Fly strike, or blowfly strike, is a serious condition, mainly affecting rabbits, that occurs during summer months. Fly strike is caused by flies; attracted to damp fur, urine, faeces or the odour of rabbit scent gland. The fly will lay their eggs on or around the rabbit's rear end where they hatch within hours into a seething bunch of maggots that eat into the rabbit's flesh, eating it alive and releasing toxins in the process.
Rabbits who are at an increased risk are overweight and arthritic rabbits, rabbits with heavy dewlaps and those prone to a sticky bottom or suffering from a urinary infection are most at risk from fly strike but all rabbits should be checked at least twice daily in the summer months and treated with one of the veterinary licensed products such as Xenex or Rearguard.
Just dining on too much fresh, rich grass can make even an otherwise healthy rabbit produce too many soft droppings. The garden is not just a place for your rabbit to exercise; if it's got a great lawn then it's a food fest! Let your rabbit out for short period’s initially and then increasingly longer periods if there's a lot that's good for rabbits to eat in the garden.
If you find maggots on your rabbit then take it to the vet immediately. A flyblown rabbit can get ill from fly strike very quickly. Some sources say you should dip the rabbit's bottom in water to remove the maggots but damp rabbit fur is not only almost impossible to shave off but also a potent attractor of the flies that laid the eggs in the first place.
Fly strike is one of those "Get to the Vet NOW!" conditions that you don't mess around with. It looks awful and it is but vets know it can happen very quickly so don't worry that they'll think you're an awful rabbit owner. Eggs can turn into maggots in just a few hours in warm weather. Your vet will be glad you're bringing your rabbit in as soon as you spotted the fly strike, which is a serious medical condition requiring immediate veterinary treatment!
The preferred method of treatment for rabbit fly strike is to remove the maggots using tweezers and shave off any damp or dirty fur. Although you can remove the maggots you can get hold of as a first aid measure, rabbit skin is very thin and tears easily. Your vet will not only have skilled and experienced staff on hand but they will also be able to administer sedation or an anaesthetic to make the process easier if required to prevent any un-necessary stress to your pet.
Rabbits that have had fly strike will also often need antibiotics to prevent infection, anti-inflammatory/pain killing drugs and sometimes fluids. Prevention of fly strike is not easy, but fly mesh over the front of the hutch, insect repellents, fly strips and preventing the conditions that make a rabbit prone to fly strike in the first place will obviously contribute.
Preventative treatments are available at your veterinary practice and used together with vigilance from you as the pet owner these measures provide the best protection.
For any further questions or to discuss best practice contact you veterinary practice or make an appointment and they would be happy to dispense the appropriate products for your pet.