Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets Are Susceptible to Cuterebra Infestations

Posted by Christy Caplan
Cat

Your cats and dogs will likely be affected by this during the summer and fall months. It's super gross. Yikes.

Cuterebra is the larva of a fly, which is embedded in the skin. Pet Health Network experts wrote a piece about this and provided this advice. If you suspect your dog or cat has this infection you should go straight to the vet. 

"It's critical not to try and squeeze it out of the skin. Squeezing can cause the larva to break apart, which can cause an infection or even an allergic reaction. The bug needed to be surgically removed."

I'm adding this here because as a Certified Vet Tech this is very important. Before you dive into this article you must have your vet remove this from your dog or cat.

Let's unpack this now and get into the reason your dog or cat may become infected.

What is Cuterebra?

Doghealth.com tells us the Cuterebra fly is a large non-biting fly that looks like a bee and lays its eggs on rocks or vegetation located near the openings of a rabbit or rodent burrows.

The rabbit or wild rodent is the normal host and can pick up these eggs on their coats and ingest them during grooming. Yuck! 

How does my dog or cat get it?

The larva finds a natural opening on the animal, such as, the nose, mouth, eyes or even sometimes a cut and enters the body. From there, they migrate through organs, until they reach the skin. They make a hole to breathe.

Dog Health reports that the same goes for dogs and cats.

"Dogs may be exposed in the same manner: by contacting the eggs as they pass near rabbit or rodent burrows in their environment. Eggs hatch once they are exposed to the warm body temperatures of their new dog host. Then, the newly-hatched larvae invade the host body, often through the mouth, nasal passages, or an external wound."

Signs of Cuterebra in dogs and cats

Signs are subtle and you must look over your dog after they are hiking or spend time outdoors.

  • As the larva matures, a small bump may be apparent and can often be felt, usually on the head or neck area. (this is what you'll see in these Insta pics). 
  • Sorry. This is gross. Cuterebra form a small 'hole' in the skin. You may see a maggot-like worm peeking out from within the hole.
  • This causes local inflammation and infection.

Treatment (how is it removed?)

 

Your vet will walk you through this. Bot fly larvae removal at its finest is what I can add here with YouTube videos but honestly, it's too gross. So please ask your vet to walk you through how it's removed. At a high level, this Cuterebra will be removed and the injured tissues will be surgically removed. Antibiotics are given to combat any secondary bacterial infection.

This is often called warbles. You can search for warbles and you'll find similar information. Remember late summer and early fall is when a Cuterebra infestation is likely to occur. Don't hesitate if you see an open wound (e.g. breathing hole) or any of these clinical signs listed above. Honestly, all parasites are disgusting but the Cuterebra larvae may top the list as one of the worst. The small mammals infected and dogs and cats infected in a similar manner may seem strange but the Cuterebra infection is no laughing manner.

A DVM will diagnosis this for you and then help treat your dog or cat immediately. The prognosis is good. it's worse if there are multiple warbles. Let your vet help treat the secondary infection. It's all pretty gruesome.

Keep your dog from hunting rodents! The life cycle and larval stages are enough to create some really horrible videos. Also known as New World skin bot flies these are found throughout North America and South America.

Always look over your dog after they spend time outside!

Are you familiar with this non-biting fly? Please let us know in the comments. 

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Dogs, Cats, and Ferrets Are Susceptible to Cuterebra Infestations