Fly Strike is a very serious killer of pets. The animals most at risk are rabbits and sheep.
Many people, even pet owners, have never heard of this killer of pets. For some their knowledge comes too late, their pet is already dead. Although this problem is most common in rabbits, and sheep, it can occur in any vertebrate animal – even humans.
What happens usually is that an animals rump becomes dirty with feces (poop). This attracts flies who lay their eggs on the animals rear. Other times the problem starts when a wound is left open and untreated. The flies, attracted by the smell of rotting flesh, lay their eggs on the wound. Either way in 8 to 24 hours the eggs hatch and maggots are born.
Maggots have proven helpful to humans, often used in therapy to eat dead flesh, but in this case they may be feasting on live flesh, particularly when laid on the animals rump. The blowfly (also known as the greenbottle, or bluebottle, fly) is the animal chiefly responsible for this condition, intentionally looking for such situations in which to lay their eggs. When Fly Strike occurs because of blowflies it is specifically referred to as Myiasis. Other flies, such as the housefly, may also lay eggs on an animals dirty rump, being attracted to it by the waste, although they were not intentionally looking for an animal to lay their eggs upon.
Either way the fly maggots eat the live animal. They release toxins into the animal and within a day bacteria infections also take hold. If untreated fly strike leads to death. In rabbits the problem of fly strike is a fast, and almost certain killer. The owner must take their pet to a veterinarian immediately.
photo by author
Removal of the maggots is important, and an owner can try to remove some themselves, but rabbit skin is gentle and a veterinarian is more skilled and will have trained assistants and even anesthesia if needed. Additionally the vet can shave the animals rear and prescribe any antibiotics that the animal should be in need of to treat the bacterial infection. Fly strike should be considered an emergency situation.
Prevention is difficult, but not impossible. Talk to a vet in your area to find out how common this problem is and what preventative measures they suggest. Keep your pets bottom dry and clean. Rabbits generally do not like bathing, but if you bath your rabbit be sure it is throughly dry before you put it back in its cage. Pet rabbits who are kept outdoors need to be checked twice daily for signs of maggots. Their hutch can be covered with netting to prevent flies from entering.
In sheep this is one of the reasons why lambs have their tails docked at an early age. It should be noted that hair sheep do not have this problem as often. Keeping animals in uncrowded conditions and keeping the barn clean will also help keep flies from gathering.
Chickens, ducks, and guinea fowl, are known to be fond of eating flies and will keep their population down in an area.
photo by author
A caution against using insecticides. Many are not effective against blowflies and these chemicals are always a risk around pets and other animals. Again, talk to your veterinarian.
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Published in: Pets