Flystrike Awareness

What is Flystrike?

With the temperature rising and set to stay, please ensure you are taking necessary precautions with your rabbits in order to prevent flystrike.

Flystrike occurs when blue or green bottle flies are attracted to your rabbits due to a build up of faeces, urine or damp, dirty fur. The flies then lay eggs (they can lay up to 200!) within the rabbits fur which in turn, hatch into maggots within hours! These maggots thrive and grow by feeding on the rabbits flesh and can get through a large area of skin quickly.  As the maggots grow and eat away more of the skin, severe shock develops which will eventually lead to collapse and death. The rabbit's bottom, tail, belly and back is usually the worst affected. 

As you can imagine, this condition is painful and in most cases, devastating, which is why we should treat these cases as emergencies. 


How to prevent flystrike

Rabbits who struggle to groom themselves, due to long fur, obesity, painful teeth or arthritis are at greater risk of flystrike as green bottles are attracted to areas soiled with faeces and urine and it only takes a small amount of soiling for flies to strike. 

We advise to check your rabbits bottom at least twice a day, and if you notice a dirt build up, wash the area with warm water and a shampoo specifically designed for small animals, before rinsing and thoroughly drying. You can also use a topical product containing an ingredient called 'cyromazine' as it is highly effective in preventing fly eggs from hatching. Protection with a topical treatment will typically last for 8-10 weeks. 

Another common cause of flystrike in rabbits is housing them in unsanitary hutches. It is vital that owners clean their rabbit's bedding regularly. 

You can also put up fly screens around your rabbit's hutch and growing plants and herbs, i.e rosemary, peppermint, basil and green oregano will repel flies. 


Symptoms and signs of flystrike and Veterinary treatment

When suffering from flystrike, rabbits may initially seem quiet and lethargic. They may also refuse food and drink and you may notice a strong odour coming from their hutch. Another sign of flystrike is when your rabbit is digging into the corners of its hutch trying to relieve the pain.

When vets treat flystrike, it is likely we will clip and clean your rabbit's fur as well as administering pain relief and soothing products. Rabbits with flystrike may also need antibiotics to prevent infection and in severe cases, your rabbit may need to be put on a drip and fed through a syringe. If extensive tissue loss has occurred, sadly, your rabbit may need to be put to sleep to relieve suffering. 

The good news is that rabbits with flystrike, can and do recover well as long as the maggots are removed in the early stages, however, this is a tricky procedure and should be carried out by your vet.