We all love a bit of warm weather but there are several problems we, as vets, encounter in the summer months of concern, one of which is fly strike. This is a really unpleasant problem encountered in domestic animals and can be fatal if not treated promptly. It is most commonly seen in rabbits but can occur in any species at any time when it is warm (April – October in the UK) and there are flies about and can escalate in a matter of hours.
Flies can strike any healthy animal but are attracted to wet or dirty areas of the coat particularly around the rear end, or any damaged skin. They lay eggs and these form into maggots which eat into the flesh and eventually cause toxic shock and death. If caught early flystrike can be treated successfully but this depends on the damage already caused to the animal.
The most at risk group of rabbits are those that cannot groom properly such as obese or elderly patients, those with dental problems or generally unwell animals and of course those with urinary or gastrointestinal problems that lead to a dirty or wet rear end.
If you discover flystrike in your pet it is an emergency and it should be taken to the vets immediately but if this is not possible try to remove any maggots seen with tweezers until you can get them to a vet. Heat (warm damp towel of low heat hairdryer) will draw the maggots to the surface to allow this.
However, as I always say, prevention is better than cure!
Prevention of fly-strike
– Check rabbit all over twice daily in the summer especially the rear end
– Remove all soiled bedding daily
– Do not overfeed as this can cause diarrhoea and not too many greens
– Disinfect hutches every week
– Use netting to cover outdoor hutches to prevent fly access
– Use of fly papers
– Use of rearguard, a spot on preparation to prevent flystrike