Cuterebra in Cats: what it is, symptoms and treatment

Little known but highly dangerous: let’s find out what cuterebra is in cats, what are the symptoms and how to best treat cat.

The name may not tell you anything, but if you approach it with the word “parasites” you can guess something. And with the arrival of summer (where temperatures pleasantly increase by multiplying parasites) it is good to know what it is about.

Little known but highly dangerous, the cuterebra is nothing more than a myiasis, that is a parasitic infection , caused by fly larvae, of the genus Cuterebra, which can affect our four-legged friends.

Let’s find out what specifically the cuterebra in cats, what are the symptoms and above all how to treat cat.

Cuterebra in cats: what it is

We mentioned above that the cuterebra is a real parasitic infection that can attack our furry friends.

Very widespread in North America (think that today there are 34 different species), in our country this type of fly is rare: recent studies have indicated that within a year each veterinarian has a maximum of 10 cases of this type of myiasis.

Generally these parasites attack rodents and rabbits, but “accidentally” they can also hit the cat, when, for example, it enters an “infested den” in an attempt to dig or pry: this is how it can be infected.

But what specifically happens? The “adult” fly does nothing but deposit its eggs in the burrows of rodents and rabbits, which literally attach themselves to a “host” body (in this specific case on the unfortunate cat) and with the increase in temperatures and thanks to the heat bodily hatch.

The newly “born” larvae at this point begin their “journey” on the cat’s body and to complete their life cycle they settle in its organism not through wounds (which happens with blowfly myiasis) but rather through some natural openings in the body, such as nostrils and mouth .

These insidious larvae are thus able to reach the subcutis, forming cysts, inside which they grow, nourishing themselves thanks to the “host body”.

After 5-6 weeks, the now adult larvae create a hole on the cyst, called a breathing hole, from which they come out migrating into the ground : after some time, for some species they can even pass years, they turn into flies.

If the cat were to find itself in an infested environment, the cuterebra eggs could attach to its skin, hatch and enter its body through the mouth or nostrils, or other natural opening of the body, and carry out their “life cycle” within it.

Symptoms of cuterebra infection

Unlike blowfly larvae, which enter the body through wounds, cuterebra fly larvae settle through “natural openings”.

During their “journey” inside the cat’s organism (to reach the subcutis) they can “settle down” and deposit their eggs even in more sensitive organs.

Symptoms depend precisely on the organs that these larvae have passed through. If the subcutis is hit, the first visible sign is the formation of a cyst  (myiasis furunculosis, the larvae are already mature inside this cyst), accompanied by a state of lethargy and depression in the cat.

On the other hand, if they have established themselves in sensitive organsthe major problems encountered in cats infected with cuterebra concern:

  • the respiratory tract : Nasal discharge, dyspnea, continuous sneezing, cough and pharyngeal edema will occur;
  • the nervous system : The cat will tend to rotate its head or keep it always tilted, there will be cognitive and proprioceptive deficits, convulsions, non-curable epilepsy;
  • the ocular system : Chemosis, uveitis , ocular discharge, blepharospasm and blindness in the most severe cases, are the most evident signs.

It is important to specify that the appearance of neurological signs, which arrive after 7 days from respiratory symptoms up to a maximum of two months, are the indicator of the severity of the infection, to the point of leading the cat even to death.

Diagnosis and treatment

The cuterebra becomes very complex to diagnose when the larvae have migrated deeply into the cat’s organism: in these cases, at the first symptoms of myiasis it is necessary to subject the cat to a CT scan or an MRI to determine the cause of the infection.

If the larvae have affected sensitive organs, it will not be possible to “remove” them all manually, so the vet will prescribe a pharmacological treatment (generally based on antibiotics) whose goal is to “deworm” his body.

In the case in which the myiasis is cutaneous, the cysts are clearly evident, which form more on the neck and on the head: it is important to manually remove the larvae, which must absolutely be done by the veterinarian (let’s avoid improvising doctors, we risk complicating the situation ).

Unfortunately, the prognosis of the cuterebra in cats is reserved in the event that the infection is affecting the nervous system, as it is not possible to manually remove the larvae in the brain.

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