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Henley and Twyford

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Case Notes: Pumpkin: Rabbit with Fly Strike
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Fly-strike is one of those horrible conditions that unfortunately we see quite a bit of at this time of year. It used to be said that fly-strike only occurred in rabbits that were kept in smelly, dirty cages and whilst this is certainly true it can also occur in rabbits that are kept in clean conditions. Basically, fly-strike occurs because adult blowflies are attracted to the smells of rabbit’s bottoms. They lay their eggs within the hair on the rabbit and these eggs then hatch out into maggots. This stage can occur very rapidly as can the development of the maggots. To “survive” the maggots feed off of the rabbit’s own tissues, its skin and underlying muscles and tremendous damage can be done.

It was exactly with this condition that Pumpkin came into the surgery with late one evening. Pumpkins bottom was alive with maggots and they had already caused a large amount of damage.

The first thing that must be done is to remove the maggots and, unfortunately, the only way to really do this is to sit and pick them all off one by one. Helen and Jess had this task and by the time they had finished, some two hours or so later, over 300 maggots had been removed! Pumpkins bottom area was then very gently bathed and cleaned up. She had a lot of open wounds present and we had to be sure that they were all clean and free from any last remaining maggots.


Pumpkin was also given some medications, antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, painkillers and a drug to help keep her digestive system functioning. She was then placed in a kennel with food and water and allowed to settle down.

Over the following few days Pumpkin required frequent checks and cleaning and dressing of the wounds. The wounds were bathed in an antiseptic solution and then gently dried. We would check them each day to make sure that there was no reoccurrence of the maggots and to make sure that they were healing up ok. We also had to start syringe feeding her as she had gone into gut stasis as a result of the shock of having fly-strike. Eventually, over time, Pumpkin started to eat on her own accord and her gut sounds returned to normal.

Although the wounds had a long way to go before they were healed completely, Pumpkin reached a stage where she had improved enough to be sent home. Pumpkins mum was given a set of instructions on her continuing care and advised on what to look out for.

Pumpkin is now doing very well and her wounds have more or less all healed over.

It is really important if you are a rabbit owner to keep your rabbit’s hutch clean and dry, especially the toilet area. Make sure you check your rabbit’s bottom at least twice a day. A product called Rearguard, which is applied to the bottom area, is particularly good at preventing fly-strike. If you would like any advice regarding this condition please speak to one of the nurses.

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Henley Vets and Twyford Vets
The Veterinary Centre: 271 Reading Road, Henley-on-Thames, RG9 1EL - Phone 01491 574490
Also at Twycombe Lodge, Loddon Hall Road, Twyford, RG10 9JA - Phone 0118 934 0259