Flystrike in rabbits – fight it with our expert tips

Flystrike (or fly strike) can quite literally be a nightmare for rabbits and rabbit owners. Northlands Veterinary Hospital's expert team answers common questions and shares their top tips on fighting flystrike below.

Call us on 01536 485543 if you suspect flystrike.

What causes flystrike in rabbits?

Flies (especially bottle flies) like to lay eggs in warm, damp places. A rabbit that smells of faeces, urine, or blood is a prime target. If you’re wondering how common flystrike is in rabbits, they are the most at-risk small pet for this deadly condition. Why? Unfortunately, flies are also drawn to a rabbit’s scent glands.

Flystrike occurs when certain types of flies lay eggs on a rabbit, or in soiled bedding. The eggs hatch into maggots, which burrow into rabbits through open sores or moist areas (like the rear), eating flesh as they go. Pets that have digestive problems and struggle to keep themselves clean (due to illness, old age, arthritis, or dental issues) are most at risk.

Why do rabbits die from flystrike?

Flystrike in rabbits is a horrible condition that is often fatal. If the shock or infection doesn’t cause death, then euthanasia can be the kindest option to end their suffering. If you suspect your rabbit has flystrike, contact our vets quickly on 01536 485543.

Symptoms: how to tell if your rabbit has flystrike?

Flystrike progresses at an alarming rate and can cause death if untreated. You may notice:

  1. Your rabbit is quiet and lethargic.

  2. Your rabbit may be refusing food and drink.

  3. A strong smell coming from their hutch.

  4. Your rabbit is digging into corners for pain relief.

  5. Maggots and flies around your pet and in their hutch.

Fighting flystrike in rabbits - top tips to prevent it

Keeping your pet and their bedding clean and dry is the best flystrike prevention. Here are our head nurse's top tips to help you.

We suggest adding this Summer Rabbit Checklist to your phone:

  1. Check your pet’s rear end and fur (incontinence can attract flies) at least twice a day.

  2. Feed your rabbit a fibrous diet including hay, vegetables, and fresh water. This will help to:

  3. Keep their digestive system working well and avoid upset tummies and soiling.

  4. Keep them in shape so they can reach to groom all areas.

  5. Avoid dental issues, which can in turn cause upset tummies and soiling.

  6. Ensure your rabbit is producing and eating their caecal (soft poops) - call us if not.

  7. Clear your rabbit’s hutch of poo pellets and soiled bedding daily.

  8. Give them a gentle ‘butt bath’ with pet-safe shampoo if they’re not keeping clean.

If your rabbit has a condition that is causing soiling or incontinence and they are struggling to clean themselves, there are preventative treatments you can get for flystrike. Request a visit with our vet nurses to learn more.

Flystrike in rabbits – fight it with our expert tips