During the warm months of the year, rabbits can become affected by maggot infestation known as fly strike. Obese rabbits are more susceptible to the condition.
Flies such as the green and blue bottles are attracted to the soiled fur or infected skin to lay their eggs. The most common area for fly strike in rabbits is at the base of the spine and between the tail and genitalia.
Uneaten caecotrophs increase the risk of fly strike. When the eggs hatch out, the maggots are hidden by matted, soiled fur and it may not be obvious to the owner until the rabbit shows signs of illness.
Fly strike is treated by clipping and cleaning the affected are and picking out all of the maggots. Ivermectin, antibiotics (enrofloxacin or trimethoprim) and analgesics (like carprofen) are indicated in the treatment of fly strike. Obese rabbits require aggressive treatment , fluid therapy, syringe feeding and analgesia to prevent hepatic lipidosis. This is where there is a build up of fatty deposits in the liver and this can cause the liver to fail.
If your rabbit has Fly Strike
The most important thing is to seek vetinary attention. Matted fur can be removed with scissors, but mind you don’t cut the rabbits skin (usually the vet will clip the rabbits fur). Then wash the rabbit with an insecticidal shampoo. The maggots need to be picked off individually. Using a hair dryer on the affected area will help the remaining maggots to show themselves as they are attracted to the heat.
Fly Control and Prevention
If you have an obese rabbit put him/her on a hay/grass diet only
Clean soiled areas 2-3 times a week, maybe more if needed.
Purchase a insect/fly trap if possible:
These are great if your rabbits are housed in a shed or garage
Ointments/sprays can be used to repel flies
Use spot on or rear guard to prevent flies wandering where they shouldn’t. However, do not use Frontline (fiprinol) as rabbits can suffer adverse reactions.
If the rabbits are outside in a run – cover the run in a strong mesh / fly screen or a net curtain.
Check your rabbit throughout the day. The earliest fly strike is caught the better.
Written by Sam (missblondebunny) May 2006.