Fly Strike in Rabbits
During the summer months, pet rabbits may be affected by maggot infestation.
One of the most distressing problems seen in pet rabbits is Blow Fly Strike, caused by flies. They lay their eggs in damp and ideally smelly places. There is a deep cleft on either side of the anus and genitals in rabbits. This is where the flies like to lay their eggs. The maggots hatch out and start eating. Unfortunately, if they lay eggs in a rabbit’s genital cleft, this means they start literally eating the rabbit alive. They can cause terrible damage with staggering speed, sometimes in just a few days. It is often treatable, but it does cause tremendous suffering, and some rabbits may well die from this condition. While it can occur at any time, flies are much more active in summer, so that is when we see almost all our cases of fly strike.
Fortunately, there is a lot that you can do. Anything that makes the back end of a rabbit wetter and smellier will hugely increase the likelihood of fly strike. Poor grooming, sticky or loose stools, and urine staining are the major causes of this. Feeding the correct food will maintain healthy dry droppings (see our article about proper feeding for rabbits). Overweight rabbits can find it difficult to groom properly, so controlling their body weight will also help.
Keeping your rabbit’s accommodation clean is also extremely important – it should be cleaned daily, especially in summer. We also recommend checking the genital clefts, right down to the bottom, every day. We can show you how to do this if you are unsure. We can also supply medical products to apply to the back end of your rabbit to greatly reduce the risk for times of high risk. But nothing takes the place of keeping your rabbit clean and healthy.
Keeping your rabbits well and seeing a vet for regular health examinations - at least once a year - will help limit illnesses that can produce excessive urine and make that area damp and smelly, attracting flies. You can use organisations like the Rabbit Welfare Association for more information.