As the weather starts to get warmer, flies start to appear in their masses. Flies like to deposit their young in warm damp areas and so rabbits and their hutches are seen as a prime spot to lay their eggs. We often see cases where rabbits who are unable to clean themselves thoroughly, have flies lay their eggs on their skin. These eggs rapidly hatch into maggots which then burrow into the rabbits skin, quickly causing damage that can be fatal.
What is flystrike?
Flystrike can be caused by rabbits who are unable to clean themselves – usually due to being overweight or arthritic. Rabbits that suffer with a dirty bottom or from urinary tract infections are most at risk. Flies are attracted to urine and faeces-ridden fur and will more commonly lay eggs on unclean rabbits. The eggs will hatch into maggots, your rabbit will experience hair loss in the affected area and a characteristic odour will be noticeable. Soon after, visible flesh wounds will appear and your rabbit will become sick very quickly. Please remember this condition can be fatal, especially if not caught quickly.
The Warning signs
We recommend you be vigilant especially during the spring/summer months. Check your rabbits (their rear end in particular) at least once a day – looking for any tiny eggs that look like very fine grains of rice in a clump. If any of your rabbits are quiet and listless; or appear restless or in discomfort, pick them up immediately and check for eggs or maggots. Rabbits should have their bottoms checked daily during these summer months.
- Check that your rabbit is eating a healthy diet
- Remove soiled bedding every day
- Disinfect the hutch weekly
- Check your rabbit at least once a day, high-risk rabbits will need checking twice a day
- Create physical barriers such as adding fly-screens to hutches and runs
- Speak to your vet about “Rearguard”; a liquid that is applied by sponge to the rabbit and prevents flystrike for up to 10 weeks. It stops maggots maturing to a stage where they become dangerous. If you are a Pet Healthcare Plan customer, Rearguard is included in your monthly package.
- Keep your rabbit clean and prevent the build-up of faeces and urine.
- Don’t forget that house rabbits can also be at risk!
What to do if you notice your rabbit has flystrike
Firstly, keep calm and telephone The Vet immediately. Flystrike is a true emergency – day or night – and treatment cannot be postponed. If you have time, without delaying your trip to The Vet, pick off any visible maggots with tweezers. Do not try to wash or dip the rabbit in water as the fur in the affected area may need to be shaved and wet fur clogs the clippers.
If in any doubt about your rabbit’s health please bring them into The Vet and our team will advise you.