What is Flystrike?
Flystrike is an extremely serious condition most frequently seen in rabbits but can affect any animal. Flystrike is caused by maggots (fly larvae) feeding on the skin and flesh of the rabbit. Left untreated this extremely distressing and painful situation will quickly lead to severe illness and death.
Flystrike is most common in the summer months when flies are more active. It happens because flies are attracted to damp fur, such as the around the bottom, base of the tail and tummy.
Rabbits at greatest risk
- Any rabbit with dirt or dampness
- Overweight rabbits find it difficult to groom themselves adequately
- Females with large dewlaps find it difficult to keep these areas clean
- Urinary problems resulting in damp fur
- Rabbits that have too much fruit or veg often have a rear end that is sticky from soft poop
- Elderly or arthritic rabbits that find it difficult to groom
- Rabbits with dental problems, making self-grooming more difficult
Signs of flystrike
- Digging into a corner trying to get away from the pain
- Patches of damp fur
- Being more quiet than usual
- Not eating/drinking
- Not wanting to move
- Once flystrike is advanced there could be a strong smell
- Pick your rabbit up and check under their tummy, around their tail, bottom and between their back legs TWICE A DAY during the fly season. This is as soon as the weather becomes warm, until it cools and the flies disappear- roughly May to October
- Any damp fur will need to be washed and dried. Hutch bedding changed. Preferably keeping the rabbit in the house for the rest of the day until you are sure the fur is clean and dry.
- A sticky or damp bottom is not normal and should be examined by a vet.
- Keep your rabbit slim and fit.
- Good quality hay should make up 85-90% of the diet and will often prevent diarrhoea- a common cause of flystrike.
- Keep the hutch meticulously clean by removing all soiled bedding daily and disinfecting the hutch weekly.
- Keep up with at least one vet visit a year to keep your rabbit in good health such as ensuring those constantly growing teeth are not causing feeding and grooming problems.
- Using a spot-on preparation that protects against flystrike for 10 weeks. This is a prescription medicine that is only available from a vet.
What do I do if I suspect my rabbit has Flystrike?
If your rabbit is going to have a chance of survival you will need to take your rabbit to the vet immediately. Try to call ahead so that we can be ready for you.
- Pain relief
- General anaesthetic to remove the maggots from under the skin, clean the wounds and repair the damage
- Fluid drip
- Medicine to kill any remaining maggots
- Antibiotics can be necessary
Flystrike is often fatal as the damage maggots cause can be so extensive. For the best chance of survival it is necessary to act quickly.
If you have any questions regarding flystrike or rabbit care, please call us and speak to our trained team on 0115 922 4855.