How to Get Rid of a Botfly in a Dog: Quick and Safe Solutions

Botflies are parasites that can infest animals, including dogs, by laying their eggs on the skin.

These eggs hatch into larvae, which burrow into the animal’s skin, causing discomfort and potential health issues.

Learning how to detect and safely remove a botfly larva from your dog is essential for maintaining your pet’s health and happiness.

How to Get Rid of a Botfly in a Dog

It is important to monitor your dog for signs of a botfly infestation, such as swelling, redness, or an open sore with a breathing hole.

If you suspect that your dog has been infested by a botfly, consult with a veterinarian immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Remember that attempting to remove a botfly larva on your own may harm your dog and increase the risk of infection, so seek professional help.

Understanding Botflies and Their Lifecycle

The Botfly Lifecycle

Botflies, also known as cuterebra, are parasites that attack mammals, including dogs. Their life cycle has four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

Botflies lay their eggs near rabbit burrows or other small animal dens, where the larvae can easily latch onto a host.

Upon contact with the host’s body heat, the eggs hatch, and larvae burrow under the skin, forming small breathing holes called warbles.

After some time, the larvae drop off the host to complete their life cycle, forming pupae before emerging as adult botflies.

Rodent bot fly pupa

Adult botflies, unlike typical flies, have a bee-like appearance and possess rudimentary or non-functioning mouthparts, as they do not feed or take in nutrients during their adult stage.

They exhibit a high degree of host specificity, which means they only parasitize a small number of host species.

Identifying Botfly Infestation in Dogs

A botfly infestation in dogs, also known as myiasis, occurs when the larvae of the botfly attach themselves to the dog’s skin.

Identifying this type of infestation in your dog can help you seek timely treatment from a vet.

Common symptoms of botfly infestation:

  • Swelling
  • Bumps or lumps on the skin
  • Fur loss around the affected area
  • Infected wound or cysts

Botfly infestation in dogs is usually characterized by the presence of warbles.

Warbles are bumps caused by the larvae burrowing into the skin, often resulting in pain and discomfort for the affected dog.

These bumps may vary in size, but they are generally firm to the touch.

Dogs with a botfly infestation may display signs of discomfort, such as scratching, lethargy, loss of appetite, and sneezing. In some cases, botfly larvae can migrate to other parts of the dog’s body, causing more severe symptoms.

For example, if the larvae reach the dog’s nose or eyes, the dog may experience discharge and sneezing.

In severe cases, the parasites can even reach the dog’s brain, causing serious neurological symptoms. This is why timely detection and treatment are crucial.

To identify a botfly infestation in your dog, closely examine their skin for unusual bumps or swelling.

Check for fur loss and skin irritation, as these may indicate the presence of a botfly larva.

If you suspect an infestation, consult your vet for a proper diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.

Remember, identifying a botfly infestation in your dog is the first step to ensuring their health and comfort.

Pay attention to any physical abnormalities or changes in behavior, and consult your vet if you notice any signs of myiasis.

How to Get Rid of a Botfly in a Dog: Removing a Botfly Larva

If you discover a botfly larva in your dog, do not panic. Here are some steps to safely remove it:

  1. Visit the vet: It is always best to consult with a veterinarian as they are trained in handling such cases and can provide proper advice.
  2. Manual removal: If you decide to remove the larva at home, make sure to have all the necessary tools, such as tweezers and forceps.
  3. Prepare the area: Clean the area surrounding the hole where the larva is located. Ensure your dog is relaxed and comfortable.

Bot fly maggot

To proceed with the removal, follow these methods:

  • Suffocate the larva: Apply petroleum jelly over the hole to suffocate the botfly larva, which then can be safely removed with tweezers or forceps.
  • Manual removal: Gently grasp the larva with forceps or tweezers without crushing it, and slowly pull it out whole.

Please note that the procedure might require anesthesia if the dog is in pain or uncomfortable.

After removal, keep an eye on the wound and monitor your dog for any signs of infection. If complications arise, consult your vet immediately.

Pros and cons of removal methods:

Method Pros Cons
Suffocate with jelly Non-invasive, less pain for the dog May take more time
Manual removal Faster, immediate relief for the dog Risk of crushing larva, causing infection

Remember, when dealing with botfly larvae in your dog, it is essential to keep calm and act responsibly.

Consulting your veterinarian is always the safest option.

Treatment and Prognosis

The first step in treating botfly infestation in dogs is to remove the larva carefully. Some common methods include:

  • Using forceps or tweezers to gently extract the larva
  • Covering the wound with petroleum jelly or tape to suffocate and force the larva out

After the larva is removed, it’s essential to clean and disinfect the wound. This prevents any secondary infections caused by bacteria entering the wound site. For this, you can:

  • Clean the wound using mild soap and water
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment to the wound

In some cases, your vet might prescribe oral antibiotics to prevent infection. Pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs might also be prescribed for your dog’s comfort.

Sometimes, a more extensive surgical intervention might be required, depending on the location and severity of the infestation.

In rare cases, complications such as blindness, spinal cord damage, and abscess formation may occur, requiring additional medical attention.

Here’s a quick comparison of different treatment methods:

Method Pros Cons
Forceps/tweezers Non-invasive, quick May not work on deeply embedded larva
Suffocation Non-invasive Takes longer, not always successful
Surgery Effective in removing deeply embedded larva Invasive, may require anesthesia

To ensure a favorable prognosis and prevent re-infestation:

  • Keep your dog’s living environment clean
  • Groom your dog regularly
  • Prevent exposure to wildlife and areas with high botfly activity

In summary, treating botfly infestation involves larva removal, wound cleaning, and medication.

Prognosis is generally good if done promptly and correctly, but in some rare cases, complications may arise.

Prevention and Protecting Your Dog

One way to prevent bot fly infection in your dog is to avoid areas with high rodent populations.

Bot flies require a host, often rodents, to complete their life cycle. By steering clear of these areas, you reduce the likelihood of your dog or cat coming into contact with bot flies.

Regular grooming and inspections of your dog’s skin and fur can help you detect any wounds or abnormal lumps early. Prompt attention to such findings may prevent an infestation from developing further.

During the summer months, when bot fly infestations are more common, keep your dog’s outdoor play in well-maintained, short grass areas. This minimizes exposure to bot flies and other potential parasites.

Make sure to schedule regular vet check-ups for your dog. A vet can monitor your pet’s health and detect any unusual signs such as vomiting, bleeding, or swelling, which could be indicators of a bot fly infection.

For dogs that enjoy hunting, take extra precautions. Hunting dogs are more prone to encountering bot flies due to the nature of their activity. Investing in protective wear like neck guards is a good idea to limit their exposure to bot flies.

By following these tips, you can help protect your dog from the dangers of bot fly infestations and ensure that they remain healthy and happy. Remember, prevention is always better than dealing with an active infection.

Conclusion

Botfly infestations in dogs can be distressing for both the pet and the owner.

Understanding the life cycle of botflies and recognizing the signs of infestation are crucial for timely intervention.

While manual removal is possible, seeking veterinary care ensures the safety and well-being of the dog.

Regular grooming, avoiding high-risk areas, and routine vet check-ups are essential preventive measures.

By being proactive, dog owners can protect their furry friends from the discomfort and potential health risks posed by botflies.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts

18 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of a Botfly in a Dog: Quick and Safe Solutions”

  1. Grasshopper,
    Really nice bot photo. Your species is a rabbit bot, not a rodent bot. This is Cuterebra lepusculi (likely closely related to C. buccata, and I can see why whatsthatbug had problems with ID). The key to these two species, is having the red line in eyes (which both C. lepusculi and C buccata have, although often C. buccata has a broken line looking like two red dots). But C. lepusculi when looked down at from above has the classic white U shape outlining the body. Sometimes this line is faint-almost black, but yours is a classic thick white U. This is likely a male by the spacing between the eyes when seen from above, female eyes are farther apart.
    There are only about 14 male specimens of this fly in museums (for some reason females are more often collected in this species- at least 60 in collections around the US.). If you collected this- and still have it, I would love to talk to you about it. I am working on making a better key for bots, and also doing dna work on them for a key to immatures. I would donate it to the Smithsonian collection when I was done with it. It is not really a “rare” fly, in the sense that its range is from WA to SD south to CA over to TX, and at least one record from Mexico. It is a western version of C. buccata. It is rare in collections because adults are short lived (live maybe a week, because they can’t feed as adults), plus if you find one in a rabbit, they have to be reared in soil for almost a year. So very hard to raise adults. This species uses primarily cottontail rabbits, Sylvilagus nuttallii, as a host, but may also use the desert cottontail, S. audubonii as a host. Bots would be seen as lumps under the skin (in about 1 month from now), usually on the back or behind the front legs. Can be multiple bots per host. Not real fun for the rabbit, but not likely to harm the rabbit, mostly it is very painful.
    Please post your pics on BugGuide.net as well. We do not have pics of this species on that site and pic of the male is especially nice. Thanks for posting. I was excited to see these pics!!! Feel free to contact me with questions, and let me know if you still have it.
    Very nice find! I am sooo jealous.

    Bugs and kisses,
    Jeff Boettner
    Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences
    UMASS-Amherst
    boettner@psis.umass.edu

    Reply
  2. Hi Jeff, wow, thank you for your wonder comment! I knew we had found something special, but had no idea just how special! God has truly designed the most amazing creatures, and I really love this one (even as unappetizing as its reproduction cycle is). And guess what, we have none other than a Cottontail nest right underneath the hydrangeas where we found this Rabbit Bot! I would love to assist you and will email the photos I took while it was alive (it died today). I just pinned it trying to preserve it, but will have to convince my 8-year-old son to let it go for a higher cause (he started a collection earlier this year with some pretty nice bugs). Will be in touch!

    Greg Hotchkiss / Grasshopper

    Reply
  3. Hi Greg and son,
    So glad you collected this one. A woman and her daughter found C. mirabilis (see BugGuide for her pics), which is only the third specimen ever seen of that species-(the male has never been found yet)! Hers is a parasite of black tailed jackrabbits but all three known specimens have been found only in a small part of NM. Anyway her daughter had it as a pet and when it died she buried it in the yard with flowers. Maybe the best parasite burial ever. But I may never find that species in my lifetime. I did fly out to meet them and saw where they found it. We spent 10 days looking for it last year but to no luck.
    So at least your son didn’t bury this one…yet. Have him email me and I will try to work out a deal for the future entomologist ๐Ÿ™‚
    Keep an eye on the cottontails. You may find a female bot hanging around as well. Males of some bots do lek behavior, ie males will defend a good site, and play king of the hill to defend it against other males, and females will mate with whichever bot is holding it when she arrives. Your hydrangea might be the lek post with the male trying to show a female where the host is? Most bots lek behaviors/mating between 9 am and noon. Females may show up even late in the day, if already mated. But you know you have bots in the area and the host. So you might find more? No leks have been described for this species yet. Often leks are on hilltops or some prominent feature. But in your case they could be mating at the rabbit den? Hard to know. Worth keeping your eyes on it.
    Often bots emerge in good numbers after a rain event. I know it hasn’t rained much in TX all year. So especially watch after the next big rain or if you had a rain in the past week.
    Bots might show up on rabbits as large lumps under the skin in about a month from now. Takes a while for the mating to be over, the eggs to hatch, and for larva to get big enough to notice under the skin. Let me know if you see infested rabbits. I might want to try to come down. Also keep your eyes on roadkill rabbits. I have pulled bots out of roadkill and reared them, although the bot has to be nearly done (ie large) in order for this to work. But for my work, even immatures would work for dna.
    Do email me (with your son) and will see if I can win him over ๐Ÿ˜‰ I will make it well worth his time.
    Great find. Keep on hunting.
    Thanks for the fun post. Nice to see this one.
    Jeff

    boettner@psis.umass.edu

    Reply
  4. my cat brought two townsend’s voles inside, one dead one alive. I took the dead one by the tail and proceeded to throw it back outside when I noticed two dark pupae emerging from the voles rear end! they popped right out and dropped onto the walkway. just now my cat brought it a live vole and it has one too! it comes partially out and then retreats back under the vole’s skin/fur. the pupae resembled a large textured coffee bean with a creamy yellow mouth part (I think it’s the mouth) anyways I didn’t realize we had these rodent bot flies here in the pacific north-west (Langley BC) they are quite gross and i’m worried about my cat getting one! is this possible? he eats what he catches…unless I happen to intervene.

    Reply
  5. I have recently come to know a little bit about the Bot fly larva. We have had more rats around our house than usual and I suspect they are the hosts. We also have three dogs and am worried about their worries. What can I do to prevent them from becoming a host. I happened to find these crawling on the carport (not on the rats). How long do they live without a host and is there something I can put out to kill or run the off? Any help will be greatly appreciated…Thanks

    Reply
    • If you found a Bot Fly Larva that was not attached to the host, we suspect it was searching for a place to pupate. We do not provide extermination advice.

      Reply
  6. My bf lives in North Plains, OR which is in the Great NW. We found a chipmunk that the cat killed on our patio this am. There were at least 4 warbles on the chipmunk w late stage pupae in and leaving the body. They are large!! We had no idea that there are rodent bot flies in NW Oregon. Fascinating but gross, not to mention a little worrisome on behalf of our pets. It is a country setting and our critters are always romping and investigating the woodsy areas around the house. Is the rodent botfly common in our area? Why have we never seen rodents w warbles before now? Our cats bring home rodent corpses often. Any factual info or references is appreciated! !

    Reply
    • BugGuide lists Rodent Bot Flies in the Pacific Northwest, but we don’t know how common they are. We imagine like with most insects, there is no consistency of populations within or throughout the range. Checking with you local natural history museum might be the easiest way to determine the information you desire.

      Reply
  7. Hi thair is it not flys that lay them little black eggs and tge little white eggs that fire out at u and gets under the skin and it burns

    Reply
  8. Curious about the size of the bumps you mention the bots show up on rabbits as “large” lumps – is that the size of a pea?
    When my puppy first came to me , he had a lump on his side – noticed it was getting bigger and when it was about the size of a pea, I took him to the vet. The vet was very excited with the “find” of a fly larva – probably a bot?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Varietypak,

      They can range from the size of a pea when starting out, to almost 2 inches for the rabbit bots. Not common in dogs and cats but if they eat a mouse with a bot the bot may try and use the new host. Or if they lick a plant with an egg on it. But most bots are very host specific.

      Reply
  9. Twice in the last week my dog caught a mouse that wasn’t quite normal. After researching on your site, I’ve come to the conclusion that both times the mice had rodent bot flies. The mouse today was still alive, but the larvae was just emerging. My question is: is it common to have rodent bot flies on the Washington coast? Can my dog get them?

    Reply
    • Rodent Bot Flies, according to BugGuide, are found throughout North America. It is rare but not impossible for a domestic cat or dog to be parasitized by a Bot Fly.

      Reply

Leave a Comment