Jump to section

What is Cuterebra Infestation?

Often, the cat will ingest the larvae while grooming itself. Migrating larvae can, on rare occasions, travel through the eye, brain or spinal cord. This is a life-threatening scenario which can cause great damage to the cat. Once the larva has reached a chosen location, usually just under the skin, it forms a cavity with a small breathing hole to the outside air to further its development. At this stage, the larvae is commonly referred to as a warble. It can take one to two months for the warble to complete its growth and exit the cat via the hole in the cavity. 

A Cuterebra fly is a large, fat bot fly found throughout the United States. There are 34 species of Cuterebra in North America. The fly itself does not bite, however, its larvae need live hosts to develop. The female fly lays her eggs near rodent burrows and on runways used by rabbits. The eggs attach to an animal's coat when rubbed against. Upon feeling the heat of a live host, the eggs will hatch immediately and travel to any opening on the body. This can include the mouth, nose or an open wound on an animal. Once inside, the larvae travel through the body to specific locations on the head, neck or body. While rodents are the preferred host of the Cuterebra larvae, cats can be accidentally infested.

Cuterebra Infestation Average Cost

From 215 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,000

Average Cost

$900

Symptoms of Cuterebra Infestation in Cats

Presence of a warble may be more difficult to notice in cats with long hair. Sometimes the cavities may be deep and produce more severe symptoms. If symptoms occur rapidly, a life-threatening situation may be at hand and immediate veterinary attention is required. Known signs of Cuterebra infestation are as follows:

  • Small bulge or swelling approximately 1cm in diameter on cat's skin
  • Area of matted fur
  • A wound of unknown origin
  • Lesional discharge
  • Excessive grooming
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Violent sneezing
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Head tilting
  • Circling
  • Seizures
  • High body temperature
arrow-up-icon

Top

Causes of Cuterebra Infestation in Cats

Any cat who is allowed outdoors is at risk of coming into contact with Cuterebra bot fly eggs. The summer and fall are more prevalent exposure times in climates with a true winter. All known causes are listed below.

  • Hunting rodents
  • Roaming through infested vegetation
  • Having an open wound
  • Resting in one outdoor area for a period of time
arrow-up-icon

Top

Diagnosis of Cuterebra Infestation in Cats

Bring your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you notice symptoms developing. The veterinarian will want to perform a complete physical examination of the cat to locate warbles under the skin. The vet will also have to differentiate between a Cuterebra infestation and other skin abscesses or foreign bodies. A CT scan is often requested to see the larvae in the body and to also map out its migration path. If the larvae traveled through the brain, there will be a mottled appearance in the images. This is especially dangerous as it can indicate brain damage. 

The warbles may be cream, grey, or dark in color, with the dark stage being accompanied by multiple spines on the back. An immunoabsorbent application may be administered, which can identify specific parasites in the body. Bacterial infections often develop secondary to Cuterebra infestations and should be identified for proper treatment. In some cases, the warble may have already exited the body, leaving behind an open wound prone to severe infection. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

Treatment of Cuterebra Infestation in Cats

If the larvae is removed while it is still small and before any other infection has developed, treatment is very effective. Certain locations of infestation can not be treated, such as the brain or spinal cord. 

Surgical Extraction 

If the warble has been identified under the skin, removal should be attempted. If a more developed larva is present, which are more commonly diagnosed, the breathing hole should be probed and expanded using mosquito forceps. This agitation may cause the larvae to sink further back into the pore. The breathing hole may be covered with petroleum jelly for up to 15 minutes to ease the extraction process. The bulge is never squeezed, as this can cause the warble to break into multiple pieces. This is dangerous, as it can cause the body's immune system to react and can lead to infection. These infections rarely may develop into anaphylaxis (a hypersensitive allergic reaction). The warble should be removed in one piece of possible. If it is too small to probe for, the warble and the surrounding tissue should be dissected. The wound should then be flushed with sterile saline. General anesthesia is required for both procedures.

Antibiotics

 

Generally, antibiotics will be prescribed to the cat if a bacterial infection is present, or to ward off one from forming in the open wound. Antibiotic prescriptions usually last from one to four weeks.

If the warble has already exited the body, the wound should be thoroughly cleaned and an antibiotic prescription should be administered.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Recovery of Cuterebra Infestation in Cats

Once the cat is at home, do all that you can to ensure that the wound stays clean. Monitor the area for infection on a daily basis and bring the cat back to the vet if one begins to develop. Cuterebra removal carries a long healing process. If you notice an abscess form in the wound area, an infection has occurred or pieces of the larvae still remain under the skin. 

In most cases, the warble can be removed and the wound will heal. Serious complications may arise if multiple warbles have infested the cat, or their location is near nerves or organs in the body. If the traveling larvae have caused brain damage, there is a possibility that your cat may be left with behavioral abnormalities. Keeping your cat indoors can greatly reduce the chance of exposure to Cuterebra eggs. Applying a regular topical insecticide may prevent the larvae from surviving in the cat.

arrow-up-icon

Top

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

Cuterebra Infestation Average Cost

From 215 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,000

Average Cost

$900

arrow-up-icon

Top

Cuterebra Infestation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

question-icon-cta

Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Lil Baby

dog-breed-icon

Longhaired?

dog-age-icon

4 Months

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

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Odor
Swollen Face
Sleepiness
Whites Of Eyes Showing More On Left

I just took my 4month old cat to the vet and they had to keep her over night and put her under and the didnt know if she had an abscess or warble she had a sore on her head right under her ear to me it looked like a embedded tick and her whole left side was swollen and her eye had goo coming out and her nose all on the left i found a tooth near where she lays but I don't know if its from that or if its her baby teeth she hasn't been eating but was drinking water and when she did it sounded like she wasn't getting all she was slurping up like she was sneezing but not through her nose its been about 2 to 3 days with all the symptoms and I was hoping it got better the 2nd day but it started looking worse so I hope that she will be okay and I don't know if they can just get it out and she'll be better or its something else I don't understand. It makes me sad and scared and sick feeling.

Aug. 24, 2018

Lil Baby's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

It seems like it isn’t clear whether it is an abscess or warble, treatment should be given for both is there is confusion; the problem with warbles (if there is one) is that they are very easy to rupture open when removing them and they can cause a severe localised reaction which just adds to the issues. You should see what happens and discuss with your Veterinarian about the next steps, however with treatment if may take a week or more for improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 24, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Max

dog-breed-icon

Mix breed

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Appetite
Loss Of Appetite, Eye Discharge,
Swelling Fever Lethargy

My cat had a warble. It was removed by my vet He is f.i.v positive. The vet said it imploded on extraction. My cat had since developed a fever, swelling and listlessness. He is spending the night at the vet, being treated with steroids, antibiotics and fluid s.

Aug. 15, 2018

Max's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

1611 Recommendations

That seems appropriate therapy for Max, given the inflammatory nature of those parasites. I hope that he recovers well.

Aug. 15, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Cy Cy

dog-breed-icon

Bombay

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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

Serious severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Bump On Cuterbera Sight

My cat had a Cuterebra removed about 3 weeks ago. He was put on antibiotics and acted normal again. Since the removal, he has had a very large bump under the skin where the Cuterebra was. Our daily vet is recommending surgery to remove the mass so the wound will heal. He said the surgery will be very risky since the sight is on his neck. What do you think? Should we go ahead and do the surgery or try to flush the wound and clean out the dead tissue ( he said that the stuff that looks like puss oozing out of the wound was not puss, it is dead tissue). Our vet old us to bring him in tomorrow and they will decide which strategy to do once they put him under and get a better look. Our vet is Andersons Vet Clinic in Christiana Tennessee.

Aug. 9, 2018

Cy Cy's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Without examining CyCy myself I cannot give a recommendation which goes against your Veterinarian’s recommendation, however in many cases after the Cuterebra has been removed the surrounding tissue is debrided to reduce the risk of secondary infection or other complications. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 9, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

phoenix

dog-breed-icon

tabby

dog-age-icon

4 Months

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

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Bumb Where Warble Was

my cat had a warble and I know it hadn’t been in there long bc it was still very very small. I pulled it out, I know I got the whole thing with the tweezers. that was on saturday, it’s now wednesday and I noticed there’s still a large bump around where the warble was. its kinda hard and the whole is a little larger but it does look like it’s healing. it’s not open, just pink and red. there’s no fluid or puss coming out when I squeeze or push on it. he seems to be fine, he’s eating again and plays like he used to. i just want to make sure that it is healing and not getting worse. we don’t have $ to take him to the vet so i’m trying to do everything i can for him.

Aug. 1, 2018

phoenix's Owner


answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Without examining Phoenix I cannot determine how well the area is healing, inflammation may be causing some swelling but ensure that the area is clean and is improving overall but if there doesn’t seem to be any improvement or a discharge anything else concerning comes up you should visit your Veterinarian to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 2, 2018

How is Phoenix doing now? Does he still have the bump? My cat has the same thing. Trying to determine treatment from here. Our vet wants to do surgery.

Aug. 9, 2018

Wytne T.

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

Luna

dog-breed-icon

Idk

dog-age-icon

3 Months

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

Mild severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Fever

I took my cat to the vet yesterday her face was swollen and she wasn’t acting right. She has a very high fever over 107. She was put on antibiotics because there wasn’t anything found but a scab that the vet opened up but nothin came out. We now see some drainage and a small little cream colored warm it seems like going in and out of a hole about the size of a needle above her eye. She has another apt tomorrow. What should I tell the vet it is idk if it’s this or something else and she’s only a kitten I don’t want to put her through more than she needs to.

July 26, 2018

Luna's Owner

answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

If the worm isn’t there tomorrow you should just explain to your Veterinarian what you saw and they will have a closer look and may choose to flush the hole out to see if there is anything else there. Your Veterinarian may also choose to prescribe an anthelmintic to be on the safe side as well. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2018

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

not named yet

dog-breed-icon

Unknown

dog-age-icon

4 Weeks

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

Critical severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy, Unsteady Gait

We found a kitten roaming randomly through our yard yesterday evening, severely emaciated, eyes had a lot of matting, seemed unsteady on its feet. Brought inside, gave her food and water. She ate some, but drank a lot. Unsure of actual age, she fits inside my palm, but is able to eat dry food. By this morning she was not able to walk, cool to touch. We took her to the vet. They have given her IV fluids and had her in warming blankets and under heat lamps to bring her body temperature up. When I was getting an update from the Vet, she mentioned that she had found a cuterebra on her neck and removed the larvae, flushed the hole, but she noticed necrotic tissue around it. She stated that she has never seen necrotic tissue around one before. She has debrided the tissue. The kitten is now walking, body temperature has come up some (still has a long way to go until normal. She is keeping the kitten over the weekend. My concern is, (as we live in the country surrounded by cow and hay fields) will she have more develop or would this possibly be just the one time occurrence?

dog-name-icon

Walker

dog-breed-icon

Black

dog-age-icon

6 Weeks

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

Mild severity

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Pain
Sore

I have a kitten that my kids found he's about 5-6 weeks old and he had a cuterebra on the side of his neck and it came out we cleaned it out and it healed well but now he has one on the top of his head and we are cleaning it but how long does it take for them to come out on there own and if it gets to big could it kill him. I dont have the money for a vet.He still loves to play and chase the kids around the house.

Cuterebra Infestation Average Cost

From 215 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,000

Average Cost

$900