One of the biggest dangers of the summer for rabbits is flystrike.

Generally we think of it happening when rabbits have dirty bottoms, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. Blowflies (bluebottles and greenbottles) can lay their eggs anywhere on a rabbit’s body. The eggs are tiny and hard to spot and they are laid deep in the fur so that makes it even trickier! Owners should examine their rabbits at least once a day, especially in warm weather.

The flies will lay eggs anywhere they smell blood or dirt, so wounds are a target, but dirty or wet bottoms are the usual place to find the problem. Rabbits with a poor diet, that are overweight or have mobility problems are most often at risk. .

What you need to do

  • Check your rabbits daily throughout the year and twice daily in warm weather.
  • Check your rabbits’ diet is high in fibre and low in carbohydrates. This means the main food should be hay or grass and they should eat about their own size in this every day. They should also get a small amount of leafy greens and an eggcup full per rabbit per day of nuggets.
  • If any of your rabbits are overweight their health is in danger for many reasons and flystrike is one of these, so talk to your vet about a healthy diet so that your rabbits can lose weight.
  • If any of your rabbits seem to be having problems with movement see your vet. There are medicines that can be given that will help them to be more mobile and better able to keep themselves clean
  • Clean out your rabbits’ home every day. Remove wet or dirty bedding and replace it with fresh. Once a week give your rabbits’ home a really thorough clean and disinfect. Dry it thoroughly before refilling with clean bedding
  • If your rabbits are at risk then treat them with Rearguard. This is applied to your rabbit’s body every couple of months. It inhibits the development of maggots from fly eggs. Insect repellents/insecticides containing Permethrins can be used, to deter and kill flies, but always take your vet’s advice on such treatments, to avoid using those which contain Fipronil, which is toxic to rabbits You can’t rely on this alone, you still need to check your rabbits daily.
  • Look into planting things that repel flies around your rabbits’ hutch and run.
  • Buy a mosquito net from a camping shop and drape that over your rabbits’ hutch and run.

Indoor rabbits are at risk too, so don’t be complacent.

What to do if your rabbit has fly eggs or maggots

This is an emergency your rabbit needs to see the vet immediately, evening, weekend, holiday, it doesn’t matter, you cannot wait

Don’t wash your rabbit. Your vet will need to clip the fur and wet fur is almost impossible to clip.
Pick off any maggots you can see but don’t let that delay you getting your rabbit to your vet.
If you’re very lucky and treatment takes place in time it’s possible your rabbit may be saved, but unfortunately in some cases it’s kinder to let them go. Take your vet’s advice on this

Remember, prevention is always better than cure