Fly Strike - The Veterinary Centre, Glasgow

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Fly Strike

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What is fly strike?
“Fly strike”, also called
myiasis, is a condition seen in the UK during the warmer months of the year and most commonly affects pet RABBITS, especially if they live outdoors.
It is an extremely distressing condition arising when flies lay their eggs directly onto a soiled part of an animal. With the warm summer conditions these eggs can quickly hatch and mature to maggots. The maggots begin to feed on faecal debris stuck to the rabbit’s fur and will then begin to feed directly on the rabbit’s flesh causing massive trauma, pain and infection.

What conditions can predispose an animal to fly strike?
Flies, by nature, are attracted to warmth and moisture and a bunny with a mucky bottom or an open sore offers the perfect place for a fly to settle down and lay its eggs. All rabbits are at risk but some are more prone to infection than others. Any condition that may cause the rabbit to have excessive faecal soiling or reduced ability to keep himself/herself clean can increase the risk of fly strike.

Some of these conditions are listed below:

  • Obesity

  • Arthritis

  • Long haired rabbits

  • Broken skin/ open wounds

  • Poor diet which results in loose droppings

  • Dental disease

How can fly strike be prevented?

  • Twice-daily checks should be made by physically picking up the rabbit and thoroughly examining all areas, paying particular attention to the mouth and rear end.

  • Regular faecal checks should be made, paying attention to the size, frequency and texture. Any noticeable change in these, especially the production of loose stools, should be brought to the attention of a veterinary surgeon.

  • Keeping the hutch clean and hygienic and removing any faecal matter on a daily basis.

  • Provide the rabbit with a high fibre diet, hay or haylage is a good option. This should help produce firm stools and will also provide the necessary abrasion required to help maintain their teeth. Regular dental checks are important as any teething problems can be identified.

  • Regular grooming is vital with long haired rabbits or for those bunnies who are unable to effectively groom themselves. This will help mats from developing as they are easily soiled and are attractive to flies.

  • The use of fly repellents at times of the year when fly activity is at its highest. These are available from your veterinary surgeon.

  • The application of "Rearguard", a liquid treatment which is dabbed on to the rabbit's rear end. Please note that this is a preventative treatment only.

Can this condition be treated?
Treatment of fly strike depends on its severity and how quickly the condition is detected. Milder cases can be treated by sedating the rabbit and careful removal of all maggots and thorough cleansing of the wounds. Pain relief and antibiotics are given until the wounds are healed. However, some rabbits may present too late and can deteriorate very quickly, becoming very stressed and sick; unfortunately some cases are too far advanced and euthanasia may need to be considered.


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