Fly Strike

This condition is distressing for both rabbits and owners alike. This condition is often discovered too late and can result in the death or euthanasia of affected rabbits.

Blowflies are flies whose larvae are able to attack the tissues of living rabbits. Other species of flies can lay eggs on the broken tissue and larvae can hatch and eat away at the tissue.


There are a number of factors, which can lead to fly strike, these include;

    • Soiled and dirty coat – This attracts flies, leading them to lay eggs on the rabbit
    • Loose faeces / Diarrhoea – This attracts flies
    • Urine Contamination – This attracts flies
    • Obese Rabbits – as the rabbits cannot clean themselves, this attracts flies.
    • Spinal arthritis – Rabbits are in pain and therefore are not likely to clean themselves, as it is painful. This attracts flies

Healthy rabbits generally do not get fly strike. Attention to detail on the owner’s behalf is essential.

Daily Checks

    • During the summer months (June – October), twice-daily checks should be made on the rabbit.
    • The rabbit should be physically picked up and its perineal area examined.
    • The perineal area is the area immediately under the tail, where the opening to the digestive and urinary tracts are situated.
    • Any soiling of the fur or skin should be investigated further.
    • Careful instructions must be given to ‘rabbit sitters’.


If a rabbit is hindered in it’s movement by being overweight or other spinal/joint problems, it is unlikely to be able to clean itself and the risk of fly strike is greatly increased.


Hair should not be allowed to become matted. Mats are easily soiled and attract flies.

Obese rabbits will need to be groomed, as they cannot do it themselves. The perineal area and the area above the tail base must be kept clean.

Fly Repellents

Use of fly repellents in vulnerable rabbits is appropriate but is not a substitute for checking twice daily.  Available products are:

    • Xenex Ultra – fly repellent.
    • Rearguard – this interferes with the maturation of fly larvae but is not a repellent for flies.


Hutch Environment

    • The hutch should be checked regularly ideally twice a day.
    • Any soiled bedding removed along with any build up of urine or faeces.
    • Wet bedding can attract flies and may result in the soiling of the rabbit’s coat.
    • Newspaper and wood shavings is a good absorbent bedding.
    • Fly screens and nets can be useful.


Rabbits are herbivores and require high fibre diet.

Ideally their diet should be at least 70% good quality hay and fresh grass.

Concentrates, i.e rabbit mix, should be kept to a minimum, feeding 25g of concentrate per 1kg of their ideal body weight.

Sudden changes in diet may upset the rabbit’s digestion. Any changes in diet should be introduced gradually.

If putting a rabbit out on fresh grass it should be allowed to graze for one to two hours a day. The feeding time can be slowly increased, providing faecal production remains normal.

If your rabbit is fed a mix with cereals, pulses and grains it is important to make sure they do not selective eat. This can result in calcium deficiencies and obesity. A pelted diet is better

The feeding of excessive vegetables should be avoided. These are often sugary and can lead to obesity and can disturb the digestion and cause diarrhoea.


If you are concerned about your rabbit or have any questions do not hesitate to contact your nearest Mercer and Hughes Vet Surgery. If you are concerned that your rabbit is overweight please speak to a nurse about what we can do.

Fly Strike in Rabbits