Point Pet's People Perturbed by Presence of Peculiar Parasite
• Cuterebra Infestations Are Not Common in Malibu but Can Be a Serious Problem When They Occur
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
The Malibu equestrian community may be familiar with the botfly, or cuterebra fly, a parasite that can cause serious medical problems for horses. However, while it's not common in Malibu, the larva of two types of Southern California botflies can also affect household cats and dogs.
One Point Dume family recently had firsthand experience with a cuterebra infestation. Their golden retriever developed what appeared to be a puncture wound. They cleaned and disinfected the area but the lesion did not heal and began to swell.
Concerned that there was a serious infection, they brought the dog to a Malibu vet, who used a hemostat to remove a nearly inch-long larva from deep in the puncture-like hole in the dog's side.
According to the vet, the bee-sized botfly lays its eggs near rabbit runs or wood rat nests. Cuterebra lepivor prefers cottontail rabbits, and C. tenebrosa parasitizes Southern California's native wood rats, but both species can end up on a dog, a cat, or even a human victim.
The egg responds to the warmth of its host. Once hatched, the larva—or bot—is either ingested when the animal grooms, or makes its way to the nearest orifice. According to the vet, it can also enter through any existing small injury. Once inside its host, the bot travels to a safe location to set up shop, usually the neck or chest.
What the retriever's owners thought was a small scratch or puncture wound was actually the larva's breathing hole.
The swelling, known as a "warble," was the larva under the skin.
Veterinarians stress that it is essential that an animal suffering from cuterebra infestation be treated by a qualified vet.
If the larva is ruptured during removal it can cause anaphylaxis—a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction. Untreated infestations can also cause serious infections.
Most vets will prescribe antibiotics, once the infestation is removed and the lesion is disinfected. Pet owners should watch for redness or irritation at the site of the lesion.
Cuterebra infestation in dogs or cats is not common in Malibu, but does occur and should be treated as a serious medical condition.
Human victims of botflies report that the infestation can be very painful and that they can feel the bot "moving around."
The Point Dume dog suffered no ill effects from his botfly misadventure.
His owners, however, have developed a lingering and severe case of the heebie jeebies.