Rabbit Fly strike – Don’t Wait for It.

Binky. May 2010 - August 2013

Binky. May 2010 – August 2013

Apologies in advance for a depressing post today. I wanted to use a sad situation to make other bunny owners aware, or to remind them, of danger.

My second bunny son, Binky, sadly passed away, absolutely unexpectedly due to fly strike. I had never had a case of fly strike before this with any of my buns past or present and I was absolutely in disbelief at how quickly his life was taken without any warning signs. There, of course, would have been some kind of clinical sign at some point before his death, but nothing unusual enough for me to suspect any ill health (or they may have come over night before his death). In other words, Binky ate his dinner last night and grazed on his hay and grass throughout the day yet was suddenly dead and infested with maggots by the morning.

Many sources and fellow bunny owners who have had fly strike victims have been able to save the bunnies life before it has proved fatal. They describe the bunnies having seizures, showing signs of depression, not eating or behaving more aggressively than normal. I had none of this. I held Binky yesterday and he nibbled on kale from my hands,, there were no maggots in or around his bottom. This is why I felt the need to share this story, as I have realised how frightening this parasite is, how quickly it can kill and how you can’t rely on the bunny showing clinical signs to then fix the problem.

Fly strike is a case of flies laying their eggs in or around the bottom area. They hatch within just hours and they feed on the flesh of the bunny and release toxins. It is not a disease thus it is not something that can be vaccinated or treated with antibiotics. It is a case of thorough prevention. If you are unlucky enough to have a victim but lucky enough to have a sign of a strike and enough time before fatality to get your bunny to a vet, there are ways to rid of the infestation and treat the damage and in many cases, when caught in time, the bunny can be rid and well before long.

We cannot eradicate flies altogether, but we can control them. I had thought my level of control was pretty good. I have spent many pounds trying all the pet safe fly repellents and eradicators. I have tried natural repellents, citronella, tea tree, my latest all natural, very expensive, ‘promises the world’ product was based on tea tree. My bunnies litter trays and houses are disinfected weekly as is any other areas that harbour fly attracting odours. I have used fly repelling cleansers and regularly trim fluffy bottoms (Binky was particularly fluffy thus particularly susceptible) and keep them clean and dry. They live in an outbuilding just out of the main house with good ventilation yet fully enclosed (when they are not running around the garden!). I could go on, I tried to eliminate the risk yet I was still hit with a nasty, fast, fatal case.

All it takes is one fly.

As you can probably gather from my preventative methods discussed above, rabbits are more at risk if they are particularly fluffy around the bottom area and/or tend to be soiled around their bottom as the moist, warm environment is the most attractive area for a fly to lay eggs. This can be common in longer haired breeds, overweight bunnies that can’t reach to clean themselves or bunnies who live alone without a grooming buddy to reach those awkward bits. Also, if you’re bunny has had (even very temporary) loose stools.

Binky had two of the above against him. He was so fluffy. So fluffy. Especially around his bottom, he always looked like he was wearing a skirt! He also, pretty much always had loose stools. He has had a range of tests since he was a tiny young bunny, from two different vet surgeries who found absolutely no medical cause for this. He simply had a very sensitive tummy, just as some humans do. Even on a diet of pure hay and water, he suffered. I constantly had to gently pull at the dry, soiled fur as I cuddled him and have full on soaks and trims every few weeks. The trouble was, as soon as I removed any soiled fur from the area, within minutes it was back again. My best hope was to try and eliminate as many flies as I could and eliminate that which attracts such flies through thorough cleaning, ventilation and disinfection.

But it only takes one fly.

Although with my efforts I have still lost a dear bunny, I know it could have been worse without these efforts to reduce the risk. It would have happened to Binky sooner and it would have killed more bunnies. It is so worth the effort.

Ensure bedding is dry and soiled bedding (especially in hutches or cages) is removed at least every other day, keep the bottom clean, dry and trimmed if necessary, and deal with cases of diarrhea with urgency. Do speak with your vet for further advice and information. 

I am now going to take even more measures against the nasty parasite as of now. I will invest in mosquito nets, zappers and bring the bunnies inside the main house for the remainder of the summer. With the heat waves we have been having here in the South of England, the issue is even more prevalent.

It is so important to know your bunny and to know what his/her personality is like and common behaviours are, otherwise you never know what is not normal and hopefully in any case of fly strike, you will see a sign that I sadly didn’t.

Without disrespect, I am often shocked at how many rabbit owners are not aware of at least the most common health risks. This is due in part to how easy it is to purchase small animals as pets and the lack of information given when doing so. Furthermore, there is a lack of desire from owners to research small animals as pets. I often hear, ‘as long as it’s got food and water and shelter’.
The most frustrating cases are the rabbit owners who also have cats and dogs as pets and take the time to research their well-being but not the rabbits. However, Mister Rabbit is just as sentient as Mister Dog yet so much more fragile and in need of even more vigilance.
Rabbits are no lesser an animal than a larger pet and no lesser a life. My bunnies are a huge part of my life and are my family. I was 170 miles away today when I learned that Mat had found Binky had passed. I had gone to stay with some family for the weekend. I came straight home and that was the most trying drive of my life, impatient, puffy eyed, nauseous, confused. He was my little bunny and he was in my life for over three years.
Bella & Binky

Bella & Binky

Binky has left behind his life partner, Bella along with his brothers and sisters of varied species.
Bella, a rescued, dog attack survivor who came to me the most fearful and distrusting animal I think I have ever met. She was terrified.
Binky was only 8 weeks old, a pet shop reject, for some reason unknown to me. It’s almost like the under stocked shop shelves being unappealing, the last bunny left – ‘must be something wrong with it‘.
IMG00073-20101206-2214 (2)
Bella had the run of my old flat, Binky was settling in, getting used to the smells and sounds in an enclosure. It seemed secure, I even put some heavy books over the roof opening door as I’d had headbutting escape artists previously. I went to work.
I returned to a blood bath. Tiny Binky bunny had a huge puncture wound to his head amongst other injuries. Quite literally, the whole top layer of his head was exposed. But, he didn’t care; he loved her. By the time I’d come home, they’d had their ferocious fight, then fallen in love!
Spelthorne-20101212-00069 (2)
Binky was fine, it wasn’t as bad as it looked and a few stitches later he soon healed perfectly and they never left each other’s side since.
Binky and Bella had the ultimate love story; from Bella braining him to loving him for the rest of his life – they taught me about forgiveness and understanding.
Spelthorne-20101212-00072 (2)
Bella hasn’t taken the passing of Binky easy. When Mat found him, she was laid, cuddling his body. When Mat removed him, she lay in the spot where he had lay. She is unmotivated and distant and has no appetite. I have just managed to tempt her with some hay and greens (she must have heard me discussing liquidizing her food and syringe feeding her!). We have had lots of cuddles and she lay next to me as I write this.
And those people who still argue against animal sentience?
So, please, if you are bunny owners, please be reminded or taught of this awful parasite (and perhaps take the opportunity to research more!) and to review your prevention methods to ensure the least risk, especially during these hot months.
Here’s to Binky bunny, the fwuffiest bundle in town!
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45 Responses to Rabbit Fly strike – Don’t Wait for It.

  1. Very sorry to hear; for you and Bella. It is always traumatic when we lose one of our ‘kids’. I had to put one of my dogs down and two cats last year. Even though we have 2 more dogs and 16 cats. No two are the same, all their own personalities. Never stop missing anyone who left us too soon. I truly hope Bella is going to be alright. Sending positive thoughts.

    • Poppy says:

      Thank you so much. Absolutely, no two are the same and you can never replace the loss. Bella has been a brave girl, she just needs her mum right now!

      I’m sorry for your losses too. It’s the saddest thing.

  2. Janet Rörschåch says:

    So sorry to hear this. Hug Bella. Try to help her keep her strength up.

  3. HeartBound says:

    So sorry to hear about Blinky. It must have been such a shock. It leaves such a gap when a good friend passes. Take care, Cat

  4. sophiazerg says:

    Poppy, I am so sorry to hear this. Growing up, I lived in a single parent home with not much money – we lived in apartments that did not accept large pets. My mom always had bunnies for us. They are such smart, loving companions. My brother and I had to bury our loving bunny growing up, and it was such a difficult time. I wish you strength and comfort from your other loving companions. Big kisses and snuggles to Bella. XO

    • Poppy says:

      Sophia, I’m so pleased you were able to have bunnies to love as a child, they make such great memories.

      Thank you for your story and kind words and Bella says thank you xx

  5. My deepest condolences on your loss.

  6. Sorry for your loss.

  7. Ally says:

    Oh Poppy, I’m so sorry to hear about Binky’s sudden death.
    Thank you for sharing his story with us in the hope of preventing other fly strike deaths.
    I’m sure he had a beautiful life with you, Mat and Bella. It’s heartbreaking when a furbaby dies suddenly. Be gentle on yourself. xxx

    • Poppy says:

      Thank you so much for your kind message Ally. It is just a jumbled need of time, understanding and processing right now. Unexpected deaths carry such confusion!

      I really hope he knew how loved he was and I will be forever sorry I couldn’t save his life, but he is with the great bunnies before him now 🙂

      Thank you xx

  8. May says:

    I’m so sorry, that must be really hard, especially when it was so sudden. Thank you for sharing your advice, I didn’t know that was even a risk for rabbits (although I have heard of it in sheep and it’s really dangerous for them too) so I will remember it and pass it along to any friends who think about getting a rabbit for the first time.

    • Poppy says:

      Hi May, thank you for your comment. Yes, fly strike is a risk for sheep and a range of other animals including rabbits, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, goats, llamas and alpacas.
      It would be fab if you shared this with any rabbit owners that you know, thank you.

  9. Lotus Mama says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of your sudden loss, Poppy. Binky sounds like he was the perfect companion for you and also his furlady love, Bella. We had several bunnies when my siblings and I were young. They are such lovely creatures and there is so much we can learn from them. Thank you for also sharing your experience with rabbit fly strike. This is great information for others to know. Hugs from a fellow blogger! -Meling

    • Poppy says:

      Thank you so much Meling for your kind words and hugs. Bunnies are so loving and playful and make strong relationships that we can and should learn from. 🙂

  10. myninjanaan says:

    oh poppy! I am so so soooo sorry to hear of your loss! I pray that you heal, and that it gets easier with time.
    Sending warm thoughts your way!

  11. Oh Poppy, thats so sad – for you and poor Bella. Unless they have had pets, most people don’t understand that animals have their own personalities, habits and quirks. I’m still not over the death of my cat Harry over 2 years ago now – but remembering all the special things about him and the adorable (and not so adorable) things he used do, certainly helps. RIP Binky.

    • Poppy says:

      Thank you so much from Bella and I.
      You are spot on about non pet owners. I don’t think you ever fully ‘get over’ loss of a loved one and my losses,many years old are still with me but now, with the healing of time, I can remember them and smile.
      Bella has now developed an eye infection, most likely due to the stress. Her sister has cut her lip open and having it stitched up in the morning! Bunnies in the wars in my house!! Thank you 😀

  12. terrepruitt says:

    Ewww. Flies are so gross. They need to leave our pets ALONE! I get upset when diseases, illnesses, fungus, bacteria, insects, etc. affect our pets. I think that as pets they should get a pass on all the icky stuff. They are like the little heroes that teach us so much and love so much I wish they were free of all the icky stuff. I am so sorry to hear about your bunny. I sense that you are heart broken. I am glad that you made it home safe, I bet that was the worst drive of your life. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this and share your story. I imagine it was not easy to do. I have never heard of Fly Strike. I don’t have a bunny, but I have a cat. Hugs to you in your time of sorrow.

    • Poppy says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more, they are so fragile poor little loves. It was the worst drive ever, I just wanted to be home, it was hard to concentrate!
      It wasn’t easy to write this but it was a good conduit for my feelings and also I felt it necessary to put a little reminder out there for other bunny (and other pet) owners, especially during the hot weather.
      It’s so lovely to have such kind messages from people like yourself, it means a lot.Thank you for the much needed virtual hugs and hello to your kitty cat 😀

  13. SarahOmaha says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss

  14. So sorry for you and your bunny, Poppy, this is just heartbraking. All the best to you.

  15. VegCharlotte says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Our little furry babies are such an important part of our lives! I’ve never heard of fly strike and I bet many others haven’t either. Hopefully your post will save some other little bunnies somewhere …

  16. Constanza says:

    I am so sorry for your loss! Never heard of this, thank you for spreading awareness.

  17. So sorry to hear about Binky Poppy – how very sad. Still, it’s great that you’re getting the info out there and educating others. Celeste 🙂

  18. thesnowwoman says:

    This is so sad, I am sorry for your loss.

  19. Oh thats awful, i’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for having the strength and kindness to share this information. You’ve given me such great knowledge so that i can keep a better eye on our bunny (Earl Grey). Thank you so much and our thoughts are with you guys xx

    • Poppy says:

      Rebecca, thank you so much for your kind message.
      It gives me great pleasure to know that this information has helped you to watch over your little bunny. Earl Grey, what a fab name!

  20. afellowsapient says:

    I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your pet. I have had pets past before and it is a very sad event, none ever suddenly. Our pets become like our family. I’m so sorry. I have never heard of such an illness as fly strike. Thank you for sharing the information about the illness and providing prevention tips.

  21. pjsassifras says:

    I am so sorry for your loss.

  22. uberdish says:

    I am so terribly sad to learn of the loss of your special little bunny. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the dangers of fly strike with bunnies. I have never heard of it until now and we own a bunny, Basil. I am worried, as we live in a small town outside the city and this time of the year there are many flies. I’ll be extra careful now if I see one in the house! Take care…

    • Poppy says:

      Thank you for your kind words. I love your bunnies’ name, Basil!
      I’m sorry to worry you but it is a very real threat during the summer. I would advise to check the bunny over daily (more than once if you can) and keep the bottom area clean and dry. Fly papers are a great idea too. If you need any more advice, I am happy to help. Poppy

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