Botflies in Cats

Botflies in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Most common symptoms

Circling / Head Tilt / Lethargy / Loss of Balance / Seizures / Sneezing

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Rated as moderate conditon

15 Veterinary Answers

Most common symptoms

Circling / Head Tilt / Lethargy / Loss of Balance / Seizures / Sneezing

Botflies in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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What are Botflies?

Cats are usually an accidental host that picks up the botfly larvae when exploring near rabbit or rodent dens. Cats that spend a great deal of time outdoors are at a greater risk, and infestation occurs most frequently in the summer. The larvae can be found most commonly under the skin, but can also make their way to the eyes, respiratory system, or central nervous systems where symptoms can become severe and result in death if not treated quickly.

Botflies are a species of non-biting flies found throughout most of North America. The species is especially active in the warmer months of late spring and summer, but can be found for a longer period in warmer climates. The botfly, or Cuterebra, life cycle involves a parasitic larval stage that requires a host animal, usually a rabbit or rodent. The adult fly lays its eggs on surfaces, like grasses and rocks, in and around the living areas of rabbits and rodents. The eggs or young larvae transition to the host animal by transferring onto its fur when it walks past. They then make their way into the host through an opening or orifice. 

Botflies Average Cost

From 528 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$600

Symptoms of Botflies in Cats

Symptoms of the botfly larvae parasite can vary depending on the location of the larvae within the cat’s body. Cutaneous or skin symptoms are the most common form, although the parasite can affect the central nervous system, respiratory system, and the eyes. Nervous system symptoms often begin with nasal discharge or sneezing as the larvae enter through these orifices. In certain situations, especially when the central nervous system is affected, the symptoms can be severe and even fatal. 

General Symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite 

Cutaneous or Skin Symptoms:

  • Lesion or draining sore
  • Lump under the skin or “warble”
  • Excessive grooming of specific site

Respiratory Symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Gagging
  • Nasal discharge
  • Trouble breathing

Ophthalmomyiasis or Eye Symptoms:

  • Lesions
  • Facial paralysis
  • Blindness

Nervous System Symptoms:

  • Abnormal behavior
  • Head pressing
  • Disorientation 
  • Head tilt
  • Abnormal vocalization
  • Circling
  • Abnormal gait
  • Lack of reflexes
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
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Causes of Botflies in Cats

Exposure to botfly eggs or larvae usually occurs outdoors in areas where rodents or rabbits make their homes. Physical contact is required for the parasite to infest its host. Cats come into contact with the eggs or larvae in these areas, and it is transferred to their fur from grass, leaves, or other surfaces. It is possible for a cat to bring the larvae into the home, infesting other cats or companion animals. Symptoms are caused by the movement of the larvae within your pet’s bodily systems and the effect it has on surrounding tissues as it begins to grow.

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Diagnosis of Botflies in Cats

A physical examination is often sufficient for identifying cuterebrosis, in which case the parasite has reached the stage where it has settled under the skin. The veterinarian will locate the cyst or warble on your cat’s skin and evaluate it for larval infection. Be prepared to discuss your pet’s medical history and advise your veterinarian if the cat spends time outdoors. If the parasite is in the eye, it is also fairly simple to diagnose through observation. Testing may be necessary to confirm parasite is from the botfly and not another parasitic or bacterial infection. To test for Cuterebra larva, analysis of blood, urine, and discharged fluid is required. Identifying parasite-produced toxins in bodily fluids will help to confirm the diagnosis. Testing of cerebrospinal fluid may also be necessary, especially if neurological symptoms are present. Imaging technologies, like an MRI or CT scan, may also help veterinary staff to identify Cuterebra in the central nervous system.

 

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Treatment of Botflies in Cats

Treatments will vary depending on your pet’s symptoms, their severity, and the location of the parasite. Medical treatment is required, and is usually effective, especially if cuterebrosis is caught early. Do not attempt to treat your cat at home, even if the larvae or warble is visible. There is a high risk of rupturing the cyst or larvae and causing an infection or introducing toxins into your pet’s bloodstream. When found near the skin, the prognosis after treatment is good. Larvae in the eyes or nervous system are more difficult to treat. Treatment options your veterinarian might use include:

  • Extraction:

    If the larvae have made their home under the skin, the veterinarian will extract it. This is not a surgical procedure, so your pet will not need to be put under. A local anesthetic is used to numb the area, and then an incision is made so the larvae can be removed. Your veterinarian will take care to remove the entire parasite intact to prevent complications associated with rupturing or leaving behind a portion of the larvae. 

  • Surgery:

    If the larvae are not as easy to reach, a surgical procedure may be required to remove it. Surgery puts your pet at a higher risk of side effects than extraction does. Your pet will undergo anesthesia, will require intravenous fluids, and may need a longer recovery time. 

  • Antiparasitic:

    This type of medication is used to kill parasites throughout your pet’s body. It may be used in conjunction with extraction or surgical methods, but can also be used alone. It is often used to treat botfly parasites that are in the respiratory, nervous, and other systems where removal is not an option. 

  • Corticosteroids:

    This type of medication is used to suppress immune reactions and aid in keeping inflammation under control. Corticosteroids treat symptoms in the respiratory and nervous system, are not effective for removing or destroying the parasite.

  • Antibiotics:

    This type of medication will be administered if an infection is present either at the larval site or in other parts of the body the parasite moved through. Antibiotics are only necessary if bacteria are present. 

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Recovery of Botflies in Cats

If the cuterebra larvae are successfully removed, the prognosis is generally good. The lesion or wound site where the larva was removed may take some time to heal. Monitor the area for signs of infection and make another appointment to have the wound checked if it seems to be swelling, draining pus, or spreading. Cats that experience eye infestations could lose sight in the affected eye. Your pet will still be able to lead a full life even after losing their vision. For cats suffering from nervous system symptoms, recovery may be less certain. Damage to the brain or other parts of the nervous system could be permanent or even fatal. Treatment should help, but your pet may not make a full recovery. Take care to support your pet during recovery and avoid stressors or making changes to their living environment.

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Botflies Average Cost

From 528 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$600

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Botflies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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dog-breed-icon

unknown /stray kitten/ mixed breed

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6-8weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

After Catching Him, Noticed Pus Coming Out Of 2 Wounds (Wounds From A Bulldog Biting It Twice In The Neck And Cheek)

After finding a stray kitten, eventually luring it inside (ferrel), the poor thing had been attacked by a bulldog, miracuously, getting away, but leaving 4 wounds. Two wounds with most all of the hair gone from neck and partially around his face. One was dripping pus . After taming him (within an hour, the sweetest thing in the world), I was able to clean the wounds up, somewhat, then noticed the botfly in the top of one hole. In the past, while rescuing cats, we came across several botflies. I would run to the vet, they popped them out, I gently, with oil pulled out, but still oozing pus.

July 27, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello- Thank you for your question. From your images and your description it sounds like the kitten needs some systemic antibiotics to clear the infection. Your veterinarian can examine her and prescribe medication to help her feel better. Thank you for rescuing her! I hope she feels better soon.

July 27, 2020

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dog-breed-icon

Calico

dog-age-icon

Two Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Botfly

Found her botfly on Thursday. Suspect she’s had it for a couple of days. Has vet appointment in 6 days. Will she be ok for that long? Notice that she’s a little quieter than normal. Strictly indoor cat. Not sure how she got it.

July 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello If your kitty has a botfly, I recommend taking her to a veterinarian right away. The botfly can do a lot of damage in six days. Do not wait that long to have it removed. Good luck.

July 24, 2020

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Shadow

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Long hair black

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3 Months

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Trouble Breathing
Warble On Nose
Air In And Around Her Organs
Stiff And Won'T Move

I rescued her and she had a light colored botfly sticking off of her nose. It plopped out with some Bacitracin. A couple days later she started puking so we rushed her to the vet to find out she had air pockets aroundheea abdomen, lungs, chest and they had to put a needle in her to release some of it. They sent me home with medicine. today is day one after vet but she isn't really getting any better. please help I love her so much and I don't want to lose her!

Aug. 29, 2018

Shadow's Owner

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Pepper

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Cat

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10 Weeks

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Dehydration
Lack Of Appetite

I have a kitten I just rescued about 8-10 weeks. He was found yesterday with a botfly in his neck. He was brought to Animal Kind which is a cat place. They pulled the botfly larvae out and he actually grabbed it when they pulled it out and ate. We’ve brought him home today, after they gave him a dewormer, distemper shot, tested for feline leukemia & gave him 20cc of fluid. He’s still dehydrated now, his gums are white, and he’s not eating much. He just drank a little water. What should we do?

Aug. 15, 2018

Pepper's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

It seems that Pepper needs a recheck with your veterinarian to follow up and see if he needs further treatment. I'm not sure if eating the larva or another cause is the reason for his illness, but if you are noticing that his gums are white and he isn't eating, he may need further care. I hope that he is okay.

Aug. 15, 2018

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Pepper

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domestic medium hair

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6 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hard, And Warm Around The Hole
Very Little, Clear Discharge If Pressed
Very Little, Clear Discharge

I have noticed a hole in my kittens jaw. I took hime to the vet today, she said it was a puncture wound. I went home. Later, after examining the hole I saw a small yellow larvae looking "thing", for a lack of better words. She, the vet, did prescribe antibiotics for another reason. Will this be enough to kill the worm?

Aug. 15, 2018

Pepper's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

The antibiotics will not be enough to kill that worm, and your veterinarian may not have seen that. It would be best to call them in the morning, let them know what you have seen, and let them guide you through treatment for that.

Aug. 15, 2018

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Flannel

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domestic short hair

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6 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Circling
Head Tilt
Loss Of Balance
Wolf Worm Removed

We trapped a 6 month old kitten and initially feared that the live trap injured him. His head was tilted nearly 90 degrees and he was turning in circles, stumbling. I noticed a wound on his neck and told the people at the spay-neuter clinic who confirmed that it was a wolf worm, they removed it and cleaned the kitten. It’s a week later and his front legs (right in particular) seem weak. He still has difficulty standing and walking straight ( how on earth did he make it into a trap!?) His range of motion in his neck is greatly improved in this week, he’s socializing well, great appetite but I’m wondering how long we should expect to wait for his balance to improve before we just decide that ‘this is as good as it’s gonna get”.

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Gizmo

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tabby

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7 Weeks

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Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Sneezing
Watery Eyes
Snuffy Nose

We just brought home a stray kitten. She is about 7/8 weeks old. About two days ago, she began sneezing uncontrollably and now, she is stuffy, snotty, and her eyes seem very watery. Yesterday, I notice a green ball in her nose. I thought it was a little booger because we thought she had a cold. We’ve been running the humidifier for her to loosen up the stuff in her nose. However, today, I saw the green ball again. I successfully grabbed it with my fingernail. What I thought was just a booger in her snotty nose came out a WORM. It looked like a little green larva. After doing some research, it looks to be a botfly larva. I can’t find any lumps on her body. I’ve checked her body, and she doesn’t seem to have a lump (not that she’s very but anyways so it would be easy to see). But should I be worried still? Even if I got the larvae?

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none

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N/a

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4 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Botflylarve Hole

i am a bit worried about when these botfly larvae are going to come out. a stray mama cat, and a feral mama cat have had kittens each. out of the four older kittens my dad says that one has a botfly wound on it's neck. i don't know how long it has been there and don't know what to do since we don't have any money to be taking any of them to the vet. he says that it'll come out by itself but i don't know. i don't know if he knows anything about taking it out on his own or not since he's seen them mostly on the cows that he has worked around before. i don't know what to do since the cat is rubbing against the smaller kittens, and their nursing mother and starting to make them all reek. i don't know of any free pet clinics or places that it could go to either.

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Leo

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mixed

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11 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Eating Less
Less Active
Awkward Movements

My cat, Leo, has a large hole at the base of his tail. He's limping, and dislikes putting pressure on his hind legs. I've experienced this before in our other cat and it worked out fine, but I'm more worried now because the hole doesn't seem to be healing. In fact, it started bleeding today, and there looks to be more bubbles in and around the hole. I'm terrified; I can't take him to the vet because we're poor and can barely pay for our own bills as it is. I don't know what to do.

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Squeaker

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American Short Hair

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Moody
Pain When Lump Is Touched

We noticed about a week ago there was a lump on my cat's side, just infront of her back hip joint, that was about the size of a plum. She had been very moody and adgitated, was suddenly unhappy being picked up, and showed clear signs of pain when you touched the area. Its was to bad That when I tried to feel of it she attacked me and I had to go to the ER. We could not find any visible wound or sore, but 2 days ago I went to look at it and the lump was gone and there was a half inch long cut. She seams to have gotten much better since then and now has no issues when I look at and feel the sore but I am still concerned. We are unable to afford taking her to the vet currently due to unusual financial circumstances(like having to go to the ER after she attcked me).

Botflies Average Cost

From 528 quotes ranging from $200 - $1,000

Average Cost

$600

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