Flystrike - it’s that time of year again

1st August 2016

At this time of year we often see animals at Bollington Veterinary Centre with a condition known as Myiasis. This is when flies have been attracted to damp fur, urine and faeces and end up laying eggs on the animal. These eggs then develop into maggots that eat the rabbit’s skin and underlying tissues.


It’s an emergency

This condition is an emergency and needs urgent attention, so never leave it until the next day. Call us immediately.


Which rabbits are at risk?

Potentially all animals are at risk from this condition, but we tend to find that it mainly affects rabbits with one or more of the following problems.

  • Dirty coats – any animal with wet or soiled fur will attract flies
  • Overweight or obese pets - rabbits that are unable to clean themselves properly or feed on the normal caecotrophs will be more susceptible
  • Animals in pain – if a rabbit has pain associated with dental disease, gut stasis or arthritis, it will be less inclined to behave normally. Caecotrophs won’t be eaten, so these will build up as a smelly, sticky mess under the tail, so attracting flies
  • Bladder disease – any animal with bladder stones, sludge or cystitis will end up dribbling urine that will attract the egg-laying flies
  • Arthritic – any animal with pain associated with the spine or hind legs will be less able to clean itself
  • Elderly – older animals will be less active and attentive. If they move less, they will quite likely stay close to where they have defecated or urinated, and so will be in close proximity to egg laying flies
  • Injuries – any animal with an open wound
  • Respiratory infections – be vigilant if your rabbit has a chronic pussy and smelly discharge from its nose or eyes

If you notice any of these problems, make sure you contact us at Bollington Veterinary Centre so we can advise you of the best way to prevent a problem.


Call us urgently

If you find maggots on or around your rabbit’s bottom you should call us straight away. Our telephone number is 01625 573375 .


What treatment is available?

If you cannot get to us immediately, pick off as many of the external maggots as you can by washing in warm water. Remove the stubborn maggots using tweezers or forceps. Any maggots that have burrowed into the flesh can be encouraged to the surface of the skin by using a warm, damp towel. Try not to wet your rabbit’s coat excessively as you don’t want to cause hypothermia. Ensure you dry the area afterwards using clean soft dry towels.

Rabbits that have fly strike will also often need antibiotics and painkillers. The wounds caused by the maggots will be extremely sore, and usually become infected.

Ultimately the underlying cause needs to be found and treated to fully and effectively treat the condition. Often the cause is pain that prevents the animals from eating caecotrophs, grooming or moving about. We may suggest X-rays to look for signs of arthritis or dental disease to try to identify and resolve the problem.


Don’t use Fipronil

We will normally use spot on or injectable treatments to kill the maggots (not all of them may be removed by washing and picking as they can burrow quite deep). We must stress that you should not use any preparations containing fipronil, as this is potentially lethal to rabbits. It’s readily available for dogs and cats, but must never be used in rabbits.


Can flystrike be prevented?

Myiasis is a distressing and potentially fatal condition. Whilst we can’t eliminate flies from the environment, you can help by checking your pet daily.


Our 7 point prevention checklist

  • Remove all soiled bedding – this will reduce the smells and levels of ammonia and so won’t attract flies.
  • Feed a high fibre diet – lots of hay and only limited access to concentrates. Never feed muesli style diets. This will ensure that your rabbit’s gut works properly. Overfeeding carbohydrates can result in diarrhoea, leading to a dirty groin.
  • Check your rabbit regularly – by doing this you will notice problems early
  • Short hair - keep the hair around and under the tail short and clean. You can try trimming the hair, but take extreme care as it’s very easy to cut the skin by mistake. You might prefer to bring your pet into us at Bollington Veterinary Centre where we can safely use clippers.
  • Fly traps – these may be helpful but check they are safe to use
  • Screens on doors and windows - these may reduce the number of flies that get into the house
  • Rearguard – ask our vets or nurses for information on using this product safely and effectively


Using Rearguard

Rabbits should be first treated in early summer before any flies are seen. Rearguard won’t repel flies or kill adult maggots but works by preventing fly eggs from developing. Your pet should be treated at 8-10 week intervals.

Remember, if your rabbit is continually attractive to flies, this may be due to an underlying disease e.g. diarrhoea or incontinence, or a lack of hygiene within its housing.

If you have concerns or doubts about the health of your pet, contact us at Bollington Veterinary Centre on 01625 573375 and we’ll be pleased to help you.