With the increasing heat of summer approaching, we all get to experience balmy nights, trips to the beach... and bugs! Australia is home to large numbers of flies and mosquitoes in the summer months. While these can prove super irritating, they also come with some health concerns to our pets. 

Here are some of the more common fly-related conditions; for all of them, PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE:


'Fly worry' describes the fly bites that tend to occur around the margins of dogs' ears, causing them to be itchy, painful, and prone to secondary infections. Fly worry can develop very rapidly when sensitive dogs are around flies. Severe cases may require pain relief and antibiotics, if the wounds become infected. Prevention is far better than cure; you can chat with your veterinarian about fly repellents that can be used on your pooch's ears.


Flystrike, more accurately called myiasis, describes the hatching of maggots in or on the tissues of our pets. Flies seek out moist, nutrient rich areas to lay their eggs; while this is generally in the environment they will take full advantage of any animal areas that fit the bill. As a result, this is most commonly seen in animals with mobility and toileting problems, as well as, issues with grooming or a poorly kempt coat, especially around their rump such that the coat becomes contaminated with droppings. Open wounds are also at risk. The fly eggs hatch and maggots start to grow and feed on the pet. This is a severe condition with associated pain, discomfort and secondary infection. Myiasis is life threatening and requires intensive treatment, prevention is vastly better than cure. Animals kept in good condition without any areas of their body that look inviting to flies should be at minimal risk.


Heartworm is a worm that lives within the vascular system of dogs, foxes, ferrets, and more rarely cats. Mosquitoes spread it; the larvae circulate in the bloodstream of the infected animals, and develop into adult worms that reside within the heart and major blood vessels. Larvae are transferred between animals when mosquitoes, which can extract larvae from infected animals and inoculate them into healthy animals with their bite, bite them. Heartworm is a grave disease, and at its worst can cause heart failure. Removal of adult worms from the bloodstream is problematic, so prevention is far better than cure. While the incidence of heartworm is quite low in Melbourne, this is likely to increase with the warming climate. It’s strongly recommended that dogs and cats kept in areas with a high number of mosquitoes, and those that go on trips to tropical areas like Queensland, are kept on a heartworm prevention product. You can discuss options that would best suit your lifestyle with your veterinarian.


The viral diseases of rabbits, spread by mosquitoes and flies is a severe, often terminal disease. Myxomatosis is nearly 100% fatal, and causes swelling of the ears, lips, eyelids, and genitals leading to increased debility until death. Euthanasia is strongly recommended for infected rabbits given the hopeless prognosis and the suffering involved in the disease process. Calicivirus causes bleeding in rabbits. Traditional strains caused rapid bleeding and death within hours of infection, whereas newly discovered RHDV2 strain can be more insidious and cause general signs of lethargy and inappetence, with few rabbits able to overcome the infection and survive. While a good vaccine exists against the traditional calicivirus strain and regular vaccination of pet rabbits is required for their welfare, there is no vaccine for myxomatosis or the new calicivirus variant. The only way to combat these diseases is by attempting to eliminate flying insects or contaminated products from your rabbits' environment. Avoiding outdoor time at dawn and dusk when mosquito numbers are higher, removing water bodies where mosquitoes breed, mosquito netting on enclosures, excellent hygiene, and ideally considering an indoor lifestyle will help. 

Megan SeccullComment