Any animal can suffer from fly strike (or being fly blown) and describes an animal affected by a maggot infestation. We commonly see it in rabbits and hedgehogs.
Flies pose a huge risk for rabbits during the warmer weather, although, healthy rabbits are generally not affected by fly strike. The main problems that lead to the condition include:
A WOUND – a rabbit which is physically unable or too fat to groom its rear end of normal caecotrophs (moist ‘faeces’) – a rabbit that is suffering from ‘diarrhoea’ or urinary problems and have matted and soiled fur around the bottom
DAMP BEDDING These conditions attract flies who consider these to be ideal sites to lay their eggs and in a very short time these eggs will hatch out as flesh eating maggots. The maggots can cause a tremendous amount of damage within hours as they eat through the tissues. This is a serious, often fatal condition and quick veterinary attention is required.
PREVENTING FLY STRIKE The key factors in preventing fly strike are to ensure that bedding is dry, that the rabbit does not have any wounds or ulcerated areas of skin and that there are no problems to prevent grooming.
Grooming problems can be due to: – Dental disease: An animal which has sharp hooks on its molar or cheek teeth will not want to groom since these hooks cause pain when the rabbit extends its tongue to groom in the normal manner. Similarly, overgrown incisor teeth (at the front of the mouth) will impede grooming. Your rabbit’s teeth should be checked regularly by your veterinary surgeon and appropriate treatment given if necessary.
– Back problems: Arthritic pain or spinal injury may prevent your rabbit from being able to turn round to groom properly.
– Obesity: It is important to get your rabbit’s diet right with 80% of the diet consisting of hay or grass and a carefully measured daily portion of a pellet style rabbit food (not muesli-style)
Check your rabbit thoroughly TWICE a day during the summer months for eggs and/or maggots. Rearguard is a liquid that prevents the maggots from developing to the stage that causes damage to the rabbit. Regularly apply the contents of a bottle to your rabbit’s hindquarters for 10 weeks protection.
TREATMENT FOR FLY STRIKE The animal will need to be sedated or anaesthetised so that all the maggots can be removed. Your rabbit will be hospitalised, medicated and kept warm and comfortable. Such intensive care may cure your rabbit of the maggot infestation but in severe cases extensive surgery may be needed to remove all the dead maggot-ridden tissue. It will also be necessary to overcome the original problems which led to the fly strike
Remember to take your rabbit for regular (maybe twice yearly) routine health checks, to ensure that dental disease or back problems are not predisposing your rabbit to this dangerous condition. Ensure their housing is dry and well aired and be vigilant!