is closed and the teeth can no longer erupt upwards. Instead, they grow backwards into the jaw. It’s these overgrown tooth roots projecting into the jaws and skull that cause so many problems for our rabbits.

Even leading authorities cannot agree on the exact cause of poor dental health in rabbits, however, far too many pet rabbits are eating the wrong diet. Rabbits need a natural diet based on hay or grass and greens, with very limited quantities of rabbit mix or pellets. As well as providing adequate calcium, hay and greens based diets provide the abrasive green foods required for correct hind jaw function. Feeding correctly also reduces the likelihood of obesity. Unlimited hay is absolutely essential.

How do we treat dental disease

The first step is to get your rabbit examined, however, a full dental exam may require sedation or anaesthesia. We may also recommend dental radiographs to assess the full extent of the damage. We then use a guarded electric burr to reduce overgrowths and to re-establish more normal tooth contact.
We do not recommend the use of clippers for cutting incisor teeth as this may lead to splitting of the tooth and damage to the roots.
 
Rabbit Vaccinations

Rabbits can (and should) be vaccinated against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD).
Myxomatosis is a frequently lethal disease of rabbits with a high mortality rate caused by a virus of the pox family. It is common among the wild rabbit population in the UK and is spread by direct contact and by insects. Fluids from a infected rabbit such as discharge from the eyes, nose or lesions on the skin contain the virus and can infect another rabbits through scratches, abrasions or contact with mucus membranes.

Insects including mosquitoes, ticks, mites, lice and fleas can all carry the disease. This means that even if your rabbit doesn't come into contact with other rabbits it is still important to vaccinate. Insect carriers mean the disease can be transmitted over distances and even indoor rabbits are at risk.

Prevention:

Rabbits can be vaccinated against Myxomatosis from 5 weeks of age. Rabbits should not be vaccinated while pregnant or ill. After the first vaccination regular boosters are required. Boosters are given either every 12 months or every 6 months, depending on the risk in your local area.

Vaccination does not guarantee that a rabbit will not contract myxomatosis, there is still a small risk. Vaccinated rabbits contracting myxomatosis also have a greater chance of recovery.

As insects are the main way myxomatosis spreads controlling them is an important way to minimise the risk of infection. It is important to treat other household pets such as cats and dogs for fleas. If you have an outbreak of fleas it will also be necessary to treat the house and carpets. Treatment for mites and lice can be recommended by your vets. Hutches and other living accommodation can be cleaned with anti-mite disinfectants designed specifically for use on animal cages. Hanging sticky fly paper (out of reach of rabbits teeth) can help control fleas and flies. Electronic fly traps can be used inside. Its important not to use fly sprays around your rabbit or other pets.

Viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD)

What is Viral Haemorrhagic Disease?

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) is a more recent disease that Myxomatosis, it was first reported in the UK in only 1992. It is spread through direct contact between rabbits and also through contaminated surfaces such as bedding, hutches and clothing. This means both indoor and outdoor rabbits are at risk. It can survive for 3 months at room temperature. The incubation period is 1-3 days and death usually occurs 12-36 hours after the onset of fever.

Symptoms

Symptoms can include high fever, lethargy, collapse, convulsions, paralysis, breathing difficulties, loss of appetite and bleeding from the nose. In some cases (approx. 1 in 10) there are no visible symptoms. The rapidness of the disease means that the rabbit may die within 24 hours of noticeable symptoms.

Prevention - Vaccination

Vaccination is very successful and can be done from 5 weeks of age. A booster needs to be given ever 12 months to ensure continued protection.

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