Blandford fly bites

Insects suck. Sometimes.

Who doesn’t love this time of year? Long, warm evenings, inspiring mornings and weekend afternoons in the garden. But what about those pesky insect critters? The warmer temperatures stimulate activity and breeding – but who are the main villains?

Flies (bottle)

Not so much the adults but their babies cause issues in rabbits. The maggots (larvae) of the green bottle fly (Lucilia) feed on live, rather than dead, flesh causing flystrike (myiasais). This grim disease is usually found in rabbits with dirty bottoms. The warm damp environment attracts flies who go on to lay eggs in the fur- the maggot hatch and start to eat the flesh. The first wave causes severe superficial skin damage and necrosis (tissue death), the second and third waves of other species’ maggots (who will eat dead flesh) cause skin loss and will burrow into the abdomen and under the skin. The doomed patient is literally eaten from the inside out.

What can we do to help? Keeping a close eye on your bunnies’ bottoms is critical- the timescale of this attack is very short, and the chances of survival are much better during the initial phases. Avoid the flies by fitting the runs with fly proof netting, and make sure bedding is clean and dry- preferably change at least every other day. Make sure cases of diarrhoea are dealt with urgently, but if your rabbit has an ongoing problem then consider clipping their bottom and bringing them into the house.


Flystrike in a rabbit (click image to unblur)

Rear Guard works by preventing maggots from developing; best used by wetting the whole rear half of your bunny, and reapplying every 10 weeks.

Blandford fly

On everyone’s mind at the moment- this black fly is found just above the top of the grass near water. Its bite is painful and can result in blisters, and if your pet scratches or bites them and breaks the skin then infection can result.

Blandford fly bites

Severely swollen bites from a Blandford fly

They typically range about 1km from water and are most prevalent in May, June and July.

Use a good quality pet-safe insect repellent – you can buy these at shops such as Crofts in Banbury, or you can make your own by mixing apple cider vinegar and water. Mild cases won’t usually need treatment, more severe swelling responds to steroid cream, whilst infected bites need medical attention.


These little guys sit at the top of blades of grass waving their legs waiting for the next host to pass along (actually usually the biters are female, and they’re arachnids rather than insects. Sorry.) Once attached they will suck your pet’s blood/ tissue fluid until they’re full and drop off. Aside from the irritation, the big problem is that they inject a small amount of anti-coagulant first and this can spread disease, especially Lyme disease. If your animal has a weird non-specific illness, especially achy joints, then ask us to test for Lyme disease.

tick on a dog

Areas to avoid are fields where sheep have been, Scotland and the New Forest! BE CAREFUL when removing ticks; any trauma you cause can result in them vomiting and increasing the risk of disease spread. Tweezers or tick removing hooks are advised, Vaseline or just letting them drop out is not advised, and we very strongly advise you do not remove them by burning with cigarettes. In fact if your dog or cat has just one or two we’ll whip them off for free, and show you how to do it safely.

Frontline, or any products containing fipronil, seems to be pretty hopeless at killing and preventing ticks- you may as well hit them with the box as far as I can see. Advantix is better but only licensed for cats. We find the best product to repel (which is important in preventing the initial bite and spread of disease) and to treat infestation is a Seresto collar. These last for 8 months, also treat fleas and are available for free if you’re in our Discount Loyalty Club.

Wasps and Bee stings, ant bites etc.

Usually not serious (unless your pet is allergic and has an anaphylactic reaction). Vinegar for wasp stings, and baking soda for bee stings- icing usually helps. If a bee sting is visible then be careful not to squeeze the venom sac when removing. Any swelling around the head or neck causing breathing difficulty is a medical emergency.

Horse, Black and Stable Flies

Again, not usually dangerous but very painful bites. Icing will help; try to reduce the local population by keeping food waste and garden cuttings safely stored.