Flystrike, also known as myiasis, is a serious condition that is seen in animals that live outside; it is more common in rabbits and guinea pigs. This occurs more commonly throughout the summer months with the increase in the amount of flies. The flies are attracted to damp fur, urine, faeces and the odour of, particularly, rabbit’s scent glands. This condition can happen extremely quickly during hot summer days.
The flies lay their eggs on the rabbit, usually around the bottom area, and these eggs will hatch into maggots within a couple of hours. These maggots then will look for a source of food, in these cases this will be the animal’s skin and flesh. Flystrike is extremely painful and can often be fatal if not discovered quickly enough. Treating flystrike can be very upsetting and requires veterinary professional’s to clip, clean and remove the maggots one by one, whilst also providing pain relief and sometimes even fluid therapy dependent on how the rabbit has presented. The rabbit may appear lethargic, painful, innappetent and have visible wounds, although you may not see maggots they could have burrowed into the skin.
Prevention is always preferable to prevent any suffering and so identifying any animal that may be more at risk is always beneficial. This includes older animals that may be unable to clean themselves.
Steps to help prevent flystrike:
Ensure enclosures are regularly cleaned out.
Ensure animals are a healthy weight, as those that are overweight will be less able to clean themselves.
Keep bottoms clean and assist with cleaning in older, more compromised animals where needed.
Ensure their diet is not too rich as this will cause their faeces to be soft and they will be more likely to have dirty rear ends. Rabbits and guinea pigs should have a diet that is a minimum of 85% hay to increase roughage, as well as commercially prepared pellet food and vegetables.
Check your pet nose to tail regularly, this should be at least twice a day and more frequently when fly strike is more likely. Check for fly eggs, maggots, sores and ensure that any urine or faeces is cleaned away.
A topical treatment can be used every 10 weeks during the summer months; it works by repelling flies from laying any eggs.
Prevention of and early identification of flystrike is vital in the treatment of this devastating condition, due to its rapid development in a short space of time. If you are concerned about this condition then contact your veterinary surgery for information and remember flystrike is an emergency.
Naomi Gough Dip AVN (Small Animal), Dip HE CVN, RVN: Nurse Team Leader at Damory Vets.