A disturbing video released by the Nebraska Humane Society (NHS) is warning pet owners about an invasive parasite that can infect cats and dogs.
The NHS posted video online Wednesday showing veterinarians pulling a massive cuterebra from the nose of an infected stray cat that was struggling to breathe.
The video shows doctors using tweezers to extract a squirming, slug-like larva from the cat’s swollen face.
“Whoa,” exclaimed one vet as the black bulge emerged from the kitten’s nose. “It’s huge!”
The cuterebra is a fly parasite that is laid near rodent holes and can be picked up on the hair of outdoor animals.
These eggs use the body heat of the animal to allow the larva to hatch and burrow into an orifice or its skin.
According to NHS, an advanced-stage larva, like the one removed from the nose of the kitten in the video, can grow to be the size of the first joint of an adult thumb.
“The reason we see it in cats in particular, especially kittens, is that they’re small, so they’re compromised,” Dr. Elizabeth Farrington, the veterinarian who performed the operation, told KMTV. “They don’t groom themselves as well so they’re not going to get rid of it.”
Summer and early fall are the most popular times of the year for these infections to occur, most commonly occurring in southeastern Canada and the northeast of the U.S.
“A good owner is going to start noticing the animal is pawing at themselves, or something is itchy or bothering them,” said Farrington.
Farrington says she receives daily calls about the parasite during a few select weeks in the summer. However, the bugs aren’t normally as large as the one in the video.
“Oftentimes we’ll see these guys, these little cuterebra when they’re much smaller than when they get to this size,” she said.
Pet owners are urged to take infected animals to their local vet rather than trying to extract the parasite themselves.
“Squeezing the lesion with your fingers can rupture the larva and cause an infection,” warns the NHS website. “The larva should be removed as a whole piece, rather than in parts, in order to reduce the pet’s body’s reaction.”