A couple of weeks ago in this column, I discussed the risks of blowfly strike at this time of the year.
Over the last few weeks, we have seen several severe cases and so, in an attempt to raise awareness of the awful condition and the distressing consequences, I would like to cover it in more detail.
At this time of year, during mild, damp weather, flies are very active. In non-windy, still conditions, flies reproduce very rapidly. They are attracted to dirty, unhygienic conditions to lay their eggs which then hatch into maggots. The maggots feed voraciously and grow at a tremendous rate until they progress to the mature adult fly stage and complete their life cycle.
Although the adult flies are an unpleasant nuisance, it is the maggot stages that pose the greatest risk to animals.
When the eggs are laid in areas of faecal or urinary contamination around an animal’s bottom, or in an open cut or wound, the maggots hatch and feed on any available material. Initially, this may be the faecal contamination itself but the maggots will also attach the surface of the skin causing damage.
In Cattle, the skin is tough and it is very unusual for the maggots to penetrate the skin but in sheep or domestic pets and especially rabbits, the skin is much thinner and more easily breached.
Once under the skin’s surface, the maggots will quickly invade into the surrounding tissue, eating and damaging the tissue as they do so.
It is absolutely essential that animals are kept clean around their bottoms all year round but especially at this time of the year. Owners must be vigilant as any early maggot infestation may be easily treated but this problem can progress within a matter of only a few hours and, when advanced, results in euthanasia being required.
I have had a couple of early cases of fly strike in some of my own sheep and lambs this year but have caught them very early and treated them successfully. Sadly, we have seen a number of rabbits and cats at the surgery where the infestation has been too advanced and euthanasia has been the only option.
While there is absolutely no substitute for keeping animals clean and being very vigilant, there are a number of products available from your Vet that will reduce the risks of fly strike.