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C2007-32

Dear Christopher Cat

I noticed a small hole in the center of a swollen sore on my cat’s neck, and I thought I could see a creature squirming inside the hole. Sure enough, my veterinarian reached in with small forceps and removed a fly larva she called Cuterebra, pronounced “cute a ree bra.”

How did the Cuterebra invade Lucy’s skin, and how can I prevent the problem in the future?

Christopher Responds

I’ve never suffered the horror of discovering a Cuterebra fly larva peeking out from a breathing hole in my skin, but I can explain how they get there.

A Cuterebra fly probably laid her eggs near a rat or rabbit burrow, and an egg stuck to Lucy’s coat as she passed by.

The larva that emerged from the egg migrated to Lucy’s nostril or other body opening and then invaded her skin.

It tunneled under her skin all the way to her neck, where it poked open the breathing hole you observed.

If the larva hadn’t been removed by your veterinarian, it eventually would have dropped to the ground, formed a cocoon where it developed into an adult fly, and continued the cycle.

The trouble is that Cuterebra larvae can cause problems for us cats – and other animals, too – from skin sores like Lucy’s to neurologic disease.

To prevent another episode, keep Lucy indoors. If that’s not possible, monthly treatment with a flea, tick or heartworm medication might decrease recurrences.

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