Thursday, 21 August 2008


A lot has happened to us as a family this year, related to health, all of which would make good material to blog about, but for one reason or another I have so far not been able to do so. The most recent of events though I find I can write about.

My daughter's bunny, 'Niffo', very sadly, and quite tragically, died a few days ago. Tragic because he died of a simply horrible and distressing condition know as 'fly strike' or 'myiasis'. We felt awful since had we known about this condition beforehand we could have taken steps to avoid this happening, but we had never heard of it, despite having done some research into caring for rabbits and it actually being quite common condition in Summer months.

Niffo was so soft and very cute. See here for yourself:

He had become a best friend for my daughter, who he used to follow around the garden. He knew his name and would run to my daughter whenever she called him. He loved affection and gave my daughter all the cuddles she craved whilst her little brother usually succeeded in winning all the adult affection in the house.

If you know anyone with a rabbit, or maybe own one yourself, or are thinking of buying one for your children, then do take some time to check on how to avoid this often fatal condition, which can result in a distressing and almost certainly painful death for any rabbit if it is not caught in the very early stages.

The following information is quite gruesome, but is written here to help inform people and thus maybe avoid some others suffering such a horrible occurrence.

Fly strike happens when a fly lays some eggs either in your rabbit's fur or near to your rabbit in its hutch. They are attracted to damp warm conditions. Any damp uneaten food or dirt from your rabbit, even a small amount, can provide ideal breeding conditions for flies. The eggs quickly hatch into tiny larvae which bury into the rabbits warm fur and into their skin where they feed on your rabbit as they grow into maggots before hatching into flies.

By the time you notice your rabbit is not himself, and then find the disgusting maggots (usually underneath your rabbit where they cannot easily be seen), it is often too late to save them. All maggots need to be removed, which is difficult, especially if they have a lot of fur, since they bury deep into the rabbit skin. The rabbit needs to be bathed well and all maggots need to be removed alive since if they are crushed they release toxins into the rabbit. Any wounds need treating with antiseptic and the rabbit needs an immediate course of antibiotics to treat infection, and should also be treated for shock. Immediate veterinary treatment is required, but unfortunately for many rabbits they do not survive, unless the maggots are removed very early on before they have had time to grow and do much damage.

The condition is obviously very distressing not only for the rabbit but also the owner. My daughter is now suffering horrible maggot dreams as a result, as well has coming to terms the loss of what had become her best friend.

Had we know in advance the high risk in the Summer months of this condition, especially since we have had a lot of rain this Summer and it has been hard to keep the hutch dry at all times, we would have taken precautions with extra cleaning of both hutch and rabbit, checking the rabbit's fur every day, fly repellents and even products Rearguard and Xenex in the Summer months that I hear provide a 10 week protection for the rabbit from this condition.

I had not previously understood the grieving process that a devoted pet owner has to go through when loosing their animal, but I do now. I have previously experienced tears and sadness from loosing a number of small pets such as fish, a budgie I had for 11 years, my sister's guinea pig and a little wild bird we had nearly nursed back to good health, but I had always been a little confused when seeing an extreme reaction from a pet owner who treats the death of a pet as if they had lost someone dear to them in the family, but now I have a better understanding as this event resurfaced the same feelings in myself from other sad losses in the family over the past year.

I also have yet again a renewed sense of just how important it is to get the right information regarding health to the people that need it. So many awful conditions are preventable with the right knowledge, which brings me once again back to MedWorm...

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