Now that summer has arrived, so have the green bottle fly!
Lucilia Sericata causes a devastating number of flystrike occurrences in rabbits and other animals, especially during the summer months.
Each fly can lay up to 200 eggs on the skin, usually at the back end of the animals, as it is attracted to warm, moist areas soiled with urine or faeces. These eggs then hatch into maggots which will grow by feasting on flesh. These maggots can eat into large areas of skin at an alarming rate, and collectively can eat large areas of skin rapidly.
Flystrike is life-threatening and must be treated rapidly! If you notice any small white larvae or live maggots in the hutch or around the genital or anus area of your rabbit, then you need to act quickly and get them to your vet.
Signs Of Flystrike
- Depression/Lethargy which can lead to dehydration
- Inappetence and refusing to drink
- A strong smell coming from the hutch or rear end of your pet
- Rabbits affected can start to “dig” at the corners and edges of their hutch, trying to alleviate the pain
As the maggots start eating larger area’s of flesh, this can lead to shock, collapse, and death.
Flystrike is a veterinary emergency!
Rabbits can survive flystrike, however it is a tricky procedure to ensure all of the larvae have been removed – this should be done by veterinary professionals.
Rabbits skin is very delicate and can rip and tear easily, making the situation worse. The area will be clipped and cleaned and all larvae will be gently removed with tweezers. Pain relief can be administered by your vet to ensure that your rabbit is kept comfortable and soothing ointments and creams will be regularly applied to the area to prevent any more damage to the sensitive tissue from urine scalding.
In severe cases, your rabbit may require antibiotics, intravenous fluids and assisted feeding. Depending on the area of skin that has been destroyed by the maggots, euthanasia may be the only option to end suffering.
Rabbits who struggle to groom themselves are at most risk of flystrike; this could be for a variety of reasons including obesity, poor dental composition, long fur, or arthritis.
It only takes a small amount of faeces or urine to become clogged onto the fur for the flies to become attracted to the area and lay their eggs, so we advise to check your rabbits bottom twice a day. If you notice that the area is dirty, you can wash them with warm water and a small animal shampoo, ensuring that the area is rinsed well of soap suds and then dried well afterwards.
You may also want to apply a product such as Rearguard. This will offer protection to your rabbit for up to 10 weeks from first application
Hutches should be kept clean – remove soiled bedding and replace with new straw/hay/chippings daily and disinfect your rabbits bowls, run and hutch 1-2 times weekly.
Avoid foods that may give your rabbit diarrhoea, such as an overindulgence of fresh fruit and vegetables.
You may want to consider fly screens around the hutch to keep flies at bay and having some plants that repel flies nearby such as lavender, peppermint, mugwort, basil, camomile or oregano.