This is Flystrike in Rabbits (graphic content)

This article is about how one of our rabbits got the worst case of flystrike our vet had ever seen.

Last night, about half an hour after I posted my last article, I got called outside by my husband. One of our rabbits, Sebastian, was lying on his side in his run, his eyes looked sort of dead but he was still breathing/moving. I wasn’t quite sure what was wrong with him, I examined him as much as I could, I actually thought he’d broken his spine. There was literally nothing showing on the outside of his body at this point. I don’t have any pictures of how we found him because I wrapped him in a towel, phoned the vet, and, upon realizing we had no car and that no taxi in the universe was going to take a sick rabbit to a vet, I ran the 2 miles to the vet, carrying the bunny in my arms wrapped in the towel, trying my best to hold him gently, with my husband alongside, carrying the rabbit carry case (because the angle the rabbit was found at, he wouldn’t actually go in our extra large carry case which is actually for my Jack Russell terrier, even though Sebastian is a Netherland Dwarf, the smallest pet bunny breed).

When I got to the vet, they were fantastic.  They literally threw out a woman mid-consult so they could take in our rabbit (I apologized profusely to her) and they got him straight to the medical area in the back.

Exhausted from the run, I went to the Spar next to the vet’s to get a coca cola, because I needed some liquid sugary crap in my system. When I got back to the waiting area, they called us straight through.

Sebastian had the worst case of fly strike the vet had ever seen in her decade or more of clinical practice. He had to be put to sleep immediately, and we held him and my husband stroked his nose (I wanted to as well, but he only had a tiny nose and my husband has large hands) while the vet did it there and then.

Fly strike is where a fly lays eggs under the surface of the bunny’s skin and they hatch into maggots that eat the rabbit alive. I don’t know if it’s a particular species of fly that does it, because I’ve always been a little confused on the fact that maggots are only suposed to eat dead flesh, but Sebastian was the first fly strike bunny we’ve had, and I saw the evidence. When the vet opened his back legs, I could see that the flies had eaten half his internal organs.

I had been checking the rabbits about twice a week (as well as obviously going out to spend time with them daily, and so was my husband), but I now know that’s not often enough. It took less than 6 hours for this to happen, for our bunny to go from his usual self to near death.  The vet said it can take under 24 hours from the eggs being laid to the rabbit being eaten alive by maggots. And that’s basically what happened.

The photos that follow show you what fly strike looks like at its worst. They are very graphic. I purposely put the featured image of a less awful picture so I didn’t upset people. I didn’t take many pictures because we needed to bury him quickly, but I wanted to share this so that people know how bad fly strike can get.

This was my pet bunny, and it could be yours:

This is flystrike in adult male rabbit age 11 years.
This is flystrike. Adult male Netherland Dwarf rabbit 11 years 5 months old.

 

Flystrike fly strike in rabbits clinical cases
This was under his fur on the outside, but his thick fur was in the way, so we couldn’t see what had happened. Bottom left was his tail.
Flystrike fly strike in rabbits netherland dwarf adult male 11 year old rabbit
This was the other side, as you can see, there are still lumps under the surface indicating that not all the maggots have hatched/emerged yet.

We showed him briefly to Fifer and Poppy, who were his (non-bonded) friends, but we couldn’t leave him with them because the vet couldn’t get the maggots out, and we had to bury him in the ground as quickly as possible, in the towel we took him to the vets in (because it had to be chucked anyway).

Sebastian lived to be 11 years and 5 months of age.  I always hoped he’d go in his sleep.

Sebastian and Neville rabbits
Goodbye Sebastian (left), you are with Neville (right) again now.
Advertisements

Keep Your Rabbit Cool In A Heatwave

Keeping rabbits cool in summer can be daunting.  This has been the hottest week of the year in the UK, and with temperatures pretty much soaring worldwide in the Northern Hemisphere (sorry, Oz), it’s important to keep bunnies safe from sun and heatstroke too!

rabbits die in hot hutches keep bunny cool

We all know that dogs die in hot cars, but rabbits regularly die in hot hutches as well, especially young rabbits (less than a year old). Lack of ventilation, hutches placed in direct sunlight, and the ammonia from a hutch that hasn’t been cleaned in a while all take their toll on rabbits. I’m not being OTT here, these are all things I’ve learned from having tons of buns for years. Here’s how to keep bunnies cool and safe and happy and snuggled in all this hot weather we’ve been having:

Don’t:
Leave rabbits in a hutch on hot days. They need to be able to move around and find shade (or a cool breeze) and additionally, they panic if they feel trapped, which will only make them hotter.

Assume their water bottles are sufficient. Rabbits have been not drowning in puddles for thousands of years, and a bowl of water that they can put their face in to cool down will really help them out. Be aware that they might knock it over, and refill as needed.

Put sunblock or other human sun protection products on rabbits:  It sounds good in theory, but please never do this.  Rabbits will lick it off and ingest it, and sunscreen’s not good for them, and it won’t reach their skin in any case.

Leave hutches in direct sunlight. Even when the rabbits aren’t in them, they will get hot and cause the ammonia from their urine to degrade. This can cause a potentially toxic vapour that can suffocate rabbits when you put them to bed.

Forget to clean the hutches out at least once a week in summer. The temperature and the amount of insects around means that it’s easy for a hutch to acquire maggots, which will lead to bunny fly strike, a deadly disease.

Ignore warning signs: If your bunny is visibly too hot, not really moving much, breathing heavily, and clearly uncomfortable, you need to take action (see how below).

Never, ever, ever touch a nest with newborns (younger than 8 weeks) baby rabbit kittens in it:  Even to move them somewhere cooler.  If the mother smells the babies have been interfered with by anyone who isn’t herself, she will reject them and they will die (yes, you can try to hand rear them, no, it often doesn’t work).  The mother will move them if she thinks they’ll have a better chance of survival, and she comes from a long line of rabbits who didn’t fail to care for their young (or she wouldn’t be alive herself), trust her to know what’s best for her babies, unless she’s got brain damage.  Rabbits have very good mothering instincts that are better than those of most human mothers.  Additionally, if you go near the nest while she’s around, she will attack you very viciously.  Put an ice block or a frozen bottle of water next to the nest, but not in it, and let the mother move it herself.  The only exception to this is if one of the babies needs a vet.

Do:
Get them a good sized enclosed rabbit run and put them out all day in hot weather (check they can’t dig out, or make sure your garden fence/wall will stop escapes if they do, if you’re at work all day). Leave the run in the shade and remember the shade changes direction as the sun changes position in the sky. An old doormat or cardboard box over one corner of the run will provide shade.  Don’t forget to give them water in the rabbit run!

Freeze some ice blocks for them and put these in the rabbit run so they have something cold to lie next to if they need it.

You could also put bricks in the freezer (if you remember from my article on keeping bunnies warm I mentioned putting a brick in the oven then put it in the rabbit hutch at night) and put these out in the hutch to cool the air in the hutch.

Get them a water bowl as well as their bottle (or a second water bowl) so that they always have some water, and check it every few hours if it’s a really hot day. Water is the most important thing for keeping bunnies alive in hot weather. If you do nothing else from my article, do this.

Keep topping their water up.  Water water water water water.  That’s what rabbits need in hot weather.

If bunny gets too hot: Emergency bunny first aid for heatstroke:
If your bunny is visibly uncomfortable from the heat, get a jug or bucket of water and get the bunny wet. Avoid the face and ears, you just want to get their body wet to increase heat loss. If the bunny doesn’t jump up and try to run away (they really don’t like getting wet), check the temperature of their ears.

If the bunny’s ears are hot and the bunny is not moving much, breathing heavily (or not breathing), and generally unresponsive, they probably have heat stroke. It is preceded by heat exhaustion, which stops them raising the alarm about their state (this is true of humans too, although in people, the face tends to go red and they can even stop sweating).  This is more deadly to small animals than it is to humans (and it’s pretty dangerous to humans). At this point, you need to make an emergency appointment with the vet and get your bunny the care he needs to survive.

Personally, I wouldn’t waste any time, and I’d get a sick bunny to the vet (any vet) as soon as possible because they are stuck with a fur coat and feel the temperature a lot more than we do, they don’t have a very good cooling system and they’re not designed to be above ground trapped in a hot environment in summer weather, usually they’d be in their underground burrow at this time of day in the summer, chilling out with their friends.  We have, over centuries, forced them to live in our environment for our own entertainment, the least we can do is try to make it comfortable for them.