Flystrike (myiasis) and how to prevent it
Flystrike (also known as Myiasis) is when flies lay their eggs on a rabbit's skin (usually around the bottom). The eggs quickly hatch and the maggots chew their way into the rabbit's skin. This can happen within hours and can very quickly become fatal.
Always check your rabbit's bottom twice daily, and every time you pick him up.
Is my rabbit at risk of getting flystrike?
Any rabbit can get flystrike but the risk is highest for rabbits with dirty bottoms, wet fur or wounds. If your rabbit often has a dirty bottom please read 'the importance of poo' - you may have to change his diet. Flystrike is especially common during hot weather, mainly summer, but it can occur at any time. Keep your rabbit’s living quarters clean and dry: flies are attracted by damp, smelly conditions.
Warning signs your bunny may be flyblown
All rabbits should have their bottoms checked twice daily, especially in summer. However, if any bunny is quiet and listless; or appears restless and shows signs of discomfort, pick them up immediately and check for eggs or maggots.
What do you do if you find your rabbit has maggots
Don't just try and clean him yourself - telephone your veterinary practice IMMEDIATELY. Flystrike is a true emergency - day or night - and treatment cannot wait. So long as it does not delay your trip to the vet, pick off any visible maggots with tweezers. Do not dunk the rabbit in water: fur in the affected area may need to be shaved and wet fur clogs the clippers. Flystrike is a very serious condition and is, sadly, often fatal. However, rabbits can make a full recovery if the condition if found and treated quickly. Flyblown rabbits are usually in pain and severe shock, and need skilled veterinary and nursing care.
How to prevent flystrike
- Check that your rabbit is eating a healthy diet
- Remove soiled bedding every day & disinfect hutches weekly
- Check your rabbit at least twice a day
- Don’t forget that houserabbits can also be at risk!
- Physical barriers such as adding fly-screens to hutches and runs
- Speak to your vet about specific preventative measures: “Rearguard” is a liquid that is applied by sponge to the rabbit and prevents flystrike for up to 10 weeks. It stops maggots maturing to a stage where they become dangerous.
- Hang fly killers such as fly sticky paper (available from DIY stores and garden centres) in the home or rabbit's shed/ living quarters
- Some plants and herbs repel flies which can be put in pots on top of hutches and in hanging baskets (keep out of reach of your rabbits!)
eg. Dried pyrethrum flowers, Pennyroyal (has a strong peppermint scent), Nigella (Love in a Mist), balm, chamomile, hemp, agrimony, lavender, mugwort, rosemary, rue, peppermint, santalina (CottonLavendar), basil, shofly, green oregano.
Remember to check your bunnies' bottoms twice a day - and more often on hot days! - keep their living conditions clean, and take out preventative measures.