Fly Strike: Do you know how to protect your rabbit? – The Rabbit House

Fly Strike: Do you know how to protect your rabbit?

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.

Fly Control
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.

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4 Responses to “Fly Strike: Do you know how to protect your rabbit?”

  1. I’m definitely heeding your warning about Fly Strike.
    Your warning is subtle and to the point.
    I’m a novice dwarf bunny owner that is thinking about building a rabbit run.
    I had not even thought about needing to take preventive measures to keep the flies and other insects away.
    Thank you for the warning.
    The only things missing front your outstanding article are pictures showing what the flies and maggots look like.

  2. Andrew says:

    I had to have my rabbit put down today because of flystrike. He was OK yesterday but this morning the amount of maggots were so many that I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was as if he was rotting away. I noticed a yellow piece of debris near his tail and didn’t know what it was so I decided to bath him when I got hold of him and turn him on his back I noticed maggots and blood near his genitals. I thought I could drown them but I was very wrong. I called the emergency vet whom told me it was indeed an emergency and thus I wrapped him up and drove to the vet immediately but it appears that they had got into his skin and would have burrowed further in even with treatment. The vet said they could not do anything and that the only humane thing was to euthanise. It broke my heart to see best best friend (literally) in this state but I didn’t want him to die a slow agonising death and so he was put to sleep. If only I had known before what I know now I hope I could have saved him. God Bless You Eeyore (his name) and I hope you are at peace and pain free now. Please forgive my lack of education about rabbits and pet shops should be held accountable for not warning people about these things and for breeding carelessly without thought for welfare of the animals ( my rabbit had numerous other genetic problems which I think played a role in his eventual demise.

  3. nili says:

    I am so sorry for your loos Andrew. I agree with you on pet shops though they lack education on rabbits themselves. People who are considering rabbits should buy it from a good breeder. I was once sold a rabbit from a pet shop and the bunny was ill when I got him but I didn’t know so it died in a couple of weeks when I went back to the pet shop to tell them I found out that all the other bunnies that was kept in the same cage got infected. how careless these people are is just unbelivable. I think the way you treat animals tell a lot about you as a human being. Again i’m sorry you’ve lost Eeyore but I’m sure he knows you loved him.

  4. Emma says:

    My mum’s rabbit has fly Strike – it was absolutely awful. And i’m sure always is.

    The weather is starting to warm & i’m now a very neurotic Lionhead bunny owner myself… All we can do is keep the environment (inside and out) clean and dry and check regularly. Oh, and pray.

    Luckily Peanut is a very clean rabbit, but i am still checking her bits daily.

    Would be interesting to have some photographs of the stages (although graphic, i know) so we know what we are looking for.

    Many thanks,


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