Fly Strike

Being Rabbit Awareness Week, and with death from the disease on the rise compared to previous years, fly strike has been at the forefront of our minds recently with the weather being so sunny!

Fly strike is a condition whereby a rabbit becomes dirty around their rear end (either damp with urine, blood or faeces), thus attracting flies to lay their eggs on the rabbit’s skin around this area. The fly eggs hatch with the maggots then feeding on the rabbit’s flesh, causing nasty wounds and infection. Maggots consume a large amount of flesh in a short space of time, and so the rabbit will go into shock, collapse, and may die.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) conducted a study recently on fly strike. Their main findings were

  • 44.7% of rabbits presenting with fly strike died or were euthanised.
  • Entire (un-neutered) female rabbits showed 3.3 times greater odds of being a case than neutered females.
  • Rabbits aged five years or older were nearly four times more likely to present with fly strike.
  • For every 1°C rise in environmental temperature between 5°C and 18°C, a 33% increased risk of fly strike occurred, with cases peaking in July or August.
  • Overall fly strike cases started earlier and peaked higher in the south of Great Britain.

This is a massive mortality rate, with nearly one in two rabbits that become fly struck, dying. It is thus vital that fly strike is prevented, and if your rabbit does become fly struck then they recieve veterinary treatment quickly.


Rabbits with loose faeces tend to be prone to this disease, however any rabbit that is unable to groom themselves, even if they have normal faeces, can develop fly strike. Rabbits with dental disease, long fur, arthritis, or who are obese, struggle to clear away dirt from their rear end, and so are attractive to flies. It is thus VITAL to:

    • Make sure your rabbits rear end is clean at all times. We recommend to check their bottoms twice daily and if dirty clean them with shampoo and warm water, and then dry thoroughly.
    • You can apply a fly repellent to your rabbit’s bottom, such as ‘Rearguard’ which prevents fly strike for up to ten weeks.
    • If you rabbit is suffering from diarrhoea, or even slightly loose stools, then make sure to pop in for a FREE RABBIT HEALTH CHECK this week to assess their diet and/or get some treatment for the cause of the diarrhoea.
    • Have your rabbit’s teeth regularly checked (every six months or so) to make sure they are free of dental disease
    • If your rabbit has long fur then make sure to groom them regularly to get rid of any dead hair likely to trap dirt. Equally it may be a good idea to trim the hair around their bottom
  • Keep your rabbit slim!! Do not overfeed with high calorie muesli or nuggets, instead give your rabbit more hay if they are hungry, and make sure they are getting enough exercise!

Fast Treatment

If your rabbit becomes quiet and lethargic, stops eating or drinking, or starts digging into corners of their hutch or pen then please bring them straight to see us. If you are checking their rear end regularly for maggots then it is unlikely they will develop fly strike – if you see any maggots on your rabbit’s rear end then please come and see us immediately as the condition will progress fast. Rabbits are much more likely to survive if they are diagnosed and treated (removing the maggots and treating sore skin) EARLY.

So please bring your rabbit to see us for a FREE HEALTH CHECK this week if you are concerned about fly strike. Remember – prevention is key.