The Danger of Flies to Rabbits

Flies are not only a nuisance they can be quite dangerous especially to rabbits. Outdoor rabbits are especially susceptible to flies but owners of indoor rabbits should also take precautions against these flying pests. It only takes one fly to lay its eggs on your rabbit which can lead to two very serious rabbit killers – Fly Strike and Myiasis.

Flies will lay their eggs in environments that are normally moist and unclean which includes your rabbit’s body. These maggots then thrive and grow to become flies. Flies especially look for open wounds and the rectal area of rabbits. The maggots burrow into the rabbit’s skin and feed on your rabbit’s flesh which can result in the death of your rabbit.

FLY STRIKE

Fly strike has been referred to by other names such as fly blown and blowfly strike. Simply put, flies lay their eggs in an opening on your rabbit where the fly larvae or maggots can feed and grow to adulthood. If the larvae are left to feed on your rabbit, the damage can be irreversible and can possibly lead to the death of your rabbit.

The area where the larvae are feeding may resemble a wet, irritated spot covered in matted fur. Rabbits with fly strike need medical attention to remove the maggots from the rabbit. In some cases, the rabbit can become so infested that the larvae become toxic or cause major tissue damage. A veterinarian can remove the maggots, the surrounding dead tissue and prescribe antibiotics. There are many antibiotics that are dangerous to rabbits, you should always be aware of what your rabbit is being given.

MYIASIS

Myiasis, also referred to as warbles, is caused by the Cuterebra fly. Myiasis works in the same general way as fly strike but instead of a mass of larvae, there is only one. The one larva will be enclosed in a sac and may appear as a lump under the skin. This lump will have a small pore for the larva to breathe.

If you find one of these swellings on your rabbit, check your rabbit for more as many times a rabbit can be infected with more than one larva. It is important to not try to remove the larva sac, puncturing the sac can cause toxins from the larva to enter your rabbit’s body. Your veterinarian will remove the larva from your rabbit’s body which usually requires a minor surgical procedure.

The key to keeping your rabbit safe from dangerous flies is prevention. Check your rabbit regularly for cuts and scrapes and keep the wounds clean. Overweight rabbits or those with excessive fur may need help keeping their rectal area clean of fecal matter. If your rabbit is suffering from a bout of diarrhea, they may need extra grooming to keep flies away.

Hutches need to be cleaned regularly with manure removed from their area on a regular basis to keep flies from breeding in the rabbit’s environment. Simple grooming, cleanliness and being watchful are important in keeping your rabbit healthy and safe from these deadly diseases.

REFERENCES:

THE RABBIT HANDBOOK by Dr. Karen Gendron, copyright 2000.

RABBITS FOR DUMMIES by Audrey Pavia, copyright 2003.