An introduction to Fly Strike

Written by Rachel Garforth

Fly strike is most common in hot and humid weather conditions and is caused when flies lay eggs in a rabbit's bottom and the eggs hatch into maggots and burrow into the flesh of the host, with fatal results when left untreated. Flies love damp, dirty, warm and wet conditions in which to lay their eggs, which hatch into larvae in 24 hours.

If you discover your rabbit is being eaten alive by maggots and suffering from fly strike you must seek veterinary assistance as a matter of urgency. Do not attempt to remove maggots yourself as you may cause further distress to the rabbit; the skin around the perineum is extremely delicate – always leave it to the professionals and consult a vet immediately without delay, using a 24 hour emergency line if out of hours, this cannot wait.

Rabbits most at risk of fly-strike are the elderly, overweight and disabled who cannot clean themselves properly and rabbits with perineal skin flaps and those suffering from sticky bottom syndrome.  In the majority of cases, fly strike is preventable;  rabbit owners should always ensure they check their rabbit's bottom daily and if they suffer from the above more frequently. In a healthy rabbit the rear end should be clean and free of faecal matter, usually, if a rabbit is suffering from gastric problems you'll smell something is wrong immediately from the faeces it passes. Fresh rabbit pellets have a good all round earthy aroma, and should not be offensive to your sense of smell.

Remember :

Flies are attracted to urine and faeces; to reduce the risk of your bunny suffering Fly Strike always get into the routine of cleaning and disinfecting bunnies hutch at least once a week, although twice is better. In between a thorough weekly clean, rabbit owners can always remove poo corners and heavily stained urine areas to prevent attracting flies. Check bunnies bottom daily and keep your nose alert to any offensive smells.

Its always a good idea not to position your bunny's hutch in the garden where flies are naturally attracted for example near a garden pond, compost heap, waste bins, and water butts.  You could also consider placing fly proof mesh on the wire of your rabbit's hutch.

Above all spot clean your rabbit daily, ie. remove all uneaten food including vegatables, urine stained bedding and faeces.  Once per week give your rabbit hutch a thorough clean, remove all bedding and disinfect hutch with a suitable rabbit hutch cleaner paying particular attention to soiled areas and hutch corners.  Allow to dry before putting clean shavings in and returning bunny to hutch.  By adhering to this regular routine, you will help prevent flies being attracted to your rabbit.

If you suspect your bunny is suffering from fly strike always consult your local vet, immediately.


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