A team from the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) studied electronic health records from more than 40,000 rabbit consultations, that have taken place at veterinary practices across the UK. Resulting in them identifying around 300 cases of flystrike by programming computers to screen for suspect cases.
According to third year veterinary student Rachel Turner, who carried out the work as part of her undergraduate course, the majority of cases occurred between the months of June and September.
Dr Phil Jones, who helped to supervise the project, added: “SAVSNET collects very large volumes of real-time data and this work is a fantastic example of how we can turn this data into valuable research, helping to identify those animals most at risk, whilst simultaneously providing a timely health message for owners of pet rabbits and the veterinary surgeons that care for them.”
Researchers are hoping to develop a valuable forecasting tool for farmers, as flystrike can also be a huge problem for sheep flocks, not just for rabbits.
Flystrike occurs from spring to autumn, because this is when female flies lay their eggs on a host and feed on the surface of the skin. This results in severe tissue damage that is then susceptible to secondary bacterial infections.
In particularly flies are attracted to soiled fur and diseased skin around an animal’s back end.
Owners are advised to check their animals regularly to ensure they are healthy, clean and able to groom themselves.
If owners have any concerns about their rabbits then they should be taken to a veterinary surgeon immediately, because the disease can progress rapidly (within 24 hours) causing serious welfare problems and potentially resulting in fatality for infected animals.