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Rabbits/Fur loss and skin irritation


Skin irritation
Skin irritation  
QUESTION: I have a 7 year old Mini Lop doe. She is housed in a elevated wire cage inside of a barn. I haven't gotten her out for free roaming access in a couple of months. A few days ago I noticed that she was only eating about half of the food I gave her everyday. (I feed her 1/2 cup of Purina Rabbit Pellets feed each day) Two days ago I noticed the fur on her rump seemed musty. Today I checked on her and much of the fur on her rump was gone and the skin is all red and irritated. I also noticed that she has been breathing very heavily as well. There are 3 other rabbits who stay in separate but nearby cages to hers but they seem to be perfectly healthy. I recently moved her into my house to keep the flies off of her irritated skin. I have not taken her to a vet.

ANSWER: Hi Nichole:

From the photo and description it appears she either has fly-strike or hutch-burn.  Both could cause the same symptoms - but they are very different.  To narrow it down - I'll need a bit more information.

I know she is in a wire cage (which is good), but how clean is her cage kept.  I need a honest answer on this - don't be afraid to say it if her cage was dirty.  A dirty cage means her condition is likely hutch burn vs. fly-strike and fly-strike is far more serious.

So - did her cage have any urine build-up or feces build up?  Was there anything on the wire such as a resting pad, carboard, etc.  that could have been wet or had feces on it?

Check her anal opening and vulva CLOSELY- look into the opening.  Do you see ANY flies or maggots. I know its gross sounding - but its VERY important.

How has her poop been?  Is it normal in shape, size and quantity? or has it been softer, stinkier or less of it? -again, an important piece of the diagnostic process.  Any mushy/runny poops?

Is she still drinking?

Is there any way you can get me a close up photo of her anus/vaginal opening?

Since she's breathing heavy and not eating well, she's in serious shape and in order for me to help you, I'll need the info back as fast as you can get it to me.

Lastly - has she gotten any different feed or treats beyond her purina food?

Lisa L.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Anus/vaginal opening
Anus/vaginal opening  
QUESTION: About 2 months ago there was feces build up in her cage and I cleaned it off but there hasn't been any since then. That was the last time I cleaned her cage. There is no resting pad, ect. in her cage. I just noticed some worm/maggot type things crawling on the affected area. Her poop has been normal and she is still drinking, though it seems to be less everyday. I haven't been feeding her any different feed than I usually do.

ANSWER: The fact that you saw maggots confirmed my suspicion of fly-strike.

Given that the rabbits breathing is labored and she is eating less and pooping less, she is in a very, very critical state.

If it had just occurred, I could give you steps to manage the issue at home with a high recovery rate - but at this point she needs emergency treatment.

Take her to an exotic animal vet OR a standard vet that does a high volume of rabbits.  Be sure to ask because standard vets receive little to no training on rabbit health as they are considered "exotic" pets in the industry and most standard dog/cat vets aren't able to treat something as serious as fly-strike.

I cant emphasize enough how serious this is.

If there is absolutely, positively no way you can get her to a vet TODAY, then contact me back ASAP and I'll do what I can, but I honestly think its too far advanced to save her at home.

If you cant get her to a vet and you do need my assistance, you need to be able to get to a farm supply store TODAY and purchase several products that will cost about $75.00 in total OR order the products online and pay for overnight delivery which will cost more.  Her treatment cant be postponed another day.

When you get her to the vet, be sure to mention that there were flies and maggots on the area, that her breathing is labored and her food intake and fecal output are both diminished.

Please keep me updated, this is extremely serious.

Lisa L.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your help. As much as I want to take her to a vet, I am only 17 years old and my parents won't let me take her to a vet. Is there at least anything I can try at home that would help?

There are things you can try, but they include medication that you need to purchase at a grain store or a farm supply store.  Can you get to one today?  They would cost in the $75.00 range.

If not, then her chances of survival are very low, but I'll do my best to help you.  It's important that you follow everything I say if there's any chance of her surviving.

1st - she needs to come out of the barn and be moved into the house.  I realize the barn is air conditioned, but until her condition is totally healed (if she survives) she will need to be kept in an area where there is zero possibility of flies biting her again for the next month - so set up a temporary cage in the house.

Trim ALL the fur from the damaged area, making sure to trim the fur away from her anus and vaginal opening.

Now, with someone's help, you need to hold her bottom under a faucet and flush out her anus and vaginal openings with the water for at least 5 FULL MINUTES - do not stop sooner.  The water should be warm, but not hot.  Use enough water pressure that the water gets IN her, not just on her.

If you see ANY flies or maggots coming out of her as you are flushing, use tweezers to grab and discard them.

After the water flush, pat the area slightly dry and pour hydrogen peroxide all over the affected areas.  Use a lot and allow it to sit on her for 2-3 minutes.  You will need someone to help hold her legs open and to restrain her while doing all this.

Then, rinse the hydrogen peroxide off and use a hair dryer to totally and thoroughly dry the area.  Make sure it is completely dry.  Once she is dry, apply over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the red and damaged skin.

You'll need to perform the water flush & peroxide treatment daily for the next 7 days - don't skip any days.  She needs to stay indoors and her cage must be kept spotless; don't allow any urine or feces to stay on the wire.

"If" that manages to treat the fly-stike without antibiotic injection, you also need to rebuild her gut flora so she'll eat again.

Stop feeding pellets - immediately and in its place feed her timothy hay or orchard grass.  No greens, no house treats, no yard grass, no veggies, etc.  Nothing but timothy hay or orchard grass - which you should have since you have rabbits.  She will need to be on a hay only diet for the next week; possibly longer.  Give her all she will eat - no such thing as too much.

She also MUST have pineapple.  Fresh is best, but canned will do if its all you have.  It's the only way to get her digestive system moving again.  Give her 3-4 chunks a day - the total daily amount should be the size of a stick of butter.  Also, if you have any papaya, or if you can get any, feed her the same amount of that.

Now - this next part will require a trip to the store, but just the grocery store.
You need to buy a bottle of Snapple brand Lemon Iced Tea.  DO NOT BUY DIET - the artificial sweeteners in the diet version would kill her - get the regular Snapple lemon ice tea.
AND also get a bottle of infant pedialyte - found in the baby food aisle.  Total for both will be under $10.00.  While there, get a couple cans of pineapple if you don't already have some.

First, dilute the ice tea with 50% water and pour it in a bowl and give it to her.  
There's something about Snapple lemon iced tea that rabbits love and they will generally drink it even if they are very sick.  Give her about 1/4 cup at first and four hours later, give her another 1/4 cup.  Once she's had some of the iced tea, you can also add a bowl of water to her cage (along with unlimited timothy hay), but continue the iced tea at least twice a day.
If she's so sick she wont drink it, then use an eyedropper or syringe to force it down her throat.

In addition, you need to use an eye dropper or syringe to get pedialyte into her.  Force it if you have to.  Put the syringe in from the side of her mouth and shoot the pedialyte down her throat.  It has vital electrolytes that might keep her alive.  She  needs about 3 tbsp. 3x a day.

Lets Recap:

1) She needs to be moved indoors ASAP - and cannot go outside again until she is 100% healed.
2) You need to purchase Snapple Lemon Iced Tea (NOT DIET), pedialyte and pineapple - TODAY and if you don't already have it, get some timothy hay as well.
3) STOP feeding pellets and instead give her all she can eat of timothy hay.  Give her 1/4 cup of Snapple iced tea, diluted 50% with water in a bowl to drink.  Follow it with a second dose four hours later.  She should have a fresh clean bowl of water at all times, but also needs the diluted iced tea.  Force the diluted iced tea if necessary
4) She needs to be forced to take in infant pedialyte.  Use a syringe or eye dropper to get about 3 tbsp. in her and repeat 3x a day.
5) She needs to have her fur trimmed and her anus and vagina need to be flushed out with warm running water daily for the next 7 days.  After flushing with water, pour hydrogen peroxide on the area, then rise the peroxide and dry her with a hair dryer.  After she is dry, dust her with a good layer of talcum powder or corn starch.

*note - if any of the inflamed areas are bloody, leaky, pussy, etc. apply antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin (or generic) instead of talcum powder.

If you have the money to purchase some antibiotics at a farm/tractor type store, I can give you more intensive treatment options.

Given the severity of this condition, she really should be seen by a vet.  The above steps might help, but it might be too late for home help.
If there is any chance of it working, you need to do everything I wrote above - don't skip any of it at all.

Please keep me updated on her progress, especially how much water, diluted ice tea and pedialyte she takes in daily and how much poop she's excreting and if it looks normal or not.


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Lisa L.


I was introduced to meat rabbits at the age of 3. Began working with them on my own at the age of 8 and started my own large commercial rabbitry at the age of 20. I'm 46 now and for the past 26 years I have owned a large herd of meat rabbits and have become well known as the turn-to person whenever a problem arrises.

Member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Member of the Rabbit Industry Council. Member of the Yahoo - Meat Rabbits Group. Member of the American Council of Animal Naturopathy. Administrators of the FaceBook "Rabbit's as meat" group. Owner of Yahoo - Raising Meat Rabbit's for maximum yield group

Yahoo Meat Rabbits Group. American Council of Animal Naturopathy FaceBook "Rabbit's as meat" group. Owner of Yahoo - Raising Meat Rabbit's for maximum yield group

There is no formal training for raising rabbits; its all hands on. I have had a steady rabbit breeding operation for 24 years and have read every book there is on raising rabbits for meat. Additionally, I am a member of several rabbit groups and associations as listed below.

Awards and Honors
None - there are none in this field.

Past/Present Clients
I have helped countless people over the past several decades. These have been people I knew personally or those referred to me by one of the many rabbit organizations I belong to.

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