Summer weather is the prime time for rabbits to fall victims of fly strike, or myiasis. This problem is gruesome to think about, but because it does kill rabbits, owners need to know the facts. In short fly strike is an infestation of maggots. Fortunately, when we know the facts about this condition, we can take steps to prevent it.
A publication in South Wales, the Carmarthen Journal has reported on the warning signs to know when fly strike has happened, as well as how to treat the condition:
Rabbits with a wet or dirty groin are most at risk. Flies are attracted by moisture, warmth and odour. Flies will lay eggs on fur matted with urine and faeces and the maggots will hatch out within 8-20 hours. The maggots eat into your rabbit’s flesh.
Rabbits most at risk are:
1. Obese rabbits
2. Rabbits with teeth problems who have trouble grooming
3. Rabbits with urinary problems
4. Elderly or arthritic rabbits
5. Long-coated breeds
6. Rabbits with wounds
Treatment: This is an emergency. Ring your veterinary surgery and arrange to be seen immediately. Rabbits with fly strike are in pain and shock.
They are usually admitted to the hospital for 24 hours where we remove the maggots and then administer pain relief, antibiotics and fluids. However, the survival rate may be low, as rabbits only show illness when it is advanced and the maggots have caused extensive damage.
Prevention: This is simple. Maggots are not for the squeamish but responsible rabbit owners cannot bury their heads in the sand. Good husbandry is essential.
1. Clean the hutch daily. Remove all soiled bedding.
2. Avoid feeding excessive greens and fruit. This can lead to diarrhoea and a dirty bottom.
3. Check your rabbit twice daily. Remove any faeces stuck to the rear end or groin. Keep the rear end and groin dry — do not soak your rabbit’s bottom in water.
4. There is a foam preparation called ‘Rear Guard’ that can protect your rabbit from fly strike for ten weeks. It is only available from your veterinary surgeon. It is applied over the body but particularly to the bottom and groin area. It stops the fly eggs developing into maggots.
5. There is also a spray that can be applied to your rabbit’s bottom to repel flies.
You can read the full article at http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/Act-prevent-fly-strike/story-16744968-detail/story.html
In addition Marinelle Harriman has written an excellent article on Fly Strike that was published on the House Rabbit Society web site. Here is a link to that article.
Photo courtesy of House Rabbit Society