Here Comes Summer

By Annie Edwards

Finally, we are all happy to see that the long winter months are coming to a close, and those long dark days will soon be changing into long summer evenings!

Not only is this of benefit to us, but also to our rabbits, as now is the time when they are able to go out and enjoy the fresh spring grass.

A word of caution, however, rabbits having delicate digestions, may suffer adverse effects if allowed to graze unmonitored on this lush grass, very similar to the effects of too many greens, or too much dried food may also have on a rabbit. But, as we want our rabbits to enjoy the newly extended sunny evenings, a little and often maybe the key word at the beginning of the new season.

This advice is also relevant as not only does the spring and summer bring plenty of advantages it also brings a number of disadvantages. A long with the warmer weather comes the increase in flies, and with the flies comes the increased risk to rabbits of fly strike. This is the time of year when rabbit owners need to be extra vigilant in the care of their rabbits, as a dirty rabbit, is an attractive target to flies.

Fly strike is terrifying for the speed with which it can attack. Eggs laid on a rabbit by a greenbottle fly within hours will hatch into tiny wormlike larvae. Initially these larvae, almost naked to the human eye will be harmless, but within three days they will start to feed on your rabbit. The larvae will literally burrow deep into the rabbit and eat it alive, and it may only be until considerable damage has been done, before there are any outward signs, by which time it maybe too late.

So, what can we as rabbit owner do to prevent our rabbit from suffering such a horrible death, below is a basic 5 point plan for you to carry out every day, which will help deter against flystrike.

  1. Everyday check your rabbit from top to tail at various times. (Extremely important)
  2. Clean dirty areas of hutch on a daily basis to avoid it being an attractive settling spot for flies.
  3. Disinfect your pets home thoroughly once a week.
  4. Make sure the accommodation is adequately ventilated.
  5. Insecticidal sprays/flycatchers can be used to help deter flies, but ensure that they are pet safe. (Professional pet shops and your vet will be able to advise of a good insecticidal spray suitable for use on your rabbit. (Rearguard – see below).

Fly strike attacks both the healthy and the sick, so it is absolutely imperative not to neglect the tasks listed above, a rabbit that looks ‘okay’ is not good enough, you must check.

To summarise, fly strike is quick, so one day of neglect could have fatal results, ensure your rabbit has a healthy balanced diet which will help to avoid any tummy upsets. Visit your vet regularly to ensure that there are no dental problems, which may inhibit your rabbit’s ability to groom itself affectively. If in doubt, ask your vet to check that your rabbit has no other problems that may make it more vulnerable to an attack of fly strike.

A new weapon has been launched by Novartis Animal Health – ‘Rearguard’, this product helps larvae grow to the point where they may feed, and will therefore kill them before they can do any harm. This should be available from your vets, and may be worth obtaining soon.

REMEMBER: Prevention is better than cure.

Other Summer Tips

Water - Bowls of water will evaporate quickly in the heat. Make sure they are kept topped up or provide a water bottle in addition.

Shade - If your rabbits outside it needs access to shade, check this is available throughout the day, as the sun moves it may make previously shaddy spots sunny. Shade can easily be provided by pegging a towel or similar across the run.

Heat - Make sure inside areas are well ventilated, air conditioning units and fans should be out of reach of rabbits. Providing a cool surface such as a ceramic tile or similar in a shady area for you rabbit to lie on. A plastic bottle filled with water then frozen may also help on really hot days, supervise your rabbit to ensure it doesn't chew the plastic.

Heat Stroke - If your rabbit gets too hot it may suffer from Heat Stoke which is potentially lethal. This is also something to watch out for on car journeys, such as trips to the vet. The symptoms are heavy/laboured breathing and being floppy or unresponsive. If your rabbit is overheated its important to cool it down, this should be done gradually. Putting your rabbit in cold water can put it into shock! Instead use a cloth and tepid water to bath its ears and moisten its fur, move it into a cool area and contact your vet as emergency treatment maybe needed. To keep it cool on your way to the vet for treatment place it on a damp towel.

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