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Nutrition Team Blog

Getting to the Bottom of a Problem!

Published: Monday, June 6, 2011

Nutritionists spend a lot of time talking about poo! Unfortunately we often need to ask about this subject when trying to decide if a food is suitable for a dog or cat. Of course, most pet owners realize the importance of poo and diet … after all, what goes in affects what comes out.

As a rabbit owner I also have to check my rabbits bottoms for poo. This is something that every bunny owner should do at least once a day – more often in warm weather if possible. Last night, to my horror, one of my rabbits, ‘George’, had a little bit of a ‘sticky bottom’. Sticky bottom occurs when droppings stick to the fur around the rabbits anus. Rabbits produce two types of droppings and it is usually the caecotrophs that stick to the fur (these are the droppings they produce and eat at night). In most cases sticky bottom is caused by an overproduction of caecotrophs due to a carbohydrate rich diet (too much dry pellet/mixed food) but my rabbits do not eat any dry food during the summer – just hay, grass and veg. I think George may have gorged himself on some fresh oregano I gave him and this has upset him a little. I spent 20 minutes last night carefully washing and cutting away the matted fur and poo – lovely! However, this is crucial to avoid flystrike occurring.

Flystrike occurs when flies (bluebottles and greenbottles) lay their eggs in the soiled fur. With the right conditions the eggs can develop into maggots within 24 hours which is why you need to check your rabbit daily. If you don’t notice the problem the maggots will then survive by eating your rabbits flesh. They can look for open wounds but will also eat intact flesh. They also produce a toxin which is fatal and can send the rabbit into shock. Flystrike is often fatal as euthanasia is often the only option so if flystrike is suspected you must get your rabbit to a vet immediately.

If you can prevent sticky bottom then flystrike is unlikely to occur  and this is why you need to do daily checks. Keep your hutches and runs as clean as possible and remove soiled bedding regularly. You can also get a product called “Rearguard” to spray on your rabbit which stops the maggots from maturing. Sticky bottom may occur if the rabbit is overweight as it may to too fat to clean itself. Alternatively arthritis or dental disease may make it too painful for the rabbit to clean the caecotrophs.

If you do need to clean your rabbits bottom I find it better to cut away any matted fur first  rather than soaking it off by washing the area as moist fur is also attractive to flies. Last night I clipped and washed George and then carefully  dried him. Thankfully when I checked his bottom first thing this morning it was clean. In his three years with me sticky bottom has never been an issue for George so I hope this was a one off - but I will remain vigilant!

Head Pet Nutritionist

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