Fly Strike: What You Need to Know

rabbits and fly strike

Flies can be pesky little creatures, especially when they slip in the house through an open window or a door. But, for our rabbits, those pesky creatures can quickly turn deadly. Fly strike, unfortunately, is a common problem among rabbits, especially those who are disabled or compromised health-wise in some way.

Fly strike occurs when a fly or another insect – like a maggot – lays eggs in a rabbit’s fur.  Get your rabbit to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian immediately if you suspect fly strike. Your rabbit’s life depends on it.

Flickr/Oksana Ellison​​

What causes fly strike?

With the craziness of the weather, fly strike is something we should be aware of at all times, although it is predominant during the warm months when the flies are out and about. Even though your rabbit lives indoors, you’ll still want to be vigilant and understanding of fly strike, especially if you like to take your rabbit outside for fresh air from time to time.

Disabled, overweight, and elderly rabbits all face an increased risk of fly strike because they’re unable to keep their bottoms clean. That means you have to be extra vigilant, making sure your rabbit’s bottom is clean and dry at all times. If you give your rabbit bum baths because of poopy butt, for example, dry her bottom thoroughly. A damp or a wet bum provides fertile ground for flies to lay their eggs.

If your rabbit has an open wound, has limited mobility, or cannot eat her cecotrophes, she is also more susceptible to fly strike. Click here to read a technical discussion about fly strike in rabbits.


WARNING: Signs of Fly Strike

Know your rabbit. That should probably be the mantra for all rabbit parents, wouldn’t you say? When we know our rabbit’s personality, eating habits, and so on, we can pick up on a problem so much faster.

Lethargy is a common sign of fly strike. If your rabbit appears lethargic, she could be suffering from a range of health problems, including fly strike. Get her to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian immediately.

Your rabbit may also show signs that she’s uncomfortable or in pain, both signaling that something is wrong.


Preventing Fly Strike

You can be the absolute perfect rabbit parent. Your rabbit lives indoors in an impeccably clean house with a litterbox that’s changed daily (or more often). Yet, your rabbit could still suffer from fly strike from that one stray fly that slips into your house. The best we can do is to take actions to prevent fly strike and, if it happens, immediately get our rabbit to a vet.

Here are some ways to combat fly strike:

  • Always keep your rabbit indoors. Rabbits should live inside anyway but limit the outdoor play time to safe areas like a covered tent or a stroller.
  • Groom your rabbit frequently. When you do, be on the lookout for tiny white eggs of flies or anything that just doesn’t look right. If you notice eggs or anything unusual, consult your rabbit-savvy vet immediately.
  • Change litter boxes frequently. Soiled litter will attract flies.
  • If you give your rabbit butt baths, make sure she is completely dry before putting her back on the floor.

Treatment of Fly Strike

Approach fly strike like the emergency that it is. Your rabbit could go into shock and could die in a very short period of time.

Treatment for the burrowed eggs typically requires you (or the vet) to remove each of the eggs with tweezers or a similar instrument. Even if you remove the eggs yourself, take your rabbit to the vet immediately as she may require additional treatment if she’s in shock or is displaying other symptoms.

Suspect fly strike? Get your rabbit to a rabbit-savvy veterinarian immediately. In fact, when it doubt, always consult your veterinarian.

References House Rabbit Society Journal

House Rabbit Society JournalMediRabbit