Disgusting pictures aren’t they? Sadly, this condition caused by the Bot Fly, or Cuterebra, is not all that uncommon to the domesticated rabbit. While is it unsightly to you, it is painful and life threatening for them!
The pictures you are seeing are of a newly rescued rabbit here at the Georgia House Rabbit Society’s Rabbit Center. Having been exposed to the elements, the little bun came in contact with the dreaded Bot Fly larva. Bot Flies, pictured in the image below, are attracted to rabbits and use them as a host for their larva. The larva, also referred to as “wolves,” penetrate the skin of the rabbit, the result of which is a nasty bug growing within the bodies of these cute, defenseless buns. Once a rabbit is infected and the wolf grows, problems mount and a life threatening infection can result. If not treated in time by an experienced veterinarian, the bunny suffering from a Bot Fly strike will likely die.
Most susceptible are rabbits that are housed outdoors. Though you may think you have a safe enclosure for your rabbit, no hutch will keep out flies! Here at the Rabbit Center, just about every rabbit we have rescued from outdoor abandonment has been a victim of this condition and is infected by one or more wolves. Treatment begins with the removal of the larva but the extraction is a dangerous job. Rupturing the larva releases toxins into the rabbits bloodstream, the results of which can be disastrous. If you find what you believe to be a Bot Fly infection on your rabbit, take them immediately to a rabbit savvy vet for treatment!
The common House Fly is also a danger to your rabbit and one that is much more likely to be found within your home. Attracted to moisture, odor and warmth, the flies lay their eggs on the rabbit resulting in a dangerous maggot infestation referred to as Fly Strike. It doesn’t take long for an otherwise healthy rabbit to succumb to the numerous flesh eating invaders and shock can develop in less than 24 hours. Rabbits with messy bottoms, open sores or mobility problems and overweight buns are most susceptible to maggots so extra precautions should be taken if you have a rabbit dealing with either one of these issues. Dirty litter boxes or surroundings will also attract flies so regular cleaning of your rabbit’s living area is of the utmost importance.
Though the photographs here are unpleasant to look at, we felt it was important to emphasize the severity of these conditions and highlight some of the dangers of housing, or even allowing, a rabbit outdoors. While even the most well cared for rabbit can come into contact with flies, this awful condition can be easily avoided by providing a clean, well protected, indoor home for your bun and observing your rabbit carefully.
For more information, including how to recognize and prevent Fly Strike and Wolves, check out the articles, “Fly Strike” and “Fly Strike Emergency” from the National House Rabbit Society.
(originally posted October 28 2011)