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Cuterebra

Dear Dr. Margaret:

In your dealings with cat lover's, have you ever come across someone that had a cat with a worm-like larvae buried in their skin?

I know that sounds gross, but my cat has had a wound underneath her chin. It has gotten worse and I looked today and it looked like there was a worm in the opening.

I know some type of flies will lay eggs in skins of animals and I think this is what has happened. Have you ever heard of this? Let me know.

Dear Cat Lover,

The condition you describe is not uncommon but does require medical intervention. You correctly identify the causative agent as a worm.

The proper name for the parasite is Cuterebra, but it is more commonly called a grub.

The Cuterebra adults are large beelike insects with vestigial mouthparts that neither feed nor bite mammals. They deposit their eggs nocturnally into the environment and may accidentally infect cats who come into contact with them. The larvae may enter via natural orifices or be ingested as the cat grooms himself. Since the rabbit is the intended prey of this parasite, the larvae will undergo aberrant migration and try to exit the cat by burrowing through associated soft tissue shortly after absorption.

The hole you describe is very consistent with the migratory path of the Cuterebra. They are usually discovered on or around the face, neck and trunk of affected cats (especially in late summer and fall). The parasite usually causes localized infection and subsequent reversible destruction to it's surrounding soft tissue. The larvae must be wholly extracted as retained pieces may cause further irritation to the cat. The soft tissue damage may require regular cleaning and often times antibiotic therapy to fully facilitate healing.

Please seek the service of your veterinarian to best assist your cat in making a full recovery from this not so ''cute'' affliction.