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Looking After Your Fly Strike: how to spot and help prevent it

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Fly Strike: how to spot and help prevent it

Fly-strike is a common condition of rabbits that usually presents itself in spring and summer months.  It starts when flies lay eggs in skin wounds or on chapped skin around the rabbit’s rear end. This area is the perfect environment for these eggs to develop and then hatch, producing maggots.  These maggots then start to feed on the tissue of the rabbit and if not treated quickly they can burrow deeper  often causing very painful open wounds.If you notice this on your rabbit you should treat it as an emergency as your rabbit requires immediate veterinary attention. Without prompt treatment affected rabbits can die. 

Rabbits, if diagnosed with fly strike, may require a general anaesthetic to remove the maggots and clean up the open wounds. The condition can be extremely painful and the infection and shock will dramatically increase the risk associated with the procedure. Pain killers, antibiotics and a fluid drip may also be used to treat the condition. Unfortunately, some cases of fly strike can be so severe the rabbit may need to be put to sleep. However, if your rabbit is one of the lucky ones and does survive, it is really important to identify why this happened in the first place and prevent it in the future.  

All rabbit’s require a clean environment to live in as unclean hutches can attract flies and increase the likelihood of fly strike occurring.  Hutches should be cleaned out and litter trays, if used, emptied on a regular basis. Take precautions and check your rabbit’s bottom for cleanliness and fly eggs twice a day in warm weather, as some eggs can hatch out within 24 hours. 

If your rabbit is heavily soiled with either faeces or urine, clean it and dry it immediately. Often, there is an underlying cause to a rabbit not cleaning itself properly and advice should be sought from a veterinary surgeon if you notice this.  Poor diet, dental disease, diarrhoea, urinary tract problems, obesity and old age can all have an impact. 

At Doolittle’s Dispensary we stock veterinary products that can be used to prevent or slow the progression of fly-strike. They are no replacement for good hygiene management but can be effective in preventing full blown problems.