Julia's Weekly Midsussex Times Column

The dutiful Daddy and his strike against flies!

This Sunday is Father’s Day, so this week I would like to tell a story about a wonderful Dad.

Thumper was supposed to be the kid’s pet. But like many kids, Thumper’s young owners had found new interests and it fell to their Dad to manage his day to day care.

I saw Thumper for his rabbit vaccines recently, and wondered if any rabbit could ask for a better carer. This bun has been a lot of trouble over the years, and his owner really dislikes healthcare Clinics in general and needles in particular, yet he never shirks from doing his duty towards Thumper, just looking away squeamishly then apologising whenever I give him an injection!

Thumper is unfortunate with his teeth. I suppose that in the wild he would have had a short life. Perhaps due to not having a natural grassy diet, or perhaps because of his genes, his front teeth, the incisors, have a tendency to overgrow, which after a few short weeks can completely prevent him from eating.

His owner and I have tried every trick known to veterinary medicine to encourage them to wear down naturally against each other, but every now and again a problem arises and I have to burr them back into a good shape.

Last month, though, things were more complicated. It was during that lovely hot weather we had so early, like summer had come too soon, and already insects were out. Thumper’s teeth had got out of shape again, and not only could he not eat much he was also unable to clean himself up after going to the toilet.

The consequence was a very unpleasant smelly mess under his tail. Not very nice for us, but super attractive to flies. The kindly nurses spent half an hour, after I had sorted out his teeth, gently trimming and washing until as much of the mess had come off as possible, then slavered him in aloe vera.

But our biggest concern was the risk of fly strike. If a pregnant female fly of the blue bottle variety should sniff him out & lay her eggs in his fur, the maggots that hatch a short while later are flesh eaters. They gnaw their way into the bun’s flesh, releasing toxins as they go, leading to a painful and nearly inevitable death, unless dealt with at once.

We offered Thumper protective medication to repel flies, and suggest that all rabbit owners should automatically apply this as the weather improves towards summer. One application lasts 8-10 weeks, so may be sufficient if summer is short.

And should you see flies, fly eggs or maggots anywhere near your rabbit’s rear end, bring them straight into the Clinic for a check up - we may only have hours to save them. To read more about fly strike and rabbit care go to http://www.themewesvets.co.uk/?p=575

14th February 2018