Flystrike – it’s that time of year again

At this time of year we should all be on the look out for Myiasis in rabbits. It’s an emergency, which needs urgent attention - never leave it

Posted: 11 July 2017

Flystrike – it’s that time of year again


At this time of year with the heat and flies, we should all be on the look out for Myiasis in rabbits. This happens when flies have been attracted to damp fur, urine and faeces and end up laying eggs on the animal, with the inevitable life changing consequences.

It’s an emergency, which needs urgent attention - never leave it

Potentially all animals are at risk from this condition, but we tend to find that it mainly affects rabbits with one or more of the following problems.

  • Dirty coats – any animal with wet or soiled fur will attract flies
  • Overweight or obese pets - rabbits that are unable to clean themselves properly or feed on the normal caecotrophs will be more susceptible
  • Animals in pain – if a rabbit has pain associated with dental disease, gut stasis or arthritis, it will be less inclined to behave normally. Caecotrophs won’t be eaten, so these will build up as a smelly, sticky mess under the tail, so attracting flies
  • Bladder disease – any animal with bladder stones, sludge or cystitis will end up dribbling urine that will attract the egg-laying flies
  • Arthritis – any animal with pain associated with the spine or hind legs will be less able to clean itself
  • Elderly – older animals will be less active and attentive. If they move less, they will quite likely stay close to where they have defecated or urinated, and so will be in close proximity to egg laying flies
  • Injuries – any animal with an open wound
  • Respiratory infections – owners need to be aware and vigilant. If their pet has a chronic discharge from its nose or eyes, it will attract flies

Treating myiasis

  • Removal and washing - pick off as many of the external maggots as you can by washing in warm water. Remove the stubborn maggots using tweezers or forceps. Any maggots that have burrowed into the flesh can be encouraged to the surface of the skin by using a warm, damp towel. Dry the area thoroughly to prevent hypothermia.
  • Antibiotics – with tissue damage, antibiotics are usually prescribed or given to reduce secondary infections.
  • Analgesics - wounds caused by the burrowing maggots will be extremely sore. Buprenorphine and meloxicam are ideal.
  • Identify the cause - ultimately the underlying cause needs to be found and treated to fully and effectively treat the condition. Often the cause is pain that prevents the animals from eating caecotrophs, grooming or moving about.
  • Supportive care – these animals are often presented in practice in a debilitated and toxic condition.
  • Fluid therapy - shock levels of 100ml/ kg/ hr in the first hour.
  • Pro-kinetics – drugs such as ranitidine are used to try and avoid gut stasis.
  • Assisted feeding - use a suitable critical care product. Are you aware of our feeding product Excel Dualcare?
  • Antiparasitics – products such as Xeno 200 spray containing ivermectin are often used. Don’t use Fipronil, as this is potentially lethal to rabbits. It’s readily available for dogs and cats, but must never be used in rabbits.


Myiasis is a distressing and potentially fatal condition – it is also preventable!

  • Hygiene – tell owners to remove all soiled bedding – this will reduce the smells and levels of ammonia and so won’t attract flies. At Burgess Pet Care we produce the ideal product to use as pet litter, Excel Small Animal Bedding & Litter.
  • High fibre diets – lots of hay and only limited access to concentrates. Absolutely no muesli style diets. See our range of high fibre diets
  • Encourage daily home checks – by doing this you will notice problems early.
  • Short hair - keep the hair around and under the tail short and clean.
  • Fly traps – these may be helpful but check they are safe to use.
  • Screens on doors and windows - these may reduce the number of flies that get into the house.
  • Rearguard – rabbits should be first treated in early summer before any flies are seen. Rearguard won’t repel flies or kill adult maggots but works by preventing fly eggs from developing. Rabbits should be treated at 8-10 week intervals.