Flystrike is a serious condition in rabbits. It occurs mostly in the summer months. Not only is Flystrike, or ‘myiasis’, extremely distressing, but it is also potentially fatal. All rabbit owners should be aware of Flystrike.
Flystrike is caused by flies that are attracted to damp fur, urine, faeces and the odour of the rabbit’s scent. The flies will land on the rabbit normally around the rabbits rear end and lay their eggs. Within a very short time of 2 hours the eggs will hatch into maggots. The maggots will then start to feed on the rabbit.
This process happens very quickly and is not always caught in time.
Rabbits at risk of Flystrike:
The flies will strike on any rabbits, but the rabbits most at risk are:
- Obese rabbits
- Females with large dewlaps, or skin folds around their abdomen-which makes if difficult to clean and groom themselves
- Rabbits with urinary problem
- Elderly or arthritic rabbits
- Long coated breeds- such as Angora rabbits.
- Rabbits with dental problems, making them unable to groom themselves
Typical signs of Flystrike:
- Digging into a corner- they will be doing this to dig away from the pain.
- Being very quiet and lethargic
- Not eating/ drinking
- Not wanting to move
- You may also notice a strong smell coming from the hutch
If you notice that your rabbits behaviour has changed, the best thing to do is to pick them up and check around their bottom.
What to do if you find maggots
If you find a maggot on your rabbit you must take it to your vet immediately, as your rabbit can get ill very quickly. If possible, ring ahead so it enables your vet to get prepared so that when you arrive they will be able to treat your rabbit immediately.
Flystrike bunnies are normally in shock from the whole experience and will need careful nursing to help them recover.
How to prevent Flystrike:
Doing twice daily checks on your rabbit during the summer months (June to October). During the winter months, checking your rabbit once a day should suffice.
If your rabbit cannot groom itself you should be grooming and cleaning him regularly to prevent any soiling of the fur.
Make sure your rabbit is eating normally. If not it may be good to get your vet to check the teeth as rabbit teeth grow continuously, and if they are too long the rabbit will not be able to eat normally and will not be able to clean itself.
Ensure that you keep your rabbit’s diet the same. Rabbits are herbivores and enquire a high fibre diet. Their diet should consist of 70-80% hay or grass, concentrates should be kept to a minimum.
If you change your rabbit’s diet, your rabbit my suffer from an upset stomach, causing him to have softer faeces – softer faeces is easier to get stuck to the fur which will then attract the flies.
A spot-on preparation which you can get from your vet can be applied to your rabbit to protect against Flystrike for 10 weeks. It is a ‘prescription-only medication’ so your rabbit will have to be examined by the vet before you can treat your rabbit.
Rabbit husbandry to prevent Flystrike
- Remove all soiled bedding daily
- Ensure that you are not overfeeding your rabbit, as this can result in ddiarrhea
- Do not feed to many greens and fruits or to allow much access to fresh grass
- Check your rabbit twice daily to ensure that it is clean and dry. Rabbits that live indoors can also be at risk
- Disinfect hutches every week
If you have any questions regarding Flystrike or any other aspect of rabbit care, please feel free to speak to a member of our team. A few of us have particular interests in rabbits. Call 020 8977 3955 (Teddington) or 01932 229 900 (Shepperton) for more information.