Health Topics

There's Nothing Cute About "Cuterebra"

(This article was originally published in the September/October 2012 Issue of Pets Magazine and is reproduced here with the permission of the publisher.)

By Kristina Cooper, RVT

Most people are familiar with common fleas, ticks and intestinal parasites, but have you ever heard of a Cuterebra?

What is a Cuterebra?

A Ceterebra is a type of parasitic larva from the rodent/rabbit botfly. What makes it unique is that it will burrow underneath your pet's skin where it will continue its lifecycle, maturing into the pupae stage when it will fall off the pet and onto the ground, where it will stay until it emerges into the adult fly stage. While living under a pet's skin, the larva will breathe through a breathing tube in the skin.

How can my pet get a cuterebra?

An adult botfly will lay its eggs in vegetation outside and, over time, these eggs will hatch into the larval form. These larvae will then attach themselves to unsuspecting dogs travelling through the area and will gain entry into the body through the nostrils, open wounds or by burrowing into the skin.

What are the signs my pet may have a Cuterebra?

Once under the skin, the Cuterebra will grow, which will form a lump under your dog's skin. Upon closer inspection, a breathing hole will be apparent and you could possibly see the movement of the Cuterebra underneath. The skin may appear reddened, thickened and may have a pus discharge. Your dog may bite, lick or scratch the area indicating its discomfort. Cuterebra are most commonly found in pets in the late summer and fall. These larvae start off as small, whitish worm-like specimens that can grow up to 4 cm in length, at which point they appear as a greyish-coloured slug.

What is the treatment for Cuterebra?

Depending on the size of the larva, your veterinarian may make an incision to enlarge the breathing hole to remove the Cuterebra. Once removed, the wound will be flushed and any dead tissue wil be removed. A course of antibiotics may be necessary if infection is present. Your veterinarian may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to decrease the inflammation and pain in the area.

If yo suspect your dog may have a Cuterebra larva living underneath its skin, contact your veterinary office to schedule an examination.