Pet Health: How to prevent fly strike in rabbits

Fly strike can occur in any animal but is most common in rabbits
Fly strike can occur in any animal but is most common in rabbits

Vet Darren Storey brings you the latest news from Northlands Veterinary Hospital.

As this warm weather is continuing I am seeing an increasing number of rabbits and other small mammals come into the surgery with a condition known as fly strike.

This condition can occur in any animal but is most common in rabbits; mainly due to how we house them.

So, what is it?

Flies are readily attracted to faeces and subsequently anything that has the faeces on.

Rabbits kept outside can attract a lot of flies; especially if they are not cleaned out regularly.

As the flies land on your pet they can lay their eggs into the tissues, which then develop into maggots.

The maggots begin to cause damage to the skin and muscles; basically eating the tissues.

This can all happen very quickly, sometimes within a couple of days.

Remember, you may not see the flies or eggs; and the first signs could be the maggots.

Is there a solution?

Well, as the saying goes, prevention is better than the cure.

If your animal lives in hutch outside or goes out regularly then it is best you follow some of the basics:

Keep them and their housing clean.

Regular checks at least once to twice a day are best. This way you can judge when cleaning is needed.

Bedding should be something that doesn’t tend to ‘stick’ to your rabbit’s rear.

Things like shavings can become quite clumpy or sticky when wet and have faeces on.

This can then adhere to their rears. Try hay during the warmer periods.

Use products that repel flies and apply these to your rabbit.

There are many out there; some better than others, so call me for further advice.

Check your rabbit to ensure they are clean and remove any faeces or urine.

A healthy rabbit is a more resistant rabbit; so ensure they’re well fed and watered and in good condition.

What if I find my rabbit has fly strike?

First, and to quote a well-known phrase, don’t panic!

Take your rabbit to see your vet because if they are caught early we can treat them.

Depending on the vet we tend to follow a similar routine.

We will clip the fur around their rear, remove the maggots and clean the area with an antiseptic wash.

Pain relief and antibiotics are commonly given; and also drugs to kill the maggots and to further prevent infestation are used.

So, I suppose, my final message is take care of your rabbits in this hot weather as a maggot infestation is traumatic not only for your rabbit but also you and your family.

Whether you are a client of Northlands or not we will happily give you more advice if you need it.

We also run Wabbit Wednesday clinics where you can get advice and your rabbit checked for free with our nurses.

Please call 01536 485543 and ask to speak to a clinical member of staff.