Flystrike in rabbits

Flystrike is a condition caused by flies laying eggs on the rabbit, which then hatch into maggots and eat the rabbit’s flesh. This is very painful for the rabbit and be fatal if not caught and treated early.

Any rabbit can get flystrike, but it is most common in rabbits with dirty bottoms, wet fur, wounds or if they are unable to clean themselves properly. If your rabbit has bad teeth, is old or has arthritis it may find it difficult to clean itself. Furthermore, if your rabbit has an unsuitable diet which leads to loose stools this will attract flies and make it difficult for your rabbit to keep clean.

Although flystrike often occurs on the rabbit’s bottom it can happen anywhere on the rabbit’s body, especially if they have an open cut or wound, so checking your rabbit and treating any injuries quickly is extremely important. Flystrike is most common in summer months when the weather is warmer, your rabbit should be checked at least twice a day as flystrike can become deadly in as little as a couple of hours. It is also important to remove any droppings or urine from the hutch every day to help prevent the flies.

If your rabbit seems subdued, quiet, restless or is in any discomfit you should pick them up immediately and check for eggs and maggots.

What to do if your rabbit has Flystrike?

If you do spot any maggots you will need to get your rabbit to the vets immediately. The vet will usually shave the area, remove all maggots and give pain relief. This may need to be done under general anaesthetic. Rabbits with flystrike will be in a lot of pain and shock so it is important for an experienced vet to deal with the situation.The vet will also recommend antiseptic creams to be applied to the wound several times a day. Alongside this an anti-parasitic drug is used to help ensure that all remaining maggots and eggs are killed. If the rabbit isn’t treated immediately, it can unfortunately become fatal.

There are products you can get to help prevent flystrike, such as fly netting and flypaper around the hutch or cage, however if you are using these you must take care so that your rabbit doesn’t get tangled or injured by them. As well as this there are some natural products that help keep the flies away such as, basil, bay leaf, lavender and mint, these can be hung in dried bunches around the hutch. You can also try tansy and rue. Keep the plants out of reach of your rabbit so they cannot eat them.

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