What is Fly Strike?
When a fly lays its eggs on a rabbit, the eggs hatch and the maggots start to eat away at the animal's skin. Fly strike is extremely serious. Affected rabbits suffer great pain and distress while the maggots eat away at them. Untreated they die within a few days. The few that are taken to the vet in time are usually very depressed, close to death. It is truly horrific.
How is Fly Strike Treated?
The first thing is to bring your rabbit down to the vets immediately as soon as you notice. The maggots will firstly be removed. This is a time consuming process, and involves physically picking the maggots off the rabbit. Then, the rabbit is treated for shock, and given pain relief and antibiotics. Sometime after it may be appropriate to surgically repair some of the wounds that the maggots have made. This requires a general anaesthetic, which involves considerable risk to a sick rabbit. It is often necessary to wait a day or two for the rabbit's condition to improve before operating.
Why Do Flies Attack Rabbits?
In the UK most rabbits live outdoors in hutches. Mostly these are cleaned out once, maybe two or three times a week. But rabbits produce faeces many times a day, and occasionally these faeces stick to the fur around the rabbit's bottom. Flies are attracted to the rabbit's hutch by the smell of the faeces, and especially areas of skin that have been soiled with faeces or urine. There they lay their eggs on the rabbit, the eggs hatch, and the maggots immediately start eating the rabbit's skin.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Rabbit?
Basic hygiene is very important. Clean the hutch out every day. Make sure your rabbit's bottom is dry and has no faeces sticking to it. There are several products that can be purchased from the veterinary practice that are licensed to help prevent flystrike. Please contact your veterinary practice for more details.