What is Fly Strike?
Fly Strike is a serious condition affecting rabbits that occurs in the summer months. In hot, humid conditions flies are attracted to dirty or soiled hindquarters and will lay their eggs around the base of their tail. The eggs hatch within hours and turn into maggots, which feed on the rabbit’s flesh, eating away at the skin and releasing toxins. This causes serious damage to the rabbit and if left can be fatal.
Rabbits at highest risk are those that suffer from:
dental problems: if your rabbit has overgrown teeth or sharp hooks (spurs) on their molars this will cause pain, preventing your rabbit from grooming properly
diarrhoea: or caecotroph impaction
arthritis: your rabbit may suffer from arthritis as they get older, and will make it harder for them to turn around and groom themselves properly
skin wounds: as flies are attracted to wounds on the skin, where they lay their eggs
overweight: your rabbit will have difficulty cleaning themselves
It is essential to check your rabbit’s back end and underneath at least twice a day to ensure they are clean and dry. Fly Strike can occur within a few hours!
Can I prevent my rabbit from getting Fly Strike?
YES! To protect your rabbit from getting Fly Strike, pop your rabbit down to your local practice and our qualified nurses can apply a prescription insecticidal repellent (“RearGuard”) that is rubbed in to their hindquarters. This repels flies and their larvae and needs to be applied every 10 weeks throughout the spring and summer when flies are about.
How is Fly Strike treated?
If you find any maggots on your rabbit then it is important to take them to the vets straight away. We treat Fly Strike by carefully removing the maggots and eggs, clipping the fur and gently cleansing the damaged area. Supportive therapy and hospitalisation is often essential – including painkillers, antibiotics, and a drip. Fly Strike can progress very quickly and if the damage is very extensive then sometimes unfortunately euthanasia may be recommended.
Written by Laura Sullivan MRCVS