The Bristol Rabbit Clinic are running a campaign to ensure rabbit owners recognise the symptoms of fly Strike. Fly Strike occurs when flies lay their eggs on a rabbit’s skin and the eggs hatch out in to maggots which burrow under the skin. Without prompt veterinary treatment fly strike is fatal.
You can minimise the risk of fly strike by reducing the flies around your rabbit, making sure your rabbit isn’t attractive to flies and checking your rabbit over regularly.
Basic hygiene and fly control will help protect your rabbit against fly strike. To minimise flies near your rabbit you should:
- Clean out litter trays/toilet corners daily.
- Hang non-toxic (no poison) sticky fly papers out of reach of your rabbit.
- Place rabbit (and house hold) waste in sealed bins, away from the rabbit’s area, and clean bins regularly with disinfectant.
- Fly screens/netting can be placed over windows or the front of your rabbits hutch.
- Remove uneaten fresh food
Rabbits at High Risk
Some rabbits are at a higher risk of fly strike than others. The following are high risk factors:
- Rabbits with mobility problems, arthritis or rabbits that are over weight. Rabbits in this category can have difficulty cleaning themselves which can attract flies.
- Rabbits that get sticky poops (excess cecotropes) stuck to their fur. This makes rabbits very attractive to flies. It can be improved by changes to the diet including encouraging your rabbit to eat more hay.
- Rabbits with long fur. This can make cleaning more difficult and provide warm damp areas attractive to flies.
- Rabbits with injuries. Open wounds are very attractive to flies. You should check your rabbit regularly for wounds and take extra precautions.
- Rabbits with damp fur. Damp fur is very attractive to flies. You should not bath your rabbit. Also be wary of rabbits with teeth issues that may dribble.
If your rabbit falls in to a high risk group your vet may recommend treating it with a maggot development inhibitor such as Rear Guard made by Novartis Animal Health. This is applied to your rabbits fur and is designed to prevent maggots developing to the dangerous stage in their life cycle.
Checking Your Rabbit
Maggots develop rapidly so rabbits should be checked twice a day to detect fly strike quickly so it can be treated. Fly eggs are small white/cream/yellow and shaped like a grain of rice. Maggots are short stubby looking worms coloured between white and yellow. You should particularly check the area around your rabbits tail and between its legs.
If you find your rabbit has fly strike call the vet immediately. Do not try washing them off your rabbit, as damp fur can make the removal harder for the vet. You can start removing the eggs/maggots with teasers on the way to the vet.
Your vet will shave the area and remove the maggots under the skin then treat the rabbit with fluids (for shock), painkillers and antibiotics to prevent infection.