Flystrike in rabbits - prevention

domestic rabbit

What is flystrike?

Flystrike happens when flies lay their eggs onto the fur of the rabbit and those eggs hatch out into maggots. The maggots then eat into the flesh of the animal which, if not treated swiftly, can cause life threatening injuries and death.

Flies are attracted to the scent of urine and faeces so the risk of flystrike increases when rabbits have dirty bottoms or their housing is not cleaned regularly, but even the cleanest rabbit can be affected – and maggots can appear as quickly as 12 hours from the egg being laid to hatching.

 

How can I prevent flystrike?

 

  • Check your rabbit’s bottom every day, more than once a day in the summer months. If urine or faeces are present, clean and dry the area.
  • Some rabbits benefit from having their bottom fur clipped short – please do not use scissors, rabbits have very thin skin and are easily cut – we can help you with clipping!
  • Clean the rabbit’s house at least once a day: remove all faeces and urine, replace dirty bedding, remove old fruit and veg and keep food bowls clean.
  • If your rabbit has problems with their urine or faces causing them to be frequently wet or mucky, they need to come and see us to find out the cause. Urinary infection, bladder stones, obesity, arthritis, incorrect diet and dental problems can all contribute to a mucky bun and increase the likelihood of attracting flies.
  • Ensure your rabbit has no open wounds.
  • During the summer months apply a preventative product like Rearguard, following the manufacturer’s recommendations for application. This does not replace the need for regular checks but can help to prevent flystrike for up to 10 weeks.

 

What to do if you see flystrike

 

  • This is a life-threatening emergency – you need to get your rabbit to a vet immediately.
  • Do not wash your rabbit as the fur in the affected area will need to be shaved on arrival. Wet fur is much harder to clip.
  • Any obvious maggots on the surface can be removed with tweezers but only if this does not delay you getting to the vets.

For further advice on flystrike prevention, diet and housing come and see us for a free of charge nurse clinic. 

Healthy Pet Club members – your membership includes an annual Rearguard treatment for the prevention of flystrike. If you haven’t already collected your treatment, contact your local branch today