Pets Are Important Too

What All Bunny Owners Need To Know About Fly Strike

by Aurore Fontai

Rabbits are susceptible to a number of diseases and health issues, but one of the most common is a condition called fly strike. This condition is caused by green bottle flies laying their eggs on the damp fur of the rabbit. The eggs hatch into larvae that then burrow under the rabbit's skin and release toxins that make the rabbit very ill. As a bunny owner, you should hope that you never have to deal with this scary, life-threatening ailment. But you should also know the basics about fly strike just in case it does happen to your pet.

What are the signs of fly strike?

A bunny will appear healthy before suddenly becoming stricken with the symptoms of fly strike. In other words, the following symptoms may appear overnight or within a few short hours:

  • Flies sitting on top of the rabbit
  • The appearance of wet, oozy patches on the rabbit, particularly in the groin and abdominal areas
  • Listlessness; the rabbit might sit quietly in its cage and not move at all
  • Refusal to eat
  • Jumping up quickly and thrashing in a seizure-like manner

What should you do if you think your rabbit has fly strike?

Fly strike is considered an emergency situation for your bunny. Left untreated for even a day or two, it could claim your rabbit's life as the maggots literally eat the bunny's flesh and expose it to dangerous toxins. As soon as you notice signs of fly strike, take your rabbit to an emergency veterinarian, such as those at Gwynedd Veterinary Hospital. Even if it is the middle of the night, this is not something that should wait until the next morning.

How will your vet treat fly strike?

The only way to treat fly strike effectively is to make sure each and every maggot and fly egg is removed from your rabbit's fur. Your vet will likely accomplish this with a pair of tweezers and a magnifying glass. Your rabbit may be sedated in order to make the process easier for the vet and less traumatic for the rabbit. Your vet may have to lance several areas to gain access to where the maggots have worked their way under the skin. If this is necessary, these wounds will be cleaned and then sutured to prompt healing. Your vet may also clip or trim your rabbit's hair in the affected areas to make it easier to see and remove the maggots.

Depending on how severe your rabbit's fly strike is, he may require IV therapy to restore proper fluid levels. Antibiotics will be administered to prevent infection. Pain relievers will also be given to make him more comfortable, and a special diet may be fed through a syringe to ensure your rabbit has the nutrients he needs to recover.

How can you prevent fly strike?

The flies are attracted to urine and feces, so the key to preventing fly strike is to keep your rabbit and its environment as clean as possible. Check your rabbit's bottom twice a day to ensure there are no urine or feces left behind. If there are, use a damp cloth to wipe away the soiling. Remove soiled rabbit litter from the cage daily so it does not attract flies, and thoroughly change your rabbit's cage at least once per week. Make sure the litter you're using is absorbent so that liquid does not linger at the bottom of your rabbit's cage and get your rabbit wet. 

You should also keep your rabbit indoors, if possible, as there will be less exposure to flies. If you see flies in your home, take measures to get rid of them, such as putting up fly strips.

Fly strike is scary, both for you and your bunny. By following the preventative tips above, you should reduce your rabbit's risk of this ailment. Just make sure you also keep an eye out for the symptoms and act accordingly if, for any reason, you suspect your bunny might be suffering from fly strike.