What is it?
Flystrike is used to describe a severe condition resulting from maggot infestation. The condition is caused by the fly Lucilia sericata; otherwise known as the green bottle fly. These flies are active during the spring, summer and autumn months and are attracted to damp fur which is has been soiled with urine or faeces.
The fly lays her eggs (often up to 200 per fly) on the damp fur and these eggs will hatch in to maggots within a few hours. The maggots rapidly eat away large areas of flesh from around the affected area – most commonly the base of the tail and bottom region – causing severe damage and pain. If left untreated the maggots will progress and effectively eat the animal alive.
What are the symptoms?
You may initially notice that your pet is more quiet than usual and might be less interested in food. If undetected, these symptoms will rapidly progress resulting in a depressed and shocked animal, and ultimately death.
Maggots are easy to find with close inspection so you should check your rabbit’s fur daily for any signs of them. If you see a maggot this should be treated as an emergency and you should contact us immediately.
How do we treat flystrike?
If detected early: thorough removal of maggots, clipping of wet fur, cleaning with antiseptic, and systemic pain relief are all that are necessary. In some cases we may also administer antibiotics.
If not detected early: we would treat them as above but your pet may also need fluid therapy to correct any shock, and may need treatment for gut complications including syringe feeding.
In very severe cases: unfortunately often the kindest option is to put the animal to sleep to avoid any further suffering.
How can flystrike be prevented?
Even the best looked after rabbits will be at risk of developing flystrike. It only takes a tiny area of wet fur for flystrike to develop so it is important that you check your pet’s entire coat twice daily.
Rabbits which are overweight, have dental disease, or are arthritic will all struggle to groom and keep themselves clean so particular care must be taken in these individuals.
We can supply a topical product which you apply to your rabbit’s fur; this will prevent fly eggs from hatching. This must be repeated at 8-10 week intervals over the spring, summer and autumn period. Should you wish to use this product please contact us as we would be more than happy to see your pet and show you how to apply it on the first occasion.
This post has been written by one of our Whitton Surgery Vets – Kieran Avery