Flystrike Treatment for Livestock and Poultry
Exploring Flystrike in Rabbits, Chickens, Sheep and Cattle
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Animals and flies seem to go hand in hand on a farm. So what is flystrike? If you have livestock, you most likely battle the common stable fly, and you’re always on the hunt for effective fly deterrent strategies. If animal manure piles up and is not composted properly, your fly population will increase past the point of annoyance. This can be a real danger for your livestock, and with the right conditions, you will need to know about flystrike in chickens, warbles in rabbits, and flystrike in almost any livestock with an open wound. So, let’s get right into exploring flystrike treatment for chickens, rabbits, sheep, and other livestock.
Whether you have a full farming operation or keep chickens, rabbits, and goats on your homestead, flystrike treatment is information you need to know. There is a reason why the flies are attracted to your animal or chicken in the first place. Diarrhea, loose stools, manure stuck on the anal opening and wet fur all attract flies to your animal, leading to flystrike. You need the actual bot fly larvae to have a case of warbles but flystrike can happen to any animal, even our dogs, and cats. While it is linked to unsanitary conditions, it does not always mean that you aren’t taking proper care of the animal. Just a few hours of an animal having caked on manure or runny poo stuck to its fur can be enough to attract flies and lead to flystrike.
What is Flystrike? How Does it Happen?
Flies are attracted to any feces stuck on the animal’s fur and anal area. Flies are also attracted to the warm moist area around the genitals in livestock and chickens. Flies will also attach to wounds and open sores. When watery feces or matted fur with feces occurs, the flies lay their eggs on this area. It is the perfect breeding ground if you are a fly. Fly eggs mature and hatch quickly, which is a major factor in flystrike treatment. Not noticing the presence of diarrhea, wet fur, urine-soaked fur and feces stuck to feathers for even half a day can give the flies time to lay thousands of eggs. Before you know it, flystrike has started.
The eggs from the fly mature, hatch and the tiny maggots begin to burrow into the animal or chicken. In animals such as sheep that are heavily wool covered, you may not notice this until quite the infestation has started. The maggots will continue to eat the flesh and internal organs of the chicken or animal. Death can occur quite quickly if not noticed and treated.
What to do When You Have to Perform Flystrike Treatment
I will never forget my first brush with flystrike. I helped a friend with flystrike in sheep. Her ewe had been attacked by a dog. When cleaning the wounds she missed an area at the base of the tail, under the wool. It was a puncture wound and was not bleeding much. But the wound was oozing enough to begin soaking the wool. Before she knew it, full-blown flystrike was happening.
We cleaned away the wool, exposing the wound and the wound was full of maggots. The flesh of the ewe was being eaten away and it was amazing how quickly the whole process was progressing. The first step was to clean out the wound, removing every last maggot. This is every bit as disgusting as it sounds. Her animals were well cared for and her barn was clean, but still, the flies had attacked her ewe.
Step One in Flystrike Treatment – Clean the Wound
Trim away the hair, wool, or fur and clean out the wound removing all maggots – As with Botfly attacks, cleaning out the wound will result in a deep open hole that must be kept clean and treated daily.
Step Two – Isolate
Isolate the rabbit, chicken or sheep, confining them to an area where you can monitor the progress carefully and administer flystrike treatment on a daily basis. I honestly don’t know how large ranches with hundreds of sheep manage a case of flystrike. I would hope they would be diligent about the care and wound treatment. In a homestead situation, it is something manageable, although time consuming and unpleasant.
Step Three – Daily Wound Care
Keep the animal in a dry, well-ventilated area. If there are still loose bowel movements, treat this also. It is important to keep the feces from sticking to the animal’s genital area.
My three step wound care treatment for warbles in rabbits worked in the case of my friend’s ewe with flystrike. Flystrike treatment will also include daily cleaning and removal of any manure and feces from the area, in order to not attract more flies.
- Clean out the wound with sterile saline solution.
- Wash out the area with an antibacterial soap. The affected area may be tender, so handle the wound as gently as possible.
- Gently dry the affected area
Apply a triple antibiotic cream (one that does not contain a pain reliever) inside and outside of the wound.
In livestock, using a fly repellent cream, such as Swat, around the affected area will also deter more flies from trying to attack the wound.
In less extreme cases, where the larvae and maggots have not invaded the tissue yet, the treatment is similar, yet not as messy.
Trim away the fur, wool, and hair. Clean the area and remove all maggots. Flush the area with a gentle soapy solution to cleanse the skin without causing further irritation. Pat the skin dry and allow it to air dry completely. Apply a fly repellent ointment, such as SWAT, to the irritated skin. This will help the skin heal and also make the area less inviting to the flies.
Heavy rains, manure, mud and spilled animal and poultry feed all attract flies and a fly bloom. Do whatever you can to manage this. I know it can be quite a challenge when heavy rains are followed by a warm day. It seems that you can’t get the area cleaned up fast enough before the flies are hatching and are everywhere. Improving the drainage to the area might help, along with not allowing manure and spilled feed to go without being cleaned up. If your chickens, rabbits or other livestock have a case of runny poop, it makes them immediately a target for flies and flystrike. Flystrike can result in the death of the animal, so it is advisable to keep an eye on your livestock especially during moist, warm, fly-filled days.