Fly strike is a common and nasty condition in rabbits usually caused by green bottle flies laying eggs on the rabbit and its bedding. These flies are attracted to damp fur, urine and faeces. Each fly can lay up to 200 eggs on and around the rabbits rear end which will hatch into maggots within hours of being laid, and begin eating the rabbits flesh and releasing nasty toxins. Fly strike is particularly at large in the summer months and can cause serious problems for domestic rabbits.
If your rabbit has a particularly dirty bottom they are at a higher risk of infection. Other factors that put bunnies at a high risk are obesity, long fur, urinary problems, diarrhoea, old age, arthritis and dental problems. Flies will also be attracted to open wounds, as this will provide the perfect habitat for laying eggs.
Your rabbit may seem a bit quiet, off colour or lethargic but initial symptoms are not always obvious so it’s important to regularly check through their fur and back end area.
As the condition progresses your rabbit will go into shock and may collapse or sadly die if not treated as a matter of urgency. If you find maggots in your rabbits fur, it is an emergency and we advise that you call us as soon as possible.
Prevention and treatment
As with most things prevention is better than cure! Regularly cleaning your rabbits hutch and bedding should help to deter flies as this will prevent build up of urine and faeces. Also check your rabbits fur and back end as often as possible. Try to limit fresh fruit and vegetables in their diet as too much can cause diarrhoea. If your rabbit is long haired you can try brushing and clipping round the back end to prevent matting of the fur but take care not to cut too close to the skin.
If you suspect your rabbit has fly strike, prompt veterinary treatment can save their life. Typical treatment would include removing maggots from the affected area, clipping and cleaning the fur of debris, topical soothing treatments, antibiotics and pain relief.
In more severe cases your bunny may require fluid therapy and syringe feeding. If the loss of tissue is extensive, causing severe pain and suffering, the kindest thing to do may be to put your rabbit to sleep.