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What is Rabbit Flystrike?

Flystrike (otherwise known as Myiasis) is a life-threatening condition in rabbits caused by flies laying eggs on their body. When this happens, the eggs hatch in maggots which then feed on a rabbit's skin. Flystrike can take as little as 24 hours to become fatal. So what causes it, what are the symptoms, and how can you prevent and treat it? This article explores.

What Causes Rabbit Flystrike?

As aforementioned, Rabbit Flystrike is caused by flies laying eggs on a rabbit's skin. Bluebottle and greenbottle flies are the most dangerous for this, and can lay upwards of 200 eggs per fly! When these eggs hatch into maggots, they can eat through large areas of the rabbit rapidly.

Whilst the flies are generally more attracted to warm and damp areas (particularly areas that are soiled), any rabbit, no matter how clean and healthy, can be affected by Flystrike.

Other factors that increase the risk of Flystrike include:

  • Warmer weather: As the weather gets warmer, there is an increase in the fly population, making it a bigger risk. However, Flystrike is still prevalent all year round, with reports of it happening from as early as January and late as November.

  • Older and arthritic rabbits: Older arthritic rabbits are also more prone to Flystrike. This is because they may clean themselves, leaving a build-up of waste which attracts flies.

  • Long-haired rabbit breeds: Long-haired rabbits, such as angora, are also prone to risk Flystrike as their long hair can be difficult to clean.

  • Dirty/poor living conditions: Dirty living conditions can also attract flies, leaving the rabbits inside at risk.

Symptoms to Look Out For

So what are the behavioural symptoms to look out for?

  • A reduced appetite

  • Not drinking water

  • Lethargy

  • Not wanting to move

  • Digging in the corner of the hutch

  • Collapsing

You may also notice:

  • A strong smell coming from your rabbit or their hutch

  • Maggots on or in the rabbit

  • Open wounds on the rabbit containing fly eggs or maggots

  • Bald or wet patches on the fur - this is often seen around the back end

Treatment and Prevention

Whilst there are ways to treat Flystrike, due to its fast-acting fatality, prevention is better than a cure. So how can you prevent Flystrike?

  • Check your rabbits' enclosure is clean every day and remove any dirty bedding.

  • Keep all wounds clean and dry - perhaps consider moving them inside if a wound is spotted.

  • Check your rabbit's back end daily (even more so during the summer months).

  • Provide products, such as Rearguard, to your rabbit to repel flies.

  • If your rabbit has arthritis (or you suspect they do), consider putting them on an anti-inflammatory medication so they can move and clean themselves more freely.

  • If your rabbit is experiencing diarrhoea, seek medical help, as these wet faeces will attract flies.

Flystrike can be treated if caught early enough, however, this can be dependent on the number of eggs laid, the time in which it takes to seek veterinary care, and the age/ health of the rabbit.

Once in veterinary care, the veterinarian can treat your rabbit by administering pain relief, clipping and washing the fur, removing the maggots, administering antibiotics, and in some cases putting the rabbit on an intravenous drip, and feeding through a tube. However, in many cases, extensive tissue loss has already occurred at this stage and euthanasia is the only option.

If you suspect your rabbit has Flystrike or find a maggot in their hutch, don’t hesitate to contact us on 020 8459 4729 today.


Order Dr Hannah Parkin's Amazing Guide To Caring For Your New Puppy.
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