“The Vet says…” Fly Strike in Rabbits Part 2

In Part 1 we talked about what fly strike is, in Part 2 we talk about what signs you should be looking for and how to prevent fly strike. The first thing an owner must do to prevent fly strike is regularly check their rabbit. This may seem like a very obvious statement but it never ceases to amaze me how many people do not handle and interact with their rabbits on a daily basis. Just putting some food in the cage once or twice a day is not properly caring for your rabbit! It is essential that the rabbit’s perineal area (area underneath the tail around the bottom and vulva/penis) is checked on a daily basis. In a healthy rabbit, this area should be completely clean and free from faecal matter and urine. Any urine soaked fur or faecal material is abnormal and should not be ignored. If the perineal area is found to be dirty then it is a real concern. As a minimum the owner should clean the area by bathing, but ideally the rabbit should be checked by a vet to determine why it is not grooming properly.

Other signs of fly strike that may be noted on examination include smell. The skin lesions associated with fly strike exude a characteristic and unpleasant smell. Also, fly strike is painful and irritating for the rabbit. Therefore, they are often restless and off their food. Careful examination of the soiled perineal area can reveal tiny white fly eggs before they have hatched. More often than not though, fly eggs will hatch to produce maggots that are not initially visible because they are concealed by the matted soiled fur. Signs of fly strike only become apparent when the rabbit gets ill. If you have any suspicions your rabbit is suffering from fly strike get an urgent vet check. As well as careful monitoring of their rabbit for signs of perineal soiling, owners can also prevent fly strike by regular cleaning of the rabbit’s cage to reduce the risk of attracting flies. Also, there are insecticidal products on the market that can be applied to the rabbit to reduce the risk of fly strike. These can be very useful – especially in rabbits where underlying disease makes prevention of perineal soiling difficult. However, they are poor substitute for actually treating the underlying causes of perineal soiling and certainly do not replace regular owner monitoring. Finally, the rabbit’s diet is a vitally important part of prevention of fly strike in rabbits. Why do you think diet is so important and what constitutes an ideal diet for a rabbit?