What is Bot Fly Infestation?

If your ferret is infested with bot flies, you may notice symptoms including lack of coordination, odd behavior, and seizures. You may also be able to see two black spots near the lump. 

If left untreated, maggots may slowly burrow their way into your ferret’s brain, causing seizures, loss of consciousness, and eventually death. Your ferret has a much better chance of recovering if you get this condition treated right away. That’s why you should take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible if you spot the symptoms of a bot fly infestation.

Cuterebra is a bot fly species that lays its eggs either in the outdoors or on the skin of mammals, including ferrets. The maggots that hatch out of these eggs may begin to burrow into the skin to find warmth, leading to a growing lump underneath your ferret’s skin. Once underneath the skin, the maggots may continue to burrow downwards and eat your ferret’s flesh as they go. 

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Symptoms of Bot Fly Infestation in Ferrets

If you own a ferret, you should routinely check for any unusual lumps underneath his skin. This is the first sign of a bot fly infestation and may be accompanied by two black spots where the maggots began to burrow into the skin. If your ferret has a bot fly infestation, he may exhibit some of these common symptoms:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Strange movements 
  • Depression
  • Inability to see
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death (if left untreated)

Causes of Bot Fly Infestation in Ferrets

A bot fly infestation is caused by the species known as cuterebra. This type of bot fly will lay eggs directly on the ferret, or outside where a ferret may brush against them. Once the eggs hatch, the maggots will begin to instinctively burrow downwards into the ferret’s skin. They tend to look for warmer areas of the body, such as the neck or armpits, before burrowing.

Diagnosis of Bot Fly Infestation in Ferrets

If you spot any of the symptoms of a bot fly infestation, take your ferret to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Describe the symptoms you have observed, and tell your vet when you first began to notice them. If your ferret is on any medications or has been exposed to anything unusual, let your vet know. 

Because the symptoms of a bot fly infestation are similar to those of various other conditions, the vet will need to begin with a physical examination to try to narrow down the possible causes. This will include performing a complete blood count, urinalysis, and blood chemistry profile test. He will also physically examine your ferret, and should quickly spot the lump along with the black spots that indicate a maggot infestation.  

Treatment of Bot Fly Infestation in Ferrets

The vet will need to begin treatment right away after diagnosis your ferret. If the maggot is close to the surface, the vet may be able to treat your vet without anesthesia, however this will be necessary if the maggots have burrowed deep. 

The vet will carefully use forceps to dig into the holes and remove the maggots. He may need to enlarge the size of the holes prior to removing the maggots. It’s imperative that the entire maggot is removed, because if a small piece of the maggot is left inside the ferret, this may trigger a reaction from your ferret’s immune system. After the removal is complete, the vet may administer both topical and oral antibiotics to prevent an infection at the site of the extraction. 

If your ferret is having seizures or losing consciousness, the maggots have most likely made their way into your ferret’s brain. The vet cannot remove the maggots in this situation, but he can immediately administer a series of medications to help kill the maggots, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and ivermectin. 

Following treatment, your ferret will be closely monitored while he is still under the influence of anesthesia. 

Recovery of Bot Fly Infestation in Ferrets

Most ferrets will make a full recovery from a bot fly infestation if the maggots have not reached the brain. If maggots have already infested the brain, the prognosis is unclear.

If your vet prescribes antibiotics or any other form of medication, make sure you administer it as advised by the vet. You will need to take your ferret in for a follow-up visit so the vet can reexamine the extraction site to ensure everything is healing properly. 

Talk to your vet about whether you should be giving your ferret a monthly medication to fight off parasites. This is especially important if you live in an area that has been labeled as high-risk for parasites.

While your ferret recovers, make sure to keep the extraction site clean. You should stop your ferret from touching it, as this could spread bacteria into the open wound and delay healing.