Rabbit Diseases - Flystrike

Fly strike in rabbits
  • Fly strike in domestic rabbits is a common problem throughout the summer months.
  • Fly strike or ‘Myiasis’( scientific name)is the name for a condition that occurs when large blowflies such as the green bottle and blue bottle lay their eggs on a rabbit.
  • Generally, flies are attracted to orifices such as the eyes or anus, sores and open wounds, or damp, dirty fur that is wet with urine or diarrhoea.
  • The flies are attracted by smell, and will quickly lay their eggs around the area which will hatch in just a few hours into maggots that literally eat the rabbit’s flesh, releasing harmful and poisonous toxins at the same time.
  • As the maggots grow and eat away more surface area of the skin, severe shock develops, eventually leading to collapse and death.
  • Rabbits that are unable to clean themselves properly due to their size, age or health may be particularly at risk from fly strike, so pay special attention to them.

    • Warning Signs:
    • All rabbits should have their bottoms checked twice daily, especially in summer.
    • However, if any bunny is quiet and listless; or appears restless and shows signs of discomfort, pick them up immediately and check for eggs or maggots.
    • If you find maggots crawling in your rabbit’s fur, it is an emergency and you must call your vet immediately.

      Fly strike Treatment Treatment
    • Fly strike is a veterinary emergency, and can become serious and even fatal very quickly.
    • If you find maggots on your rabbit, contact your vet without delay and arrange for your rabbit to be taken into the surgery.
    • In the meantime, remove as many of the maggots from the skin as you can, using a warm, damp cloth to encourage maggots that have begun to burrow to release their hold.
    • Generally, treatment in veterinary practice will involved shaving off as much fur as possible from the affected area and removing the individual maggots with surgical tweezers or forceps, as well as possibly bathing the rabbit to remove any remaining maggots.
    • Undertaking this procedure on a rabbit is not an easy task, as rabbits will normally struggle and fight, and put themselves in danger by means of being difficult to handle and trying to retreat.
    • Your veterinary surgeon will be able to sedate your rabbit, and will work with a team of trained veterinary nurses to ensure that the whole process goes as smoothly as possible, with the minimum amount of stress caused to your rabbit in the process.
    • Finally, a rabbit that has suffered from fly strike will require careful monitoring after treatment, and will generally be prescribed a course of antibiotics to prevent any secondary infections from occurring, as well as possible painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs.
    • Fluid therapy, treatment of gastrointestinal complications and syringe feeding may be required in more severe cases.
    • If extensive tissue loss has occurred a rabbit may need to be put to sleep to relieve suffering.

    • Fly strike is a distressing and potentially fatal condition which can be prevented by a few simple measures. Unfortunately we cannot eliminate flies from the rabbit’s environment and therefore we should keep a watch full eye over the rabbit, especially during the summer months.
    • Checking your rabbit’s bottom at least twice a day will help to detect infestation early.
    • Topical product containing the insect growth regulator cyromazine is also effective to prevent fly eggs from hatching.
    • Make sure that your rabbit is not being fed too much food or food that is too rich, which can lead to diarrhoea.
    • Feed greens and fruit in moderation, as some rabbits cannot tolerate an over-abundance of green food, again leading to diarrhoea and a dirty anus.
    • Keep the rabbit dry and use a cleanser to remove faeces.
    • Clean out the hutch daily, removing soiled straw and bedding that can attract flies.
    • Keep the fur around your rabbit’s back end short by clipping it during the summer months to minimise the chances of it holding faeces and urine.
    • Disinfect your rabbit’s bowls, run and hutch at least once a fortnight.
    • Clean your rabbit’s eyes and mouth daily, and be on the lookout for any sores or open wounds.
    • Consider using fine mesh netting over the wire of your rabbit’s hutch or run, to minimise the chances of flies being able to get in.
    • Hang fly killers such as fly sticky paper in the home or rabbit's shed/ living quarters.
    • Some plants and herbs repel flies which can be put in pots on top of hutches and in hanging baskets (keep out of reach of your rabbits).