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Flystrike: Symptoms of an Rabbit Health Emergency

rabbits and fly strike

With special thanks to Wolf

Flystrike is a disgusting topic, but it can kill small animals. Therefore, we'd instead share information with our valued customers about this health emergency than hear their pets suffered from it. One other warning: you’ll see some links to unappetizing photos 🤢. We recommend you’re not eating or drinking when you peek.

Who is Vulnerable?

Rabbits are the most common sufferers of flystrike, but guinea pigs are pretty susceptible too. It isn't just the small animals – sheep, horses, dogs; nobody is immune. Unfortunately, rabbits often have a poopy bum, and that is a prime location for flystrike. Any bum that isn’t fresh as a daisy and dry dry dry is just asking for flystrike.

How Does it Happen?

Flystrike happens when flies lay eggs on your animal. Next, the eggs turn into maggots, and the maggots eat their way into your animal’s flesh. Sorry. There just isn’t a pleasant way to put that.

Note: the maggots don’t stop at the surface. When they are done with whatever dirt is readily available, they burrow down in the skin within 24 hours. This is when the actual emergency sets in. The maggots release potent, deadly toxins. These toxins can quickly cause your animal to go into shock, giving you little time to save your animal’s life.


There’s no question flystrike symptoms equal a HEALTH EMERGENCY. Here’s when to suspect flystrike and leap into action:

  • Check the bum for something like this.
  • The toxins may cause:
  • Seizures.
  • Shock (possibly unconscious, cool ears and paws, fast heart rate, fast, shallow breathing, pale gums)

If you see flystrike symptoms like the linked picture, you MUST TAKE YOUR PET TO THE VET RIGHT THIS MINUTE. Don’t try to remove the maggots off yourself – depending upon how far along the infestation is, medical assistance is necessary and necessary extremely fast. This is not a DIY situation.

Sick dog and a dog pretending to a be a vet


The RSPCA (Royal Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) recommends:

  • Check for signs of illness/injury/abnormal behavior daily.
  • In warm weather, check your pet all over their body, especially around their rear end and tail area, at least twice a day.
  • Keep your pet’s bum clean, dry, and well “aired.” Poopy bum is prime real estate for flystrike.
  • If your pet’s back end is dirty, clean immediately with warm water and dry thoroughly. Young, elderly, and ill animals may not be able to clean themselves properly. They need your help to stay clean.
  • If your animal has long fur, you may want to keep the back area shaved down. Check with your vet on the best way to do this for your pet. It may be necessary to clip the fur; if you're unsure how to do this, seek advice from a specialist.
  • Clean toilet areas daily (cat and rabbit litter boxes; guinea pig, mice, rat, gerbil, and hamster enclosures).
  • Clean housing and change bedding at least once a week.
  • Ensure your pet is not overweight and is fed a correct diet. 
  • Insect-proof chicken coops.
  • Install screens in all open windows and doors in your home.
  • Neuter female rabbits, intact females may be more prone to flystrike.
  • Do not use sprays or chemicals to control flies. Animal respiratory systems are extremely sensitive to these products. Also, chemical residue can stick to paws. When pets clean their feet, they will ingest these chemicals.
We're all ears graphic

Mother Nature doesn’t always make our lives easy. By keeping an eye out for flystrike, you’ll keep your sweet babies hoppy and healthy. Have you had an experience with flystrike? We'd love to hear about it. Please email us at or comment on our socials.

DISCLAIMER: These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by Small Pet Select of any of the products, services or opinions of the corporation or organization or individual.

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