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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Ask a Vet

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Koba

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Unknown

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4 Weeks

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Sleeping More Than Usual
Botfly Removed

We rescued a kitten, and realized 2 days later that a fight wound was infected with a botfly larva. After applying Neosporin over a two day period, the larva died and came out intact. The resulting wound did quite well with continued application of Neosporin. Today, the wound still looks like it is healing well, but it has started to leak a slightly yellow thin fluid. We are waiting for an appointment with the vet, but is there anything I should do in the interim, or can do? Thanks in advance.

July 28, 2018

Koba's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It sounds like normal wound drainage to me as long as it is clear, not viscous with a slight yellow tinge; however it is important to visit your Veterinarian to confirm as I cannot give you complete assurance without examining the wound and Koba in general, but for now continue as you’ve been doing and prevent Koba from licking the wound. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 28, 2018

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Scarlett

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Domestic shorthair

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3 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Vomiting
Coughing
Voice Change
Vomi
Respiratory Issues
Swollen Trachea

My 3 year old cat Scarlett was suspected of having bot fly larva in her throat. She was having respiratory issues, had a swollen trachea, coughing, lethargy, was vomiting and had a higher pitched meow than normal. She was treated with ivermectin four days ago and also given anti-inflammatory medication. She still coughs a few times a day and her meow is still high-pitched and weak. We also found a bot fly on her chin three days ago which we removed. She is eating and drinking like usual and has more energy than before. Would you suggest we take her back in to be re-evaluated, or does she seem like she is healing normally?

July 10, 2018

Scarlett's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Four days is still early in recovery, if you’re seeing improvement I would just monitor for the time being but if there are no further improvements or a worsening of symptoms you should visit your Veterinarian again before the weekend to ensure everything is on track as I cannot say without examining Scarlett myself. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 11, 2018

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Tigger

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American Shorthair

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8 Weeks

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lump On Side Of Neck /Black Lesion

Took kitten to vet and he said he was almost certain she does have a botfly but he could not get it without using anesthesia as it was causing too much discomfort for him to be able to remove it without anesthesia. He wormed her and gave her first shot. Go back in 3 weeks for more vaccines. Is it safe to wait that long before removing the botfly larvae? It's on side of her neck.

July 1, 2018

Tigger's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Botfly larvae generally stay in the subdermal cavity for five to ten weeks, ideally they should be removed but it needs to be done under anaesthesia as any damage to the botfly larva may result in a severe reaction in the kitten so it is best to do it properly. Keep an eye on Tigger and follow any instructions from your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 2, 2018

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Brainy

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DOMESTIC

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2 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

I See The Botfly

Hi my mom rescued a kitten that someone threw out their window and was ill and I went by today and it has a long botfly in his neck. If I were to remove it myself how would I treat the wound? I don’t want to leave it open for more or whatever else can get in there. Please and thank you. I am calling my vet tomorrow to see what he can do and cost. But I wanted to try this as well.

June 19, 2018

Brainy's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

It can be a little painful to try and remove a botfly, as the hole opening typically has to be opened up and the larvae extracted. The botfly larva is shockingly large. Brainy may or may not need antibiotics, depending on the condition of the wound. Hopefully your veterinarian can work with you on cost and treatment to get this taken care of for him. If the meantime, keep him in a safe place and keep the area around the hole clean.

June 19, 2018

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Bell

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Siamese

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3 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

No Appetite, Sleeping All Day.

How much does it usuay cost to remove botfly larvea?spot on getting bigger from this morning its red and black in the middle. How much does it cost to remove botflies?

June 12, 2018

Bell's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

The cost to remove a botfly larva depends on the degree of damage and disease that is happening. It may need anesthesia, which would make it a little more expensive. Since I cannot see Bell or know what is happening with her, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, and they can give you a better idea as to what might be involved in helping her.

June 12, 2018

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Flouf

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short hair

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Noticed Hole On Neck

I discovered a wet area on my cats neck, I went to clean it and noticed a hole. I did some research and it seems he has a botfly in his neck. It's still quite a small hole, and there's a greenish liquid that seems to ooze out of the hole. I want to take him to a vet, but it's looking quite expensive and our budget is low, besides I'm not sure if it's still in there or not. His behavior is normal still, eats, runs, plays, so I'm wondering what the dangers are at waiting at this point? I did set up an exam for a week from now at an affordable clinic. Is there a danger in waiting that week?

Botflies Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$600

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