Sunday, August 2, 2009

Deadly summer bugs

August may be the month for graphic photos in my blog so beware as you read this post. (Could this be a warning about a future blog too????) What better way to get a point across than show it in a picture, eh?

Some of you (me included) are really starting to wonder if summer is really here in northeastern Ohio. Well, we may not have had hot weather yet, but the creepy crawly critters that we don't have to deal with in the dead of winter are surely out and about anyway. Today I would like to send out a warning about fly strike.

Fly strike or myiasis is when fly larvae or maggots infest tissue. In my small animal practice, I most often see this in heavy coated breeds of dogs and in rabbits although any animal can be affected. (Do you remember "Pumpkin" the cat found with the arrow through is front leg? His wound was packed full of maggots.) All it takes to get started is a wound or moist infected area of skin to get started. Flies are attracted to the wound area and lay their eggs near the wound. Then the eggs hatch to maggots and the maggots start feeding on the wound. Most of the fly strike I have seen occurs on top of the rump or around the anal or genital area probably because the pet is less likely to notice flies buzzing around its backend vs buzzing around the head area. In heavy coated animals, the maggots will burrow under the hair coat to the skin. It takes several days of maggots feasting on an animal's skin before the pet starts to show signs of being sick. By this time, the damage can be extensive and the consequences deadly.

This picture is of a rabbit I treated for fly strike last month. We had shaved all the fur off the top
of the rabbit's back and had removed the maggots. The pink areas are exposed muscle where the maggots had eaten all the skin away. For a point of reference, I am holding the rabbit's tail. This rabbit had even more extensive maggot created holes in the skin on the underside. Unfortunately this rabbit died as many of them do.

So how do you prevent this? If you have a heavy coated dog, consider shaving the fur short for the summer especially if the dog is housed outside. Make sure the backend is kept free and clean from pieces of poop that might get stuck back there. We all know that poop attracts flies. Well at least, I hope we all know this. Keep dogs and cats on good quality flea control. Fleas can cause scratching. Scratching can cause a moist skin infection called a "hot spot". And hot spots are the perfect starting ground for maggot invasion. If rabbits are housed outdoors (or even in a garage), you really need to pick them up every day in the summer and check around their back end. Be especially aware of any strange rotting type odor that you all of a sudden notice on your dog or rabbit. If you notice fly eggs on your pet's fur (they look like small white or yellow-white clusters on the fur), now is the time to take action. Comb them out with a fine tooth comb like a flea comb. If the skin is already infested with maggots, please get your pet to the vet as soon as possible.

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