Myiasis in rabbits
Myiasis, also known as fly-strike, is a very painful and even dangerous condition. If it is not noticed in time, your rabbit could get very ill or even pass away. The disease mainly occurs in the warm summer months.
Myiasis gets caused by common green bottle flies who lay eggs in the rabbit’s fur. You’ll find the eggs mostly around warm and moist spots. The scent of urine and excrement attracts the bottle flies, and that’s why they tend to lay their eggs around the rabbit’s anus.
A rabbit’s coat could be dirty because of urine or diarrhea (possibly after eating the wrong food or dental issues), incontinence, or perhaps a bladder infection. When a bottle fly lays its eggs, they will hatch after a couple of hours or days. These white maggots will crawl around in the rabbit’s coat and will attach themselves to the skin. The saliva of the maggots will cause tissue damage, which could cause the skin and subcutaneous tissue to die. This way, the maggots can dig themselves into the skin and if they are not discovered in time, they will be able to settle in deeper tissue. The scent caused by these infections will attract more bottle flies, who would lay more eggs. The maggots will create a lot of discomfort, pain, and itching. The damage to the skin can become very severe in a couple of days.
If you are suspecting that your rabbit has Myiasis, or you can see maggots in your rabbit’s fur, go to the vet as soon as possible. If your rabbit has Myiasis, your vet will shave the fur and remove all maggots with a tweezer. This happens while your rabbit is sedated. The inflicted areas are thoroughly cleaned. Afterwards, all wounds are inspected and sutured if needed. A good cream will support the recovery of the skin. Depending on how severe the infection is, the vet might choose to give your rabbit analgesic anti-inflammatories and antibiotics.
As discussed above, it’s important to give your rabbit the right food to prevent diarrhea, which could attract bottle flies. The wrong feed (too many concentrates or not enough hay) is one of the main causes of abnormal stools, which could stick in the rabbit’s coat. The nutritional requirement of a rabbit is 20g pellets for every kg in body weight, supplemented with adlib hay.
Clean your rabbit’s enclosure regularly so urine and excrements aren’t present for too long. The scent could attract bottle flies, which would enhance the chance of your rabbit getting Myiasis. You could also cover the enclosure with an anti-fly net, or hang a fly trap close by. For cleaning products, please visit our Hygiene in Small Animal Enclosures page.
Because Myiasis can develop in a couple of days, it is important to discover the maggots or wounds in time. When you keep your rabbit in its cage, you’ll only notice something is wrong when your rabbit starts to look ill. When this happens, the damage is already done. This is why it is very important to check your rabbit daily for maggots in the warmer summer months. Lift your rabbit and check all areas like his belly and anus. Make sure the area is clean and that it doesn’t smell.
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