About Wolf Worms in Cats

Written by ben atkinson
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Only one genus of cuterebra, or wolf worm, is recognised in North America. The wolf worm is a bit mysterious and cannot be accurately categorised, or even summarised. However, it is easy to determine when your cat has been infested with this nasty parasite.

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Significance

Wolf worms wait for their chance to infest a curious feline while hiding in a rodent den. After the worm has migrated to the host, the larva will form a visible breathing hole inside the cat's skin, allowing the pet owner to take action. However, in rare cases, the wolf worm has been known to migrate into the cat's brain, causing serious nerve damage. As with any type of parasite or worm living inside an animal, the contagion can cause anaemia, diseased organs and intestinal blockage, so finding swift treatment is of utmost importance.

Identification

The adult wolf worm is large enough to be seen with the naked eye. The female worm will deposit her eggs near a den or nest of mammals, and the larva, which look like small worms, will hatch when a mammal comes close, sensing the change in temperature. The larva will then enter the animal through the nose, mouth or a small skin wound, and will leave a cyst in the skin with a hole on top so that the wolf worm can continue to breathe.

Prevention/Solution

In the wild, controlling wolf worms is next to impossible.
However, if you believe your cat has been infested, there are ways to treat the problem. Applying a warm compress on the cyst and then gently squeezing the area will often make the larva come out on its own. Clean the area with a triple antibacterial solution such as Neosporin twice a day, massaging the site and keeping the opening clear of any infection. However, home removal is not always the best solution, so visiting your vet should be your first option.

Expert Insight

One pet forum site calls the wolf worm a "screw worm" that most often infects cattle. However, problems only occur when the worm dies inside the host, causing an infection.

Warning

Removing a wolf worm from your cat could result in serious side effects, especially if the worm's body ruptures during the process. In this case, your cat could develop serious complications or even anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction. Consult your veterinarian before doing anything.

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