Flystrike in Rabbits

Flystrike is a very serious condition in rabbits occurring mainly in the warmer summer months...

Alison Laurie, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness

Not only is Flystrike, or ‘myiasis’, extremely distressing, but sadly it can also be potentially fatal.

Flystrike is caused by flies that are attracted to damp fur, urine, faeces and the odour of these on the Rabbit’s coat. The flies will then land normally around the rabbit’s rear end and lay their eggs. Within a very short time of about 2 hours these eggs will then hatch into maggots. These maggots will then start to feed on the rabbit’s own tissues. This process happens very quickly and is not always caught in time before severe tissue trauma is caused. In severe cases the affected rabbit will have to be euthanased.

Rabbits most at risk here are: Obese rabbits; Rabbits with large “dewlaps”, or skin folds; Rabbits with urinary tract problems; Elderly or arthritic rabbits; Long coated breeds, such as Angora rabbits that can easily matt; Rabbits with dental problems, making them unable to groom themselves adequately.

Also Rabbits that live indoors can also be at risk.

Signs of Flystrike are: Hiding; Digging into a corner of their hutch; Being very quiet and lethargic; Not eating or drinking; You may also notice a strong rancid smell coming from the rabbit’s hutch. If any of these symptoms are noted, then do check around their tail and bottom area for any signs of Flystrike.

If you do find any maggots on your rabbit, then this is an emergency situation contact your vet immediately. Flystrike cases can be in shock and often need urgent intensive care to aid any chance of recovery.

To avoid Flystrike during the warmer summer months, it is advised that you discourage flies by removing all soiled bedding daily; Use "Fly papers" in the hutch area but out of reach of the Rabbit; Avoid diarrhoea or faecal staining : Rabbits require a good quality high fibre diet consisting of 70-80% hay or grass, so ensure that you are not changing your rabbits diet or overfeeding your rabbit and do not feed too many greens or fruits as this can result in diarrhoea; Examine your rabbit twice daily to check that there is no evidence of Flystrike; Thoroughly clean and disinfect hutches every week. If your rabbit cannot groom itself, groom him yourself regularly to prevent any matting or soiling of the fur; Make sure your rabbit is eating normally, if not, arrange to have a Vet check, as rabbit’s teeth grow continuously, if they are too long the rabbit will not be able to eat normally and also he will not be able to clean himself.

As a preventative treatment a topical “spot-on” preparation, which you can get from your vet, can be applied to your rabbit to protect against Flystrike for up to 10 weeks. This is a prescription-only medication so your rabbit will have to be examined by your vet before you can treat your rabbit. This preventative spot on treatment is advised to be applied throughout the summer months to prevent Flystrike.

If you have any questions regarding Flystrike or any other aspect of your rabbit's care, then do contact us for good professional advice.