Fly Strike

What is fly strike?

Fly strike is an extremely serious condition that occurs when flies, predominantly blue and green bottles lay their eggs on rabbits. The eggs then hatch into maggots and start eating the flesh of the rabbits. This condition is fatal and can result in an incredibly painful death for any animal unfortunate to be infested.

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Rabbit infested with maggots

What causes fly strike?

Flies are attracted to blood, faeces and urine; to them this is a perfect environment to lay their eggs. If rabbits are unable to clean themselves and have a messy bottom or urine scalds they are more at risk of fly strike. Rabbits that are more prone to messy bottoms/ urine scalds tend to be those that are overweight as they are unable to reach down to clean themselves properly. Rabbits with arthritis also suffer with the same problems due to limited mobility. Rabbits with dental problems are also less inclined to clean themselves effectively again resulting in an increased risk of fly strike.

Unclean living areas and soiled litter trays and bedding will also attract flies, this will increase the chances of your rabbit getting fly strike. If you have soiled and dirty areas in your rabbits living area the chances are they too will become soiled due to living in an unclean environment.

How to prevent fly strike?

There are steps that you can take in order to help prevent your rabbits from becoming infested with fly strike.

  • If you rabbit is overweight and unable to clean themselves effectively you can help them to lose weight by giving them a healthy rabbit friendly diet.
  • If your rabbit has dental health problems seek advice from a rabbit savvy vet, they will be able to offer treatment that can help promote good dental health.
  • If your rabbit has arthritis you should also go to a rabbit savvy vet, they will be able to offer treatment for your rabbit which may be able to help with mobility issues.
  • Make sure that you check your rabbit’s bottom and upper tail area every day to ensure that they are clean and not soiled. Even rabbits that are usually clean still need checking daily. In the summer with the hotter weather there is an increase of flies so you should be checking your rabbit’s bottom twice daily. If your rabbit has a messy bottom you can clean them by giving them a bottom bath. Follow this link to find out how to safely do this.
  • Clean your rabbits litter tray or soiled bedding at least once a day. In the summer months this may need to be done twice a day.
  • If you’re changing your rabbit’s food introduce new foods slowly mixing with their current foods. Any sudden changes in your rabbit’s diet may upset their stomach which could result in loose stools, increasing the chances of fly strike.
  • Don’t leave your rabbits with damp fur, this can also attract flies as the area will be moist and will start to become warm which is very attractive to the flies.
  • Use rabbit friendly fly repellents to help against fly strike. However, these products will not guarantee definite protection for your rabbits but act as another tool for you to help prevent fly strike.
  • Hang up fly papers around your rabbit’s home; these MUST be kept out of reach from your rabbits as they are toxic. You could try hanging them on the roof of accommodation securely.
  • Some plants are natural fly repellents such as Gilead, Lad’s Love, Pyrethrum, Pennyroyal, Love in a Mist and Larkspur. It is essential that these are kept out of reach from your rabbit due to the toxic nature of some of the plants.

What to do if your rabbit has fly strike?

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Extreme case of flysrike in rabbits

If you discover that you rabbit has eggs/ maggots on them then this is a life or death situation! You must take them to your vets immediately and without delay day or night. Your rabbit will be in an extreme amount of pain as it will literally be being eaten alive.

On your way to the vets if you are able to remove any visible maggots then you can do so with a tweezer. Do not start rooting around to find them as it can cause more pain to your rabbit. Under no circumstances must you wash your rabbit to try and clean them off. This will make it even more difficult for the vet to remove the maggots and eggs and will therefore waste precious time. Once at your vets they will be able to remove the maggots under surgery and provide your rabbit with pain killers, anti inflammatory medication and antibiotics.

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