AN ANIMAL rescue worker in Ellesmere Port has launched a campaign to make more pet owners aware of a lethal disease.
Diane Wheeler, who runs a volunteer rabbit rescue from her home in Whitby, says she is concerned over the amount of reports of fly strike which has been affecting rabbits across the area.
Diane, of Woodland Road, said the deadly disease occurs when green bottle flies are attracted to a rabbit's damp fur, urine, faeces or the odour of rabbit scent gland, then lay their eggs around the rabbit's rear.
The flies then hatch in maggots within hours and eat into the rabbit's flesh, eating it alive and releasing toxins in the process.
"Sometimes the rabbits get overweight or they are just not clean," she said.
"Overfeeding means the rabbits get overweight and cannot clean themselves. It's a vicious cycle. This dirtiness attracts flies who lay their eggs. There are no visible signs but the owners will find there rabbits dead.
"I'm hearing about these cases all the time. There has been at least four in the area that I have heard about in the past month. But there are possibly many more I have not heard about."
Diane, who keeps 14 rabbits at her rescue centre, added: "I would like to heighten people's awareness of this disease because it is so easily prevented.
"There is a lotion you can buy called Spot On. You put it on the back of their neck and it protects them for a month.
"I am also going to Asda and some other places to ask them to increase their stock because this is so important."
Other advice for preventing fly strike includes: remove all soiled bedding daily; ensure that the rabbit is not being overfed, as this can result in diarrhorea leading to a dirty groin; feed greens and fruit in moderation, as some rabbits can not tolerate an over-abundance of green food; check the rabbit twice daily to ensure that it is clean and dry; disinfect hutches every week; and keep the rabbit dry and use a cleanser to remove faeces.
See full story in the Chester Leader