Fly Strike In Rabbits
Flystrike is a devastating condition and one best avoided at all costs.
Flystrike occurs when flies lay their eggs on a rabbit that then hatch into maggots. The maggots then eat the rabbit’s flesh, causing immense pain, infection and shock. Many rabbits will die or need to be put to sleep if not caught in time.
Blue bottles and Green bottles are the most dangerous flies and like to lay their eggs in warm, damp places. These flies are attracted by the smells of faeces, urine and blood, and therefore like to lay their eggs on any animals that are debilitated, injured, dirty or damp. The eggs hatch into maggots within hours, and start to eat the flesh of the rabbit, with disastrous and often rapid results. Affected rabbits can lose large parts of their flesh to the maggots, and the severe shock associated with this is often fatal. Due to the rapid development of flystrike, a rabbits’ condition can become very serious in a very short space of time.
The most common sign is live maggots but if caught early enough you may not see these. You will see lots of little tiny white/cream bits, usually all around the bottom area and on the fur around the tail. This is a warning sign and must not be ignored, within a few hours these little white bits will be wriggling around and starting to eat your rabbit. They will have caused serious damage.
Signs you may also see:
•Lack of appetite
•Reluctant to move
•A strong smell from the bunny or the hutch
Flystrike can be treatable but does come with a very guarded prognosis if caught late on when severe skin damage has occurred, the maggots can actually bury into the abdomen in severe cases.
If caught early enough for treatment to have a chance of saving the rabbit it consists of:
Removing every maggot on your rabbit, clipping the entire area, cleaning it and applying a barrier cream
•Strong multi-model pain control (one pain killer will not be enough)
•Gut stimulants as the pain and stress are very likely to
cause gut stasis
•In some cases Intravenous fluids are needed to treat shock
•Active warming as many rabbits will be hypothermic
•Initiate syringe feeding if the rabbit isn’t well enough to
want to eat on its own
•Regular checking for any more maggots that are hiding
•Intensive wound care
•Surgery may also need to be considered at a later date to
aid healing of the wounds if the rabbit survives the initial 48
Fly strike wounds can be a battle and many rabbits need intensive care and wound management in the hospital, some up to 2 weeks. Even when some go home owners need to continue the regime we have in hospital for weeks until the rabbit is back to full health.
Time is crucial so don’t hesitate to phone a vet if you suspect maggots.
The best prevention is by keeping your rabbit clean and in good health, and applying preventive treatments in peak season.
Make sure your rabbit is eating a healthy diet to avoid any diarrhoea or bladder issues that will increase the likelihood of a dirty bottom
•Remove any soiled bedding every day and disinfect hutches
•Check you rabbit at• least once a day, twice if your rabbit is high risk
•Although not as common don’t forget house rabbits can also be at risk
•Physical barriers such as fly screens or mosquito nets can be attached to hutches and runs
•Use a preventative product called rearguard during peak season. It is applied to the rabbit by a sponge and prevents flystrike for 10 weeks. It doesn’t stops flies laying their eggs on the rabbit but stops maggots maturing to a stage where they become dangerous.
Clare Treacher RVN CertSAN ISFM CertFN
Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN)
Certificate in Small Animal Nutrition (CertSAN)
ISFM Cert Feline Friendly Nursing (ISFM CertFN)