TIP – If your rabbit has flystrike it is an absolute medical emergency. You must take your rabbit to a vet immediately. It cannot be left, not for any time period, if it is, your rabbit will die a horrendous death.
Flystrike is a term used when flies have laid eggs on a rabbit. These eggs then hatch into maggots which then feed on the rabbit eating it’s flesh. They also release harmful poisonous toxins into the rabbit. The flies, especially the green & blue bottles, have very rapidly maturing young & they can start to eat the flesh within 24 hours. This is why you have very little time. The flies are attracted to rabbits if they are soiled, have dirty living conditions, wounds & strong odours. Flystrike is most likely to occur in the summer months & house rabbits are not immune. We all from time to time have flies coming into the house.
- Loss of appetite.
- Severe pain.
- Wet around the back end.
- Sightings of the maggots.
- Flies buzzing around the rabbit.
Without any delay get your rabbit to a vet immediately.
Some rabbits are at greater risk of attracting flies than others. However, this by no means is to say that just because your rabbit is healthy & fit it won’t happen.
Factors That Put Rabbits at Greater Risk
- Obese. Obese rabbits are not able to groom themselves properly so are more at risk of having a soiled back end.
- Wounds. Any rabbits having a wound especially an open wound.
- Dirty housing. Rabbits living in a highly soiled area.
- Old Age. Old rabbits may have arthritis so are physically unable to clean themselves properly so maybe soiled.
- Illness. An ill rabbit may struggle to keep itself clean & move away from toilet areas causing urine or faeces to stick to the fur.
- Long haired bunnies. All to do with the grooming again, higher chance of an unclean & smelly back end.
- Feed your rabbit the correct diet & amount so it does not become obese.
- Keep all housing & exercise areas clean. This may mean cleaning them everyday.
- Depending on your type of housing it may be possible to stick fly stickers to your windows or hang fly tape. Make sure bunny can’t get to them.
- Some plants deter flies or you could get some fly catching plants. Just make sure bunny can’t get to them.
- Keep the fur short around the back end of the rabbit in summer months. This will help prevent the fur getting soiled.
- Consider if your rabbit is at high risk, could be elderly or ill, & apply the appropriate medication. Eg. Rearguard or F10.
Smokey had a chronic illness. Read Smokey’s story. As he aged the maintenance grew more intense & he was less able to look after himself. This put him at high risk of attracting flies. At the time I was unaware of any treatment that could have helped prevent the flies. I had taken him to the vets in the morning for a review of where we were at with him. At that point he was doing ok but had started a downward slide but not massively. I went to check on him in the afternoon & saw he didn’t look quite right, very quiet I suppose. I picked him up & to my horror maggots fell on to the floor. When I turned him over there seemed to be tons of them & a gaping hole in his body. It was like something from a horror film. I called the vet & rushed him there. He was seen immediately but he was too far gone & had to be put to sleep. I was absolutely mortified that this had happened & the speed it had taken hold I just couldn’t believe it.
My only other experience was with a female rabbit called Moonlight. I noticed she was quiet, not her usual self. When I picked her up I saw maggots crawling underneath her. I immediately rushed her to the vets & the vet was able to pick out the maggots with a tweezer. They had not eaten any flesh fortunately. She came home & I had to check her every hour to make sure none had been missed. She was absolutely fine after. We do not know why the flies were attracted to her as she was fit & well & no other reason could be found. At the time I had 40 others & none of them had been attacked, not even her partner.
Since Smokey’s incident, every year as summer is approaching I assess each rabbit & see if any are at risk. If they are I apply Rearguard or F10 around their back end & they are checked on a daily basis. I also assess the amount of flies about, if there are a lot I try to find out why & increase my checks & prevention methods. In my shed to prevent flies or kill them I have sticky tape, stickers for the windows & some Venus Flytraps.
My Fly Defence
Rearguard is a solution you apply to your rabbit’s fur. It works by preventing any eggs laid on your rabbit from developing into maggots. Rabbits should be treated before flies are seen & the dosage lasts approximately 10 weeks. It does not kill existing adult maggots & does not repel flies. It is applied by a sponge method.
F10 is a germicidal wound spray with insecticide. It is different from the Rearguard as this solution repels flies. It will also kill any maggots. It is a topical spray.
On occasions I sometimes use a slow release fly repellent. It repels flies & many other flying insects.