Flystrike in dogs and cats

How to Prevent Flystrike in Dogs and Cats

Flystrike in dogs and cats is one of those skin conditions where treatment and preventive medication is not readily available. It’s important that pet owners are aware of how this skin problem starts, what the treatment is, and how it can be prevented. Keep reading to learn more!

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What is flystrike dermatitis?

Medically termed as myiasis, flystrike dermatitis is a painful skin condition characterized by the presence or invasion of maggots under the skin of your pet. This is often associated with guinea pigs and rabbits, but the flies responsible for the skin condition also affect cats and dogs. Flystrike is usually seen during the warmer months of the year.

It usually affects pets with open wounds or ongoing skin infections. Bite wounds from other animals or other external parasites are also a common site of flystrike dermatitis in pets. Cats and dogs that have a concurrent illness and are not able to groom or clean themselves properly are also at an increased risk of being affected by flystrike dermatitis.

What causes flystrike dermatitis in dogs and cats?

Flystrike in dogs and cats are caused by different groups of flies, all of which require an intermediate host to complete their life cycles. House flies, botflies, flesh flies, and blowflies are the most common fly species associated with myiasis in dogs and cats. These flies require an intermediate host to lay their eggs into for larval nourishment and growth.

Flystrike occurs when the fly lays their eggs in the infected skin wounds of an animal. Newborn puppies with newly cut umbilical cords are also commonly affected. Matted hairs of dogs and cats can also be an egg-laying site for these flies.

Eggs laid on these contaminated matted hair regions will hatch into larvae or maggots which will rapidly move to an open or infected wound to penetrate the skin. These larvae will invade the skin and eat necrotic or infected tissues around it, causing inflammation, pain, and predisposing the skin to secondary bacterial and fungal infections.

Symptoms of Flystrike in Dogs and Cats

The presence of maggots or larvae on your pet’s skin is the hallmark sign of myiasis or flystrike. However, in most cases, larvae and maggots are not easily visible. Initial clinical signs of myiasis in dogs and cats include red, raised, sores on the skin often filled with pus-like discharge.

Infected animals may also have matted hair which is occasionally damp or moist. Open wounds that are painful when touched may also be present in pets that are affected with flystrike. Myiasis causes a varying degree of discomfort to the affected animal depending on how severe the infection is. Generalized signs of illness such as lethargy, decreased appetite, and reluctance to move may be seen in dogs and cats with flystrike.

Excessive biting at the skin and shaking of the head can also be seen in animals with myiasis because of the extreme discomfort the skin condition brings. Excessive vocalization can also be seen in infected cats. A foul smell from the purulent and swollen sores may also be present in cases of myiasis in dogs and cats.

How is flystrike dermatitis diagnosed in pets?

A detailed history is essential in the diagnosis of flystrike dermatitis in dogs and cats. Any possible exposure to flies will help your vet arrive at a diagnosis faster. The season as to when the symptoms appeared also helps in the diagnosis of myiasis.

A thorough physical exam is important in diagnosing flystrike dermatitis in pets. As mentioned, the presence of larvae and maggots is not always readily visible and close examination of the skin lesions in an infected animal is of high importance. Skin tests such as cytology, bacterial culture, skin scraping, and skin biopsy are usually performed to rule out other possible skin conditions or check for the presence of secondary infections.

A definitive diagnosis is needed to come up with a treatment plan. Unlike other infections or parasite infestations, flystrike dermatitis in dogs and cats often requires a more invasive treatment approach.

Treatment Options for Pets with Flystrike Dermatitis

The goal of treatment is to remove the maggots and larvae invading the skin of the infected animal. This is usually done surgically and requires sedation or general anesthesia. This is usually an outpatient procedure, but the surgery may be extensive depending on how severe the infestation is.

Systemic antibiotics are often needed to control any secondary infections, and topical medications are applied to the wounds to keep them clean and disinfected. In some cases, anti-inflammatory medications such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are indicated to control inflammation and manage pain. Affected animals may need to wear an Elizabethan collar during the duration of the treatment to prevent self-injury.

How to Prevent Flystrike in Dogs and Cats

Flystrike dermatitis can be prevented by reducing exposure of pets to flies, especially during the summer months. Keeping dogs and cats indoors during this season can help reduce the risks of flystrike dermatitis since most cases occur in outdoor pets.

Keeping the area and the environment clean can help prevent attracting flies and reduce the risk of flystrike dermatitis. The use of insect repellant products can also help prevent the attraction of myiasis flies in the vicinity.

Keeping your pets groomed and clean regularly will also help reduce the risks of myiasis. Make sure to treat any wounds and keep them disinfected as infected skin lesions can attract myiasis flies. Insect repellant collars and neem sprays have been shown to repel insects and help reduce flystrike risk in dogs and cats.

Read more:

Lice in Dogs and Cats

How to Protect Your Cat from Fleas

Nasal Mites in Dogs

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