What is flystrike?
Flystrike is an extremely unpleasant and potentially fatal condition that affects rabbits, usually during the warmer months of the year. Flystrike occurs when flies lay their eggs around a rabbit's back end, often attracted by the smell of urine or faeces. Within a matter of hours these mature into maggots, which feed on the rabbit by burrowing under the skin. This often causes immense damage and is extremely painful.
Mild cases can be treated by a vet, which involves manually removing all the maggots then treating the wounds (sometimes with surgery). If the damage is extensive, it is often kinder to put the rabbit to sleep.
How to prevent flystrike?
Flystrike happens more often in warm weather, and in rabbits who have soiled fur (often due to poor diet, obesity or arthritis). The risk of flystrike can be reduced by:
- Keeping the hutch clean to reduce the smell of urine and faeces
- Feeding a good diet with plenty of fibre (hay) so droppings aren’t loose
- Making sure your rabbit is checked by a vet at least once a year to be sure their weight is appropriate
- Having your bunny examined if you notice signs such as stiffness, moving around less, struggling to jump or reduced grooming
Throughout the spring and summer rabbits must be checked twice daily and any soiled fur cleaned. If you find any sign of fly eggs or maggots you must arrange for your rabbit to see a vet as soon as possible.
How do you treat flystrike?
Topical treatments are available on prescription which can be applied to the back end every 8-12 weeks to help repel flies and stop fly eggs developing into maggots. These do not remove the need to physically check your rabbit twice daily but can help reduce the risk of flystrike.
Rabbits get one flystrike preventative treatment per year plus 10% off further treatments when they are members of The Healthy Pet Club.