|Issue 29: July 10|
Dear Dr. Schelling,
I spend a lot of time in my garden this time of year and enjoy the company of my cat Annie while I weed. Last week I noticed Annie was licking herself like crazy over her shoulder and neck area. When I looked closer at her, I found a perfectly round hole under her wet fur. I first thought it looked like a bullet hole or a bite wound. I cleaned the area as best I could with some soap and water but it did not seem to heal. When I checked again today I swear I could see a little white caterpillar inside the hole! I will make an appointment with Annie’s vet, but am worried sick about her and scared I will catch something from her.–Caterpillar in my cat
Dear Caterpillar in my cat,
You don't know how close to right you are with your diagnosis of Annie's wound. More than likely your cat has been infested with the larvae of a Cuterebra or bot fly. These flies lay their eggs around rabbit or rodent burrows where unsuspecting cats and dogs can encounter them. When the pet grooms, they can ingest or inhale the eggs which go on to hatch into larvae or young worms. These larvae move to the space under the skin, create a large cyst called a warble, and eventually burrow out creating a breathing hole. This is likely when Annie started to groom excessively and when you saw what you thought was a caterpillar coming out for air.
Taking Annie to the veterinarian is the right thing to do. It is important that you not try to treat this condition at home as grabbing the larvae or squeezing the cyst can lead to severe allergic reactions and even anaphylaxis in your pet.
Click here to read the article Cuterebra Infestation in Cats to learn more about Cuterebra flies and how to protect your pets from being infested.