Thwarting the House-Fly

Calling them house flies is a misnomer, in my opinion. We do not invite them into our houses, but rather make an effort to keep them out. In May 1993, I wrote the article, “Fly Strike,” for HRJ. It describes symptoms, treatment, and prevention. It recommends clipping or shaving soiled areas on a bunny, spot cleaning with chlorhexadine solution (preferably one with a drying agent), and keeping all fly-prone areas dry.

As my whole sanctuary-bunny population, due to age and various disabilities, became more susceptible to fly strike, it was apparent that prevention had to be more intense. I realized I had a problem identifying the enemy. I didn’t even know what (house) fly eggs looked like. This, I finally learned during routine grooming.

The Great (Small) Discoveries

About four summers ago, I rediscovered some old tools that changed our lives–no more fly strike for my bunnies and less work for me.

The magnifying glass: It’s so simple that I should have thought of it sooner. By the time these wiggling creatures are visually obvious, much damage has already been done to the rabbit. A close exam with a magnifying glass will reveal freshly hatched larvae while they are still in tiny clusters and can be swabbed off of flesh with a Q-tip.

The flea comb. First run your fingers through the fur in adjacent areas. Feel for small “burs,” that might be clusters of unhatched fly eggs. Comb them out and wash them down the drain. Surprisingly, many eggs are laid in the fur, instead of the moist areas where you expect to find them. Check under the tail and also on top of the tail, up the back and down the legs.

A daily look-and-feel, preferably in the evening, is enough to stop a nasty progression of events at an early stage. The flies have only had a few hours head start, and if you don’t undo their work at the flea-comb stage, you can still catch it at the magnifying-glass/Q-tip stage, before any real harm is done to the bunny.

Maggot infestation is a life-threatening veterinary emergency for a rabbit. It’s considerably better for your rabbit and your budget to not let it happen in the first place.

by Marinell Harriman

House Rabbit Journal Spring 2000: Volume IV, Number 3