The fantastic summer we’ve all been enjoying seems to have taken a slight turn forthe worse just in time for the school holidays (and my own!) but the current slightly damp spell is excellent news for the various insects who like to infest our pets.
Adult fleas will easily jump onto pets, taking up residence and repeatedly feeding on their blood. The skin can become incredibly itchy but worse is the rate at which the little blighters breed. A female flea can lay 30-50 eggs per day. These eggs are either left in the coat, or will drop off onto carpets, bedding, sofas and anywhere else your pet spends its time. The number of fleas in a house can very quickly reach epidemic proportions!
Ticks are relatively immobile, waiting in long grass for a passing host to cling on to.
Once attached, they grip hard and often stay put for several days. They’re not that easy to remove, and many people bring their pets to us.
Preventing these nasty little things feeding in the first place is important because as well as causing very sore reactions, they can transmit dangerous infections such as Lyme disease and Babesiosis, both of which can make our pets extremely ill.
The good news is that infestation by the most common ‘ectoparasites’ is very easily treated or prevented by spot-on treatments available over the counter from most vets.
Of more concern recently, especially for the poor animals affected, is ‘fly strike’.
We have seen several cases at the Whorral Bank hospital already this week. Flies are prolific at this time of year and love nothing more than to lay their eggs in warm, moist conditions. The type of conditions all too frequently found around the backsides of domestic rabbits.
Fly strike is a devastating condition, because fly larvae will hatch into maggots that can invade and cause horrific damage to the skin and underlying tissues.
A rabbit can enter a state of shock in less than 24 hours following fly strike, and often this is first time an owner will notice the problem. And it is often too late.
Treatment involves painstakingly removing sometimes hundreds of maggots from the affected rabbit, treating the wounds left behind, and the toxins that cause the shock. Thankfully some rabbits do survive their ordeal, but many are not so lucky.
Prevention of fly strike is easy. Firstly, an appropriate diet – at least 80 per cent grass or good quality hay – will help gut function and the production of hard faecal pellets. It also means there is less chance of obesity, so a rabbit can easily eat its ‘caecotrophs’ (the soft faeces that must be re-digested by rabbits). Fly strike is far more common in obese rabbits.
But above all, it is vital to check a rabbit over (and under) at least twice a day for signs of faecal matter, urine soaking, or fly eggs.
CHRIS GREEN, Director and Senior Vet